to meet with Benjamin Conley at his office, 1881 NE 26th Street, Suite 221, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305
Or talk to him in person by calling: (954) 727-9713
4304, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33338-4304
|Books about positive values, spirituality, and counseling
(This book can help you pursue
the intimate relationship you desire. Please use
the text to stimulate your own thinking and underdstanding about the issues discussed, even though you may find somethingsurprising.)
Making Relationships Work
by Benjamin B. Conley, M.Div., LMFT
MAKING RELATIONSHIPS WORK
PRIMER FOR RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS
PAIN OF RELATIONSHIPS GONE WRONG
turmoil and pain that couples bring into my office when seeking
help is distressing and often overwhelming to them. I find that
the couples who come to me for counseling fall into three broad
is composed of those who are not yet married or who have been
married a few months or years, and know that something has gone
wrong, or may have been wrong from the beginning. They often come
to therapy as a last resort before separation or divorce, having
done everything they know how to do to reduce their conflict.
Sometimes, they have created a conflict that has produced physical
injury, yet both want to find other ways to resolve disagreements.
to what they learned about how to have a family from their own
childhood and young adult experience, they repeat both the positive
and negative elements they have learned without understanding
how either elements operate. They are victims of their own lack
of consciousness and self-awareness. They do the best they can,
but have not learned how to maintain the space between them in
the most positive way.
be angry and depressed over a perceived loss of freedom associated
with marriage. Or they may be disillusioned over coping with the
tasks of negotiating agreements within a new marriage. They may
be overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for their newly
arrived children. They may be angry and hurt over the limitations
of their partner, as if love had leaked out of the relationship.
Samantha came to counseling because they had lived together four
years and Samantha wanted to get married. She pursued the matter
with Luke and it became the focus of considerable conflict, yelling
at each other, and hurt feelings. Luke at age 35 had his own free-lance
construction business, and Samantha, age 33, worked as an office
manager. Luke had always been independent, having earned his own
spending money since he was fourteen. Samantha had married at
seventeen to escape the chaos in her family related to an unpredictable
Samantha seldom made agreements. He just said what he wanted,
and she talked about what was important to her, and each complied
with what the other seemed to want, to a degree. When there was
an honest disagreement that was difficult to resolve, they talked
about it enough to know what it was, and then either "swept it
under the rug" as with the question of marriage, or had a verbal
fight, sometimes coming very close to having a physical fight.
Neither knew how to listen to the other's point of view; each
was preoccupied with defending his or her own point of view.
this is only one couple's experience, it is a common set of issues,
and a common lack of skill in resolving interpersonal differences.
come for counseling as a result of their painful experiences,
they usually hope to repair their relationship and recover the
positives they once experienced with each other, and make their
relationship satisfying again. As with Luke and Samantha, they
have the opportunity to learn what their parents were not able
to teach them about being independent and emotionally close at
the same time.
in an Uneasy Balance
group of clients come to therapy after many years of marriage,
having worked out a way of tolerating a relative lack of fulfillment
in the relationship until some life event upsets that balance.
It is inevitable that couples develop a kind of homeostatic balance
that enables them to get on with the everyday tasks of living
without having to keep re-deciding what is settled.
may be more or less satisfactory, and when it is less so, some
life event may serve as a "wake up call" that something is wrong
with the balance that has been established, and the balance is
upset. The event that serving as that wake up call may be an affair,
a job loss, a move to a new location, a death of a child, some
serious health or emotional problem with themselves or with their
child, or something else.
other hand, a couple may just gradually drift apart until the
way they relate becomes less and less tolerable to one or both
of the partners, and someone demands a change. The change can
be precipitated with intention, actively, by confronting the issue
openly, or passively, by drinking, having affairs, or gradually
and Emily came to counseling because of the crisis caused by Charles
having an affair with a female business acquaintance. He was 48,
a responsible and successful businessman, so that Emily had been
able to stay home and take care of their three children. With
the last child in his senior year of high school, Mary was free
to do volunteer work and spend more time with Charles, but over
the years they had drifted apart, though each still considered
the other a best friend.
didn't understand why he was attracted to another woman, just
that he was. He didn't understand that he never allowed himself
the permission to be fully himself, having learned that being
responsible meant organizing his life around caring for others,
his wife, his children, his work. So he lost track of himself,
until his lover invited him to be his spontaneous self, tapping
a hunger in himself that he had denied for years.
it was his aging to almost fifty. Perhaps it was his diminished
responsibility related to the almost empty nest at home. Perhaps
it was the loneliness that his distant relationship to his wife
had nourished. Perhaps it was his knowledge that his retirement
was more visible. Whatever the cause, he was chronically mildly
depressed and ready to reclaim his lost self, and his lover seemed
to be the solution to his malaise.
get uncomfortable enough, a couple may run out of solutions or
find that a solution like an affair just causes more distress,
including self-condemnation and much emotional pain for the spouse.
So the couple may turn to therapy hoping for some direction from
a therapist about how to repair the connection with each other,
instead of totally giving up on having a satisfying relationship.
Those Who Want to Grow
in the third group are less motivated by pain and personal distress
to be involved in therapy. But they know their personal functioning
could be more satisfying and that their relationship is "missing
something." Each is eager to grow and to learn how to support
the other in the process of learning, hoping to use therapy as
a kind of seminar in the principles of successful relating.
or counseling can be thought of as just such a seminar, with the
therapist as a sophisticated coach and teacher who can assist
the couple in learning ways to resolve sensitive and painful issues
and to learn new ways to sanctify their relationship, the "space
between them." The principles underlying how to have a positive
relationship are not mysterious, and can be learned.
and Elaine both came from stable, loving families, where their
parents modeled how to be mutually accepting or each other and
of their children. They helped their children negotiate misunderstandings,
deal with conflicts, and were involved in positive ways in their
children's lives. They were involved in school activities, discussed
matters of importance with their children, and were supportive
of their children growing up.
parents also had in common that they never let their children
see them resolve their own disagreements. So George and Elaine
both assumed that the mother and father in any family would be
like their own, always getting along without any disagreements.
And for the most part, they did get along without major crises.
But they were aware of avoiding certain topics because of the
difficulty of resolving their differences, and used that awareness
to use therapy as a way to learn how to have an even better relationship.
"We don't know just what we're doing wrong, but we want to learn."
also wish to find new ways to create love instead of pain in your
relationship, there is reason to be optimistic. Since we create
our own pain, we can learn how to create our own joy. We can use
our pain as the motivating energy to learn new ways to communicate
with and relate to those we love.