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Does it feel like your marriage is at an end? Do you worry that your relationship won’t last?

There is a natural progression of intimacy in every marriage. Couples begin by falling in love, blissfully getting engaged and celebrating their union. After they get married and spend years together: moving, getting houses, having children - they grow closer, more dependent and in many ways more vulnerable with each other. For many individuals this dependency feels uncomfortable; some of us were taught that dependence equals weakness. But I believe that the normal state of marriage is one of dependence and therefore, vulnerability. This can be uncomfortable for many people.
 
As couples move into this phase of dependence and vulnerability there is a tendency to disconnect. It is scary to be so very dependent financially, emotionally, physically and psychologically on one person. Whenever there are big emotions in a marriage it is typical to:


- feel disconnected from and disinterested in your spouse. 

- snipe at your partner more than you laugh with them.

- begin an attraction, conversation or relationship with someone else. 

 - have less sex and sensuality in the relationship. 

 - have your day filled with the mundane day-to-day chores of your work, running the 

   house and raising kids instead of filled with passion and connection. 

 - have fights that become more intense - perhaps even becoming physical.

 

All couples go through times of disconnection and disharmony.

I have found in working with couples for the past 17 years that all couples go through times when they don’t feel connected with each other. This can last for a few months or a few years. I hear from my clients that while there is still a great deal of love in the marriage  - they don’t really like each other.

It feels devastating to feel separate or disconnected from your spouse when you have worked so hard to lace your lives together. It is confusing to feel apathy or annoyance where there once was understanding, patience and tolerance. 

Many couples report the beginning of this disconnect coinciding with having kids. No, I don’t believe that children ruin marriages. But I do believe that the work of raising healthy, ethical, moral and intellectually stimulated kids is difficult, time consuming, stressful and exhausting. It can feel like there is no energy left for sensuality, sex or sometime even kindness.

I always ask my clients how they were taught to deal with times of stress or overwhelming emotions. How did your parents deal with their own transitions? How did they model this for you? This model becomes your blueprint and most likely it is how you now deal with times of stress.

 

Additional stress drives couples apart.

It is normal for couples to have times when they are disconnected but this distance can become exacerbated when other stressors are added. These additional stressors might include: having babies, moving cross country or across town, work changes, sick parents, new houses, illness or affairs/outside friendships. All of these bring additional stress to a couple and we each deal with stress in our own unique way - and we rarely deal with big emotions in the same way or in the same time-frame as our spouse. Being in a different space emotionally from our partner can leave us feeling misunderstood and alone. Sometimes we feel more like roommates than lovers. 

Counseling can help. 

Counseling is one way to initiate movement in a stuck marriage. Meeting with a trained professional can help you learn new communication skills and tools; gain perspective on what is happening; and learn about how you were taught to deal with your emotions. Counseling can also give you a safe place to begin to heal injuries within the relationship. 
 
My goal in working with couples is to help each person understand their own needs and to learn how to ask for them bluntly. While this sounds easy, there are usually layers upon layers of things that get in the way of us seeing what it is that we are actually feeling, realizing what it is we need and then asking bluntly and clearly for our needs.  

What are sessions like?

I talk a lot in my couples sessions. I realize that many therapists don't admit this but I feel it is important to disclose. While I am trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy and Self Psychology (listening, empathizing and listening some more) - I did my post graduate and couples training in Relational Psychotherapy and therefore believe strongly in co-creating our therapeutic plan, time line and goals.
 
I have found that many couples coming in for counseling usually want some education about the best practices in communication, arguing and making up - they want something to do to save their marriage. It is my goal to give my couples something to do when they are home and having a repeat of the fight they have had 100 times before.

A little about me.

I have over 17 years of experience working with couples. I graduated from Catholic University with my MSW in 1999 and immediately began a post-graduate program with the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in Washington, DC. I studied Self Psychology and Relational Psychology with many wonderful and wise teachers and mentors. I started my private practice in a sunny third-floor office in Dupont Circle. I practiced there for over 15 years continually learning and studying with the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy (ICP) and the Washington School of Psychology. I began teaching with ICP in 2015.
 
In 2016 I moved to Boulder with my husband and 2 daughters. I am also a practicing Buddhist with a background in the Methodist church and Episcopal churh. While I bring all of this this “understanding” training to my couples work I also focus on helping couples change - as quickly and painlessly as possible.

But you might still have questions…

 

What if there has been an affair? Is it possible to recover when there has been a breach in our trust?

Yes, it is possible for your relationship to recover after there has been a breech of trust. I believe that with time and consistent behavior by the guilty party or parties - that trust can be rebuilt. It takes time but I truly believe that marriages, especially when children are involved, are worth the work. 
 


My spouse is depressed and it is ruining our intimacy.

It is very difficult on a marriage when one member of a relationship is ill with either a mental or physical illness. There is a natural skewing of the relationship to the roles of caretaker and patient. It can be very difficult to foster passion or sensuality if one is stuck in either role. Counseling can help you gain perspective on the roles or scripts you are stuck in and to gently create some room for movement.

My partner refuses to come to therapy, will anything change if I come in alone?

I see relationships as a system and an intervention anywhere in a system will cause a change to the whole. In other words, yes, if you begin to change yourself and your reactions, you will alter the relationship. Any intervention: counseling, reading a book, taking a class or reading this website - is a beginning and will initiate movement toward healing and change.

 
We just moved and we are both so lost - I am not sure counseling is the right thing that will help.  

Counseling provides a safe place to begin to unpack all the stressors involved in a move (no pun intended). In marriage we need to be able to express our feelings without them being judged, rationalized or dismissed. There is power in giving our partner the experience of being heard, which is not always the same thing as hearing or understanding them. 


We are a lesbian couple - do you work with couples who are not heterosexual?

Yes. I believe strongly that couples work is couples work and communication skills, emotions, and intimacy are universal. I began my practice in Washington, DC in a sunny office in Dupont Circle and have worked with couples who define themselves as gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, asexual as well as couples who are in open relationships. My approach is the same with everyone - I want to know about your needs in your relationship, what gets in the way of you asking for them, and then help you both get more of your needs met.

How do I schedule with you? Can we talk in person before we schedule?

 
I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can see if this is a good fit for what you need - I am happy to meet in person or we can talk over the phone. Please contact me here and we can plan a time to meet at my sunny 28th Street office.
 
You can also call me at
720-551-8084. I look forward to speaking with you.

 - Ashley Seeger