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Proactive couples counseling: Marriage counseling with Serge Prengel


Proactive couples counseling helps you understand each other better, and strengthens your ability to deal with conflict as a couple, instead of as adversaries.


Some conflict is inevitable in marital relationships, as in any relationship. Avoiding conflict is not a recipe for a happy marriage - - but managing conflict is.

It takes a conscious effort to reverse the vicious cycle of miscommunications. But it's well worth the effort.


What happens in a conflict? You see things one way, and your partner sees things another way. When you try to "deal with the issues", you end up getting more and more entrenched in your respective positions.

As a result, both of you feel misunderstood, unfairly treated, hurt... Of course, this doesn't make it any easier to deal with the issues and resolve conflicts.

A more proactive approach is to deal with the dynamics underlying the conflict. Of course, I do not mean that the issues are irrelevant. I am saying that just focusing on the issues obscures some deeper undercurrents. Dealing with these undercurrents will make it much easier to deal with the issues themselves.


Conflict often brings up a lot of emotions. The intensity can feel scary. It may seem that the only options are either to let them run their course (which feels like it would be very destructive), or to swallow them, to tamp them down.

My role is to create a safe space where these difficult emotions can be grounded and actually become a force for positive change.

A metaphor might help to communicate what I mean. Think about how, in nature, lightning can be incredibly destructive, with the power to fell mighty trees and even houses. But, with a lightning rod, all this energy is safely redirected to the ground.

I help you make room for potentially destructive emotions and integrate them. Instead of being destructive, they help you make the changes you need.

And I help you reconnect with the positive emotions, so that you can not only understand each other better... you face challenges together, as opposed to fighting against each other.


An important principle: Understanding your partner doesn't mean giving in, and losing yourself. Just as much as being yourself doesn't mean digging in, and staying in an emotional bunker. I help you experience the sense of fluidity that allows for making room for each of you in a relationship that works for both of you.


As you realize this, the sense of frustration that comes from feeling so misunderstood and ill-treated starts to lift. Because there is a way out. It consists in dealing proactively with what is underlying the conflict - matters both of substance and of style.

When you come see me, it's not to rehash the same old fights, it is to find a way out of the "same old" patterns. So it is not just a way to solve the problems you are experiencing right now. It is also a way to strengthen your ability to deal with future problems in your relationship.

See also: What if my partner refuses couples counseling?

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