10 Common Problems a Marriage Counselor Can Help You With


There are lots of reasons that couples may decide to seek help and get marriage or relationship counseling. There are some common themes that I encounter when couples seek help for their relationship. Some of the issues you might find yourself struggling with and might seek help for include:

1. Mental Health Problems

When one partner has a mental health issue, it certainly impacts them as a couple. Over time, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can take a toll. Other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder can also interfere with a couple’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship. Couples can benefit from attending counseling together (and individually) to learn how to work together to deal with mental illness.

2. Grief

Grief comes in many forms. Whether a couple is grieving a miscarriage, loss of a child, or loss of a parent, it can be devastating to marriage. Grief can present itself in a relationship when there is a death, but often, it is grieving the loss of other things such as the loss of independence, loss of a hope or dream, or simply a major change in life that leads to a loss of emotional security. A marriage counselor can assist a couple in working through grief issues together so that their grief doesn’t push them apart.

3. Infidelity

Dealing with infidelity is a big reason for couples to seek help. Recovering from an affair or even deciding whether or not to try and work through an affair is complicated. Partners that stay in a relationship after infidelity can often experience heightened shame based on the thought that ‘something must be wrong with me that I didn’t leave as soon as I found out.’ A marriage counselor can help the couple address the underlying reasons or motivations for infidelity and to work through trust issues along with the many feelings associated with an affair.

4. Lifestyle Changes

Major changes in lifestyle can have a serious impact on a couple. Moving to a new area, making a big career change, or the birth of a baby can disturb the balance that was previously there between partners. Marriage counselors can help couples identify their expectations and work through changes to make transitions more smooth.

5. Addictions

Addiction is a common reason that couples seek help. Addiction doesn’t necessarily have to be to drugs or alcohol, but it can also take the form of pornography or internet addictions and gambling addictions. Beyond the benefits of a couples counselor being able to assist the couple cope with the presence of addiction in their relationship, individual or group therapy is often important for the addicted partner to focus specifically on the disorder itself.

6. Remarriage and Blended Families

After people have already been married and divorced once, people are more likely to be hesitant about getting remarried. According to statistics, the divorce rate for second marriages are even higher than first marriages. And for couples who already have kids, blending two families can be complicated. Marriage counselors can assist couples in making a smoother transition and also in addressing any barriers to remarriage.

7. Physical Health Changes

Physical health, or loss of vitality, can have a large impact on marriage and relationships. As each partner ages, they may experience a gradual decline in health which can interfere with their activities and their physical intimacy with each other. Other couples could experience a significant illness or accident that may drastically impact the individual as well as their marriage. If one partner is unable to work, contribute to household responsibilities, or help with daily activities, it can lead to marital problems if it is not addressed.

8. Communication Problems

It seems somewhat of a cliche (for good reason) that communication is one of the biggest keys to a happy, healthy relationship. When couples struggle with communication, it can make almost everything much more difficult. When couples struggle with communication, solving problems, making decisions, and resolving conflict calmly, can become a major source of stress. Marriage counseling can help couples learn new skills and recognize the cycles in which they get caught, that lead them to communicate poorly.

9. Parenting Disagreements

Different parenting philosophies can be a big issue for couples, and it can lead to a great deal of conflict. Marriage counselors can assist parents in learning to work together instead of competing with one another to be ‘correct.’ A marriage counselor can also assist the couple in recognizing the impact of their upbringing on how they interact with their own children and how this can happen subconsciously and undermine healthy parenting.

10. Just Not Feeling in Love

People also tend to want counseling when they feel the relationship has grown stagnant. I often hear couples talk about not feeling “in love” anymore or that they feel like companions or roommates rather than being deeply connected. Counseling can be a great way for couples to learn strategies to help them feel more attached and bonded and rekindle some of the energy that they may have lost through the course of their relationship.

If you and your partner are struggling with any of the issues described above and you would like some help working through them, feel free to contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.

The Language of "You" vs. the Language of "I."

you v I statements.jpg

The most common problem that troubles struggling couples is, ultimately, their communication. The basis of their communication problems is that they tend to blame their partners, without always even knowing that they are doing it. There is an easy way to make sure that, when you communicate, you are not blaming or accusing, and that, instead, you are taking responsibility for yourself. This is by using “I” statements, and by avoiding “you” statements.The concept itself is easy to understand, and it seems like it would be a ‘piece of cake,’ but more difficult to remember to use when our emotions are involved. This is where couples often struggle. Under threat of feeling accused or blamed, the reflex reaction is going to be to go on the defensive at first and then turn around and attack back in retaliation (a type of unhealthy mirroring). This begins a cycle of hostile energy exchange that leaves, at best nothing being accomplished, and at worst, a long term pattern of avoidance of certain topics and resentments being held against one another.

