Is a great relationship possible?
It definitely takes two to make it great, but it can be good sprinkled with great when even one is committed to work on the couple-ship. Over time the one who is giving it all runs the risk of developing resentment and anger towards the partner who isn't as committed. This type of partnership is difficult to revive in therapy. Relationships are not 50/50, they are 100%. Each individual must be willing to give it all, 100% of themselves to the goal of a great relationship. I like to have couples set a vision for the relationship, then when an issue arises, the couple can easily determine if it aligns with the vision. Knowing that life is constantly changing and we must adjust, the vision can be changed if both individuals agree. If they do not, then a new vision for the relationship would need to be established. If a new vision can not be created with respect for both individual needs, then the relationship may not make it. 

Couples therapy is hiring an advocate for the marriage. At Havens Counseling, the marriage is the client. If an individual is doing something that hurts the relationship, then the one who is doing the wounding will need to adjust. For example, the client (the relationship) states they want better communication, but the male withdraws and gives the silent treatment when he is upset. This is counterproductive to the goals of the client (the relationship). Therefore, the male will be given tools to practice so he is able to stay in the conversation and not avoid conflict.

The foundation of a healthy relationship is trust. Trust is developed and earned over time. When we enter into a new relationship we watch behavior, listen to words, and see if they match. Basically, is this person walking the talk. We start to let down our guard and become more vulnerable to be "known" by this person as we gain insight into the partner. 

Pre- Marital Counseling
When a couple enters therapy before marriage they are often wanting ensure the relationship is healthy. As a certified facilitator for PREPARE/ ENRICH which helps engaged couples determine the strengths and growth areas of the relationship. Some of the topics we explore are family of origin, past traumas, attachment issues, communication, intimacy, finances, children, expected roles, spirituality, and vision of the marriage. Marriage is not always easy so by discussing core values and beliefs ahead of the big day, can minimize the fears of the unknown. Learning how to communicate in a healthy way is vital for a great marriage and a long lasting relationship. Chances are you both have different communication styles, you both are unique and have views that may not match. Compromise is important, but giving up of self in a healthy manner for the marriage and becoming marriage centered holds the marriage together. Pre-Marital counseling is a brush stroke on the relationship. If there is an underlying issue such as trauma, addiction, past deceit or lack of good boundaries, individual or more intensive therapy may be needed. When two healthy independent individuals are together and join in marriage, they become two interdependent people. Not fully independent and not fully dependent. 
The goal of pre-marital counseling is to uncover any possible road blocks on the journey of marriage. With the use of assessments and dialog we search for any topics that must be worked through before the joining. It is impossible to determine if the couple will make it "till death do us part", but knowing your partner with full disclosure and accepting them is the best guarantee you can have. With a therapist trained in premarital counseling, they know what are the most common areas that can derail a marriage.
Recommendation is 4-6 sessions. If filed in Orange County, you may receive a discount when you apply for your marriage license. Please check with other counties for the same offer. 

Marriage Counseling
By the time a couple makes it to counseling, the issue is no longer the issue. The small conflicts have led to a big conflict that webs into many disagreements. Communication is the most sought after goal in therapy. How do we communication in a healthy way? As a therapist trained in Imago Therapy, I see the power of healing when couples learn to hear each other and understand the perspective of their partner. Not demanding agreement but by accepting a different view is how intimacy grows. When we stop accepting our partner as different and unique, resentment grows. Therapy can help a couple determine if the differences, although accepted, are healthy for the marriage. What works for one relationship, does not always work for another. 
Two people start out in acceptance and agreement, as time passes and life has the way of shaping and challenging the couple, then views, beliefs and opinions change. That is okay. If one member of the couple begins to detour from the original vision and beliefs of the marriage, conflict arises. A therapist can help each member to be heard and valued even when there are differences. 
The goal of marriage therapy is to create a healthy marriage. Sometimes that means figuratively throwing out the old marriage and rebuilding a new marriage with improved tools.The husband and the wife are under the authority of the marriage. What is best for the marriage? When a couple enters therapy, the marriage becomes the client. The therapist represents the marriage. 

Often the couples’ issue can be resolved in 6-10 weekly sessions, moving to bi- weekly then monthly. Often I find in a couple’s session when one is able to see his/ her partner with fresh eyes and learn to respond in a kinder and more supportive manner this then motivates the other partner to do the same. We are only responsible for our own behavior and how we respond to our partner. This is personal responsibility. I can not change my partner, I can only change me. Understanding the partner is not the enemy but the ally. The goal being to build a stronger connection and healthier relationship. When two people have a common goal it really is a matter of finding a common path to accomplish the goal. Determining what does not work, and what worked in the past is part of the process. All past wounds do not need to be dredged back up in session, moving forward to do the relationship in a healthier manner is the goal. Eyes looking ahead, not backwards will take you to a better future.

Recommendation- depends on the issue. Often in couples counseling a 50 minute session is not enough. Therapist may recommend 80 -120 minutes.

Separation / Divorce
When a relationship separates there is a grieving process. The 5 stages of grief are:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. An individual may go through the process smoothly or turbulently. With a therapist to guide the process and educating the client on what is normal while giving support along with tools to move forward to a new life whether that is reconnecting the broken relationship or remaining disconnected, the separating of a relationship can become a healing journey. Whether the relationship survives or not there is always something to be learned. In session, the therapist can help you explore who you were as a member of the couple and what caused you to respond the way you did. It takes 100% overall effort from each individual to have a healthy relationship and it takes just as much to repair. If trust was broken, it is referred to as a relationship betrayal. Trust is the foundation of intimacy. When intimacy is damaged, a trained therapist can guide the couple to repair. If the couple does not want to repair, the counselor can navigate the journey ahead to be civil and of acceptance without further loss.  

Each member of a family has value to the whole family system. When one member hurts it affects the whole family unit. In family counseling it is important to understand how each individual views the problem and the dynamics of the family. Often a family member takes on a role that helps to balance the family, whether healthy or unhealthy can be determined in the therapy session. The power of the family to heal begins with understanding each other's perspective with compassion. Similar to Individual and Couples Counseling, Family Counseling duration depends on the needs and goals of the family. Often the goal is the same for each member but they are struggling with the way to implement the action plan. A family is like gears in a machine, all gears need to be moving in order for the machine to go forward. At times one member is suffering and feels stuck. Therapy can help other members learn how to help and do their part in supporting the hurting member. Using Internal Family Systems Therapy members see each person as an individual but also a contributor to the system (family). The whole is greater than the parts, in other words, a family has amazing strength to build up and to tear down. We know the words we speak have an impact on those around us, so does our behavior. Actions often speak louder than words. No action also speaks. If you have been saying the same thing over and over about the same problem, then it is time to change the solution. Speaking over and over is not working, do different, be different.