Honeymooners Forever - 12 step marriage survival guide
Marriage Survival Guide
About the BookAbout the AuthorTestimonialsProductsMedia
Blog ยป October 2016

October 2016

Inside a Marriage Counselling Session

(c) 2016 Phoebe Hutchison
Author / Counsellor / Public Speaker

Have you started losing faith in your relationship? Are you constantly fighting, or avoiding confrontation, and filled with resentment? Are you unsure of how to get back to how ‘it was’ at the start? Many couples cannot ‘fix’ their relationship alone. So, why not seek a little professional help? As a marriage and crisis counsellor, it is my honor to help couples reconnect and become happy again. Helping couples fall back in love is one of the greatest joys in my life. Now, let’s get to work...

What are your issues?

When you arrive at my office at Bairnsdale Natural Health, I offer you a seat on my ‘love couch’, and a cuppa, and discuss confidentiality. I need to get to know you both, so I’ll ask about your: lifestyle, work hours, weekly commitments, children (and any parenting struggles), and/or pets. What has caused you to seek help now? What are the issues? I’ll determine your level of independence, how much time you devote to each other, how you treat each other, how you feel about each other, how your sex life is, and if there have been any physical or emotional affairs.
Are you in safe?
I document any signs of: depression (including any suicidal thinking), anxiety, grief and loss, other mental health disorders, addiction or escapism (drugs, alcohol, prescription medication, spending, porn, gambling or workaholism). I check for control issues, such as the cycle of power and control, verbal abuse or physical abuse. I often do a Crisis Wheel Checklist from my 2nd book, Are You LIstening? LIfe is Talking to You, if I feel either of you are not coping with life. In this checklist, I ask about your: thoughts, self esteem, loss or traumas, emotions, diet and exercise, support networks, hobbies, finances and the way you feel about your daily activities. Your personal safety always comes first.
What are your communication patterns?
I lookout for any of these ten patterns:
The Competitive couple,
The Fight over Facts couple,
The Dominating versus the Submissive partner,
The Flip couple (He is emotionally needy, and she is logical/feeling smothered),
The Emotionally Distant partner (one partner is only there in body, not mind),
The Cat and Dog couple (Highly argumentative couple),
Triangulation (Two people against one, such as parent and child against the other partner),
The Grieving partner (who may either withdraw, or become frequently angered),
One partner puts children first, other partner withdraws,
Or The Spontaneous versus The Highly Structured partner.

I establish who has resentment, and who would benefit with assertiveness training.
(Often deep subconscious work, such as Brainspotting, works well in correcting long term ‘mental blocks’ such as avoiding conflict)?  
How do you argue?
How do you argue, and how often? What are your styles? Does one partner run? Is there a ‘silent treatment giver’ in the house? Do either of you yell, swear, or intimidate the other? Do you believe that no arguments is the best policy, and therefore not argue? If you happen to start an argument in session, I watch closely, for a moment; I am a ‘relationship detective’ after all; I watch, listen, and notice subtle clues to help solve the mystery of your relationship. Every interaction, every gesture, from body language, to facial expressions, helps me interpret your relationship strengths and weaknesses.

What was your childhood like?

How was your childhood? Was it happy or difficult? What challenges can you remember? How do you view your parent’s relationship? How did they communicate and manage conflict? What did you possibly unconsciously learn from them that is impacting your relationship today? How does your communication style differ to theirs?
What are your relationship goals?

I use Solution Focused Therapy to establish your goals for therapy. If I waved a magic wand over your relationship, and you woke tomorrow and your relationship was exactly as you want, how would it be, different to how it is today? What would the differences be? This forms your goal. When asked this question, many clients say, ‘To be happy.’ Others want ‘fireworks’, and say, ‘To have romance, dating, and to fall in love again.’  Many clients simply want, ‘Peace. To get along well’. Clear goals are vital to relationship success.

Why is homework so vital?

You will receive ‘tailor made homework’ every session, so you can improve your relationship immediately. As an author of two self help books, Honeymooners Forever, Twelve Step Marriage Survival Guide (Marriage Guide), and Are You Listening, Life is Talking to You (Life Guide), I equip you with specific tools to transform not only your relationship, but your life! I will also use any of the following counselling techniques: Solution Focused Therapy, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), Gestalt Therapy, Behaviour Therapy, Grief Therapy, Relationship Therapy, Brainspotting (Deep Subconscious Therapy), Parenting of Teenagers, Mindfulness, as well as help you with issues such as: anxiety, depression, low self esteem, pessimism, anger issues, workaholism, addiction, communication issues or disconnection, as required.