When confronting a situation, I remind people to approach the situation from an “I” perspective, and avoid using the word “you.” When the word “you” is used in an emotional discussion, it is bound to sound like blaming almost as if the person is pointing a finger without actually doing it physically. To create a more comfortable, open discussion, it is better to begin by owning how you feel. The problem that people run into is that they forget to check in with their own emotions before starting these discussions, so that they can keep themselves calm enough to communicate more effectively.

In emotional situations, it is difficult to take responsibility, especially if you don’t think you are fully responsible. Somehow you want to recognize that emotional discussions go beyond “right” and “wrong.” Remember that most relationship issues are multi-layered, which means that both of you play a role in them. This is why it is good to remind yourself of this fact before you approach a problem yourself. In those situations that you plan to approach, you are able to best plan on how to approach it, what to say, and how to say it, because you are the one initiating the discussion. Before entering the conversation:

  • Check in with your own emotions to identify what it is that is bringing up your discomfort (usually something you fear).

  • Look at your own pride, and set it aside so that you can approach the issue as planned.  

  • Think about how you can respond to “hot-topic” comments in a way that does not fuel the fire.

    Then take a deep breath  (this can help slow yourself down), and begin by using “I” statements and continue using them throughout to reflect on your partner’s comments. For example use statements such as “I am trying to understand,” or “What I heard is….”

Try to pay attention to yourself (your thoughts and bodily sensations) so that you can recognize when you are taking things personally,

It can be more difficult when your partner approaches you with a problem that he/she has, because you may not be expecting the conversation to take place. If you are approached with a problem, follow the same strategy as when you initiated the discussion. The only difference when you are approached is to be extremely cautious and aware of your own defensiveness. Since you have not had the opportunity to mentally prepare for the discussion, it is much easier to take things personally. If you find that you are taking things personally, you can ask for a few minutes to process the information. It is fine to say that you are struggling with feeling defensive and that you need some time. This will also help to de-escalate an argument so that you can have a more open discussion  later.

When you have to confront a situation with your partner, or when you are confronted with a problem, show that you are taking responsibility by starting statements with “I”. This helps to show that you are not blaming or resenting the other person, but rather that you are owning what you think and how you feel about it all. This will help to open up a dialogue, rather than an argument. It depletes the need to defend, which then promotes making changes and growing together. After all, this is what being in a relationship is all about, right?.

Because the process of changing long held patterns of communication, I highly recommend you seek out a counselor or therapist to help you and your partner improve on these skills.

For couples, marriage, and relationship counseling in Lancaster, PA, please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and take the opportunity to improve your relationship!!

Toxic Relationships: How to Identify Them and What to Do


Many of the clients who I have seen (both individually and as couples) are in relationships that are full of arguing, drama, and constant stress. All relationships have their struggles, and all long-term relationships require consistent hard work and adaptation to grow and prosper. However, there is a certain group of relationships that continues on with this level of stress without relief. Oddly, many of the people in these relationships insist on continuing on in this way. I think this is largely in part to that fact that they do not realize that they are in this type of relationship, and that there is another way of living. It becomes normal with repetitive cycles that reinforce the negativity. I am writing this in hopes of helping people better identify if they are in a toxic relationship along with some suggestions to overcome this lifestyle.

Toxic relationships include:

  •  Poor Communication

  •  Mind-Reading (assumptions)

  •  Using Sex as Manipulation

  •  Repeated Derogatory, Dismissive, Spiteful, and Sarcastic Remarks

  •  Nagging

  •  Passive-Aggressiveness Behavior

  •  Lack of Trust

  •  Intimidation

  •  Using Money as Power

If you experience these on a daily basis, you are likely in a relationship that would be considered to be toxic. Detoxifying your relationship could require some of the following:

  •   Opening up Communication through Mirroring, Validation, and Empathy

  •   Setting Clear Expectations (limits and boundaries)

  •   Being Assertive vs. Aggressive, Passive, or Passive Aggressive

  •   Accepting Differences and Understanding the Motives of the Other

  •   Sexual Relations Built on Respect

  •   Stop Assuming and Use Active Listening Skills.

Sometimes, there is no avenue for detoxifying some relationships and the best course of action includes leaving the relationship completely. This can be very scary, intimidating, and complicated due to each person’s attachment styles, financial concerns, shared children, and even fear of increased aggressive behavior on the part of the partner.

Because of the difficulties people have with identifying that they are in a toxic relationship and the complexity of many of the issues associated with these problems, I highly recommend you seek out a counselor or therapist to help you and your partner improve on these skills.

For couples, marriage, and relationship counseling in Lancaster, PA, please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and take the opportunity to improve your relationship!!