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 Habits of Deeply Connected Couples


The Gottman Institute ( says that deep, intimate connections between couples are created ‘through hundreds of very ordinary, mundane moments in which they attempt to make emotional connections.’ These ordinary moments, sometimes called ‘bids’ are usually informal moments when one partner attempts to gain the attention of the other and have some sort of emotional connection. They can come in many forms including:

  • Affectionate Touching (reaching for a hand, a kiss, a hug, a back rub)

  • Facial Expressions (smile, rolling the eyes, wink)

  • Playful Touch (tickling, dancing)

  • Generous Gestures (opening a door, acts of service)

  • Vocal Gestures (laughing, sighing, groaning)

Turning toward your partner when they are asking for your attention in these ways is a key for attaining relationship success. This is the difference between demonstrating care for your partner by giving them your attention versus disregarding them. Some of the other traits of highly connected couples include:

1. Continuously Learning About the Other Person
If you come from the perspective that you can never really know your partner completely, you will find yourself curious to learn more. There will always be memories that your partner has that you will not know. But you can get to know your partner more by asking deep questions with genuine curiosity. For example, not just questions about events, but what the experience was like for your partner on an emotional level.

2. Sharing Intimate Knowledge of Yourself
Allowing your partner into your inner experience (thoughts, emotions, sensations) is allowing vulnerability into your life which can be difficult, but vulnerability is the pathway to connection. Deeply connected partners have a shared language of affection for each other or special ways of touching each other that have a shared meaning. Inside jokes, pet names, and playful teasing are ways that couples connect to each other on an intimate level.


3. Positive Interactions
Two important parts of a couple’s daily interaction is listening and play. Listening is when you are fully available to hear their words and the emotion behind it. Play is the choice that you make to have a moment of fun with your partner. Listening is a way to heal many old wounds that partners carry with them into intimate relationships from their childhood and from past partners. Active listening is a difficult skill. Many believe they are listening, but they aren’t truly doing it. Rather than giving your partner half of your attention, face them and listen intently to what they are saying. Deeply connected couples tend to share humor between them as often as possible. Actually, the use of humor (not sarcasm) or affection during conflict can be important to the health of the relationship.

4. Shared Values and Goals

This does not mean that you and your partner have to have the same opinions or beliefs about all aspects of the world, but instead that you and your partner have a shared story about what is important to you. You talk with each other in terms of ideas, values, goals and how they allow you both to trust in your future together. Deeply connected couples know that each person is capable of change over their lifetimes, but what rarely changes about a person are their deeply-held core beliefs. Deeply connected couples share many core beliefs, which strengthens the depth their relationship because they connect to each other on a meaningful level.

All of these traits have the combined power to increase trust and safety between partners which then allows for increased vulnerability. This starts a cycle that gives energy back and forth (vulnerability builds trust, trust builds more vulnerability=>CONNECTION)

If you’re still struggling with how to connect with your partner, communicate openly, or to build trust in your relationship, feel free to contact me please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.

Couples Counseling in Lancaster, PA: 3 Obstacles That Keep You From Getting Help

You’ve just had an all too familiar fight again, leaving you exhausted and feeling hopeless. You’ve reacted by going through the cycle of avoidance, ignoring each other, holding grudges, and then it repeats again in a few days or weeks. This time with added resentment.

Here are the complaints I often hear from couples:

  • “We just don’t understand each other – we’re never on the same page.”

  • “We don’t spend any time together”

  • “We don’t even touch each other anymore”

  • “We always argue about the same problems.”

  • “We don't  talk about our problems without getting defensive and attacking each other. We need help.”

Many couples in the Lancaster, PA area want to overcome their problems and know they need help, but don’t seek out couples counseling. And it’s often for a good reason. Here’s 3 reasons couples don’t go to counseling2

  1. Couples Counseling Feels Overwhelming. Many couples are afraid that couples counseling will make their problems worse. They’re worried their problem will come to the surface and they won’t be able to handle it. This fear of conflict is an obstacle that keeps couples from getting the counseling they need. We all have our own experiences with conflict in our lives. Maybe we were hurt or abandoned when arguments happened… maybe we learned to avoid conflict by ignoring, complying, or even trying to control others. Couples find it hard to imagine that conflict can lead to resolution and understanding. This is the goal of couples counseling, and working through fears of conflict is central to making progress.

  2. Couples Counseling Feels Exposing. Many couples don’t seek couples counseling because they’re afraid of being exposed...Afraid that something hidden will come to the surface such as hidden behaviors (pornography addiction, drug use, spending habits, etc..) will drive a larger wedge between them. We tell ourselves it’s easier to just keep the issue hidden, although, we know these behaviors often keep us from experiencing the connection and relationship we want with our partner. A skilled therapist will work with you and won’t reveal anything without your consent.

  3. Couples Counseling Is Vulnerable. Many couples don’t make the first call because they don’t trust the therapist. They are anxious that the therapist won’t honor their values as a couple, but instead push his or her own values into the relationship.

So the couple doesn’t move forward and they stay in a position of helplessness, fearing that no one will be able to help them and their unique issues.

What Couples Counseling Can Do For You.

If you can move past these fears, there’s possibility for change. Here’s what I see in couples when they take the first step and come in to therapy:

  1. Increased Empathy. When a couple slows down and talks (through Mirroring, Validation, and Empathy), I see them grow in their emotional connection. While the conflict doesn’t immediately go away, they grow a solid foundation of understanding and compassion for each other. Conflict (aggression, passive-aggression, sarcasm) can turn into disagreement with a structure and emotional safety. This comes as a great relief to many couples who can sense that they are now on the same ‘team.’

  2. Less ‘Hot Button’ Topics. Couples find that they have less topics that drive them apart as more things become openly discussible.

  3. Increased Co-Regulation. Co-regulation is a word that describes a couple’s ability to manage difficult emotions together. When couples feel connected to each other’s emotions, they can resolve conflict easily since they recognize that behind the each other’s opinions and beliefs is an emotion which gives it weight. Couples learn that they can stay connected in good times and difficult times.

If you are in the Lancaster, PA area and considering the process of couples counseling, please 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!!