What do I promise?

I promise I’ll make everything as easy as possible. I can’t promise that you will laugh at my jokes, but they should help you feel more relaxed. I promise I will ask intrusive, and sometimes embarrassing, questions, as thorough assessment is vital to ensure relevant strategies can be given fast. I promise that most of the couples I work with are able to resolve presenting issues within 6 sessions (with the exception of complications such as: affairs, mental health issues, or recovery from separation; as these issues take longer). I promise my diagnosis is thorough, to ensure the homework and strategies are simple. I promise you simple solutions, so you are not overwhelmed. I promise I will treat you both equally, and with love, and respect.
Why am I so passionate about saving marriages? I saved my own failing marriage twenty years ago, and I have been saving marriages ever since. Thousands of relationships have been healed and transformed using the Honeymooners Forever Strategy, and there is no reason why yours should be any different.
Ms Hutchison will be giving a ‘Revitalize your Relationship’ seminar on 17th October at The Bairnsdale Club from 7pm to 9pm. (Tickets $45 each. www.areyoulistening.com.au). Seminar Topics: Couple Patterns, Improving Communication and Conflict Management. All couples attending will receive a free copy of Honeymooners Forever, Twelve Step Marriage Survival Guide, plus handouts.

Posted: 10/10/2016 3:19:53 PM with 0 comments


Don’t give up on love in your marriage

Just because you’re struggling in your marriage doesn’t mean you give up on it. Phoebe Hutchison tells you how you can bring back the spark in your relationship
By: PHOEBE Hutchison | May 29, 2015 | Topics: Relationships| Filed under: Articles

Are you starting to lose hope in your relationship? Maybe the sparks have died, you are feeling lonely or struggling to find reasons to stay together. As a marriage and crisis counsellor, my role is to help unhappy couples become happy again using the following process:

  1. Identify the issues

  2. Set goals

  3. Implement strategies

Relationship issues can quickly become complicated, causing frustration through lack of insight. Many couples try, but feel as though they can’t ‘fix’ the relationship so they emotionally disconnect or, in some cases, separate. This crisis time, however, is ideal for a thorough assessment. If you need help, here’s how to put your relationship under the spotlight.

1  Identify the issues in your marriage:

Think about your life, work hours, weekly activities, children and your stressors. When did things become challenging? How do you treat each other? How do you argue, and how often? Who avoids arguments, who becomes silent and who yells or intimidates? Do you notice any patterns such as: mother puts children first versus emotionally withdrawn father, spontaneous partner versus predictable partner, cat and dog couple [high conflict] or the highly competitive couple? Have you had an affair, or face excessive control or abuse? What is your sex life like? Delve into your childhood challenges, and also think about the communication styles you witnessed in your parent’s relationship? Is additional therapy needed for addiction, workaholism, parenting problems, grief, anger, post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] or mental health issues like depression? By ‘going deep’, you can discover the contributing factors in your relationship issues and equip yourself with specific strategies.

2  Set goals:

In solution-focussed therapy, counsellors use the ‘Miracle Questions’ to establish a client’s goals. Ask yourself: a magic wand was waved over this relationship, and it became exactly as I want it when I wake tomorrow, how would it differ from today? When asked, many say, “I would be happy.” Some want ‘fireworks’, and others say, “I would have romance, dating and be in love with my partner again.” Many clients say, “I would have peace. We would all get along well.” Clear goals are vital to success. What are your relationship goals?

3  Implement strategies:

Irrespective of how complex your issues might be, there same basic tools that you can use to work on your marriage.

The 30 minute rule

Spend at least 30 minutes together per day—quality time—with no distractions such as computers, phones, children or work; enjoy being focussed entirely on each other. Often couples new to therapy have said, “We don’t have time for each other.” One client, when asked to write his life’s priorities down, put his wife 7th on his list! It was no wonder his marriage was in turmoil. If your spouse and family are your highest priorities, then spend time every day enjoying them. This will keep you united, fulfilled, improve your sex life, reduce your chances of an affair and contribute to your happiness. It doesn’t have to be a chunk of time spent in one go. Spend 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there—spend time first thing in the morning with the family. You can spend time with your spouse when your children are in bed, and have your family time during meals—without the television. In short, become connected again.

