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Did you know that many of the issues that split up marriages and families can be prevented?

 

I strongly believe that there are skills, tools and insights that can prevent divorce. I have over 15 years of experience working with couples and seeing how tools and skills can impact their happiness and intimacy.

I began my work by seeing couples who were in the throws of separating and divorcing and I kept hearing the phrase “if only we had known this at the beginning of our relationship - we could have saved ourself so much hurt.” I realized that the information I was giving to couples in crisis was needed by couples at the beginning of their journey. Over time, I developed the 5 areas that we discuss. 

 

What does Premarital Counseling include? How much does it cost?

 

My 4-session Premarital Package is $400. We will talk about: 

Family of Origin Issues - What did your parent's marriage look like and how does that influence you? Know where your “autopilot” with emotions might impact your relationship.

Expectations of your marriage - Take time to imagine a perfect married couple and negotiate a shared vision with you partner.

Communication Skills - We will cover empathic listening and ways to communicate difficult feelings with love and empathy.

Wedding Survival Skills - How to have your wedding day be all you want and need it to be. 

Married Sex - What is it and how is it different than “dating sex.”

This is a lot to cover in 4 sessions and many clients prefer to focus more deeply on only a few areas. These sessions are really about what your both need in order to feel confident moving into your marriage. 

 

We are really happy and aren't having any issues or fights…will counseling create conflict? Do we really need Premarital Counseling?

 

Premarital counseling will not create issues or fights. My job is not to invent conflict.

My job is to educate couples about marriage and the difficulties that can come up when you live with someone for years and decades. The issues that can arise are different for each couple which is why we spend a little time discussing your family dynamics. We each react differently to grief, shame, conflict, and anger. It is important that you have an understanding of how your parents taught you to react; have specific language to name your reaction; and have a plan in place for how you wish you could react. 

 I believe that all couples should have a form of education on communication skills or “Marriage Training.” I have seen the difference this can make as couples make this difficult transition from dating to marriage. Becoming a husband or a wife can be trickier than just signing a piece of paper and having a place.

 

Help, since we got engaged we are fighting all the time. Should we call off the wedding?

 

It is actually very normal for couples to fight more as their wedding day approaches. Getting married marks a very important transition for you both - even if you have been dating for years or living together. It marks your individual transitions from a girlfriend to wife and/or from a boyfriend to a husband. Don’t underestimate the emotional toll that this change can take. You have to grieve the old role, figure out what this new role will look like and then navigate this internal change all while connected intimately with another person. Oh, and this other person is also going through a transition. 

Engagement through the first year of marriage is a very stressful times on a couple. In counseling we also call these times of transitions a time for “return of the repressed.” This is when any trauma in your family or childhood suddenly has an opening to appear, or reappear. And as you work to assimilate this new role you have to remain connected with your partner. This is very difficult for everyone.

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 transition. 

One goal of premarital counseling is to help you both understand your blueprints and begin to develop language to describe these learned tactics so that you can talk openly about your reactions to times of change. I help my premarital clients understand the normal reactions to times of transition so that they can be ready for the next transition: babies, moves, retirement, etc.


Sex? We have to talk about sex? But I don't know you at all. 

 

I realize that sex is a difficult issue to talk about with a stranger - but I believe that sex is a cornerstone of marriage. It is important to be able to talk with your partner about your sensuality and how you wish for this part of your personality to grow and change over your life together. So many couples stagnate sexually because it is so very difficult to find the words to discuss sexual issues without shaming or embarrassing each other. 

Most of this part of premarital counseling is a lecture - I will educate you on sex therapy and how you can shift your perspective on sex and sensuality. We are all inundated by social media, TV and movies about what is sexy and what is “good sex.” But what if you don’t fit into any of these boxes? Finding language and skills to talk directly about sex and sensuality is vital to any union. 

 

I am fine with the marriage - but I am freaking out about my wedding day. What do I do with my toxic family? 

 

I have many couples who come to counseling to figure out how to navigate their wedding day. They feel comfortable with the commitment of marriage but don’t know how to get through the day - either being the center of attention or with their toxic or difficult family members. There are many ways to set up your wedding event to shield you from toxic people. It takes shifting your thinking from being the best host/hostess to a defensive stance about how to stay safe during this very public event.

We all want our family to be the supportive, loving, generous people we see on TV, in the movies or at our friend’s weddings - saying loving toasts, giving emotional gifts that were thoughtfully chosen, dancing with us to a perfect song or just allowing the day to be all about us. However, many of us have family members who are not capable of giving or sharing these emotional moments with us. 

If you have toxic, alcoholic, abusive or narcissistic family members it is a good idea to think through what emotional moments you are expecting at your wedding and then begin to examine where you might be disappointed. I help couples think realistically about what moments you can expect with toxic family members. And then we think creatively about how to get these emotional moment from other places - either from other people, or how to manufacture them with your family. 

 

I want to talk with you before we get married but I don’t want to go through your “program” - I want to talk about something else entirely? Is that OK?

 

I created my premarital package for the many couples who want an easy way to get educated about marriage and gain some skills and tools. But I am happy to use the 4 sessions to dive deeper into what you need. I have many couples who use our time to negotiate a difficult decision or conflict, or just talk through a past experience that is getting in the way of committing. Relationships are complex and unique and there is no “one plan fits all.” 

 

What if we are already married or not engaged yet - can we still come see you?

 

Yes! The skills and tools that I teach are ones that you will use for your lifetime. There is no expiration date for these skills and you don’t have to be engaged. The premarital package is a great way to get a deal on a series of counseling session to help you and your partner. 

Do you work with the LGBT community?

 

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 reach me at 720-551-8084. 

 

I look forward to speaking with you.

- Ashley