Treat your partner like a lover—not a spouse

This step is magical! If you treat your partner like a prince, he will treat you like a princess—eventually. Every word, voice tone, facial expression and every gesture, impacts your relationship profoundly. This step is the fastest way I know to transform a relationship. Become your own editor. Listen, and actively change the way you interact with your spouse. Are your words loving, kind, attentive, compassionate and respectful?  For inspiration, observe new couples.

Stop finding fault and start praising

Many couples that first sit on my couch are filled with complaints. They have become in the habit of complaining about their partner to friends and family, and are viewing their relationship as a glass that is half empty. If you keep looking at your partner through these ‘negative glasses’, you’ll poison the relationship with negativity. Sure, in struggling relationships it’s only human to over-focus on the negative aspects. But this is not helpful because the negative simply flourishes. Make a list of your partner’s strengths and then focus on these. Based on the law of attraction, when we change our energy to positive, we attract more positive experiences—and our relationship is no different. It is astounding how fast a relationship can improve when couples stop criticising and start praising. I have seen couples who were separated rekindle their love and move back in together using this skill.

Manage conflict better

Some couples feel uncomfortable when I explain that arguing is good for marriage. If you don’t have good conflict management skills, and don’t stand up for yourself, you can easily develop resentment from unspoken words, unmet needs and anger that is not discussed. Couples who are not arguing often state they feel caged in, controlled or oppressed. Do you argue well? If not, follow these steps:

  1. Calm Down: Don’t have discussions when you are feeling infuriated and your blood is boiling. Wait until you cool down and schedule a meeting.

  2. Before Sleep: Have this meeting before you go to sleep [as sleeping with inflamed emotions will only aggravate the situation].

  3. No Distractions: Conduct this meeting in a quiet place with no distractions. You may use a writing pad as you both take turns in speaking and listening.

  4. Compliment at Start /End: Use the ‘Positive Sandwich Technique’, first, befire you start. Ie. Open and end the conversation, with a nice compliment. This is usually conducted by the person who initiates the conversation / ‘mini meeting’.

  5. Use ‘I’ statements: Discuss the issues in a direct manner. Use assertiveness techniques, by stating needs, wants and feelings from the “I” stance, such as: “I need…” “I want…” or “I feel…”  Do not blame your spouse. For example, instead of saying: “You make me feel lonely” or “You’re always working,” you could say, “I feel lonely” or “I need quality time with you.” In family therapy, direct communication is the most effective… so become direct.

  6. Take Turns: Use a business card, tea coaster, or small token to indicate that ONE person talks at a time, then take turns holding this, passing to your partner, to ensure listening skills are at your best. The person with the ‘token’ has the opportunity to speak, while the other listens.

  7. Remain Calm: Keep the feeling neutral. Do not yell, swear, storm out or become aggressive. Only argue when calm, to avoid nasty words / aggression you may later regret.

  8. The Aim: To have a win/win, but you may settle for compromise. Not all conversations/mini meetings will end with win/win. This is your chance for collaboration. First points are mentioned, then either party discusses their opinion, then a new goal is achieved after much brainstorming.  

You may need a little extra help assessing your relationship from either a self-help book or a relationship counsellor, to help you identify areas for improvement, set your goals and learn new relationship strategies. Using simple strategies works best to keep your marriage growing. Transforming a relationship from unhappy to blissful is achieved one day at a time, one positive thought at a time, with one interaction at a time! Don’t give up on love. Relationships are hard work, but when you know what to work on, this ‘work’ will be a lot of fun!
This was first published in the March 2015 issue of Complete WellbeingPHOEBE Hutchison

PHOEBE Hutchison Phoebe Hutchison is the author of Are You Listening? Life Is Talking to You and Honeymooners Forever: Twelve Step Marriage Survival Guide. She has worked extensively with couples and clients in crisis. Reach her at www.honeymoonersforever.com.au  or www.areyoulistening.com.au


Posted: 10/10/2016 10:59:25 AM with 0 comments