There are lots of reasons why couples may choose to come to therapy: premarital counseling, frequent conflicts, communication challenges, infidelity, or parenting stress, just to name a few. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a common issue that couples often don’t seek help for, but perhaps should:

 

Distance.

Feeling alone despite being in a marriage.

In other words, feeling like they are more like roommates or business partners than spouses.

 

Time and time again, couples have referenced distance in their marriage as a contributing factor to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in their relationship. And yet, it seems that many couples don’t seek counseling for distance in their relationship until this issue has festered into more severe or debilitating challenges in marriage.

 

A couple years ago I saw the movie Hope Springs with my mother (fun fact: my mother and husband both have Masters degrees in the field of Mental Health, along with multiple members of my extended family. Gives new meaning to the study of marriage and family!) In the movie, a couple of retirement age (played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) participates in couples therapy in order to reconnect in their relationship.

One reason why I appreciate this film is that it highlights discomfort as a significant barrier to change. The awkwardness is palpable when the couple attempts to change old habits of distancing in the relationship. Their habits of sleeping in separate bedrooms, maintaining rigid boundaries, and avoiding all forms of intimacy are safe: they are well-practiced and predictably stable.

And yet, there is a saddening loss of love and life in their relationship. Ultimately, the wife summons courage to invite her husband to sex therapy, risking the loss of familiarity and security:

Kay: “It feels like Arnold and I aren’t going towards anything anymore. I want a real marriage again.”
Eileen: “I think for that to happen you would have to risk everything just to shake things up.”

What is Hope Springs really about, in my humble opinion?

Bravery.

What holds us back from looking at our spouse in the eyes and vulnerably telling them about our feelings and needs? Fear.

What holds us back from confessing our insecurities and our fantasies? Fear.

What holds us back from asking for help from a mental health professional when we don’t understand why we feel so alone? Fear.

Couples sometimes succumb to the fear of rejection and failure when they perceive distance in their marriage, and understandably become paralyzed. However, sometimes couples acknowledge their feelings and needs, and find the courage in themselves to ask for help.

In what may be the most uncomfortable bedroom scene of all time, observe how simple acts of risk, courage, and hope facilitate healing:

 

Did you see the subtle bravery? I find it inspiring.

Are you feeling brave? Connect. If you need help, give us a call.

 

-Megan Lundgren, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

(626) 272-4908

   

Recently a Marriage and Family Therapy colleague named Katherine Welch directed my attention to a musical artist named Amanda Palmer who writes raw, soulful songs about relationship dynamics.

In Palmer’s piece titled, The Bed Song, Palmer describes a couple that progressively becomes more distant throughout the course of their life together:

Now we’re both mostly paralyzed
Don’t know how long we’ve been lying here in fear
Too afraid to even feel
I find my glasses and you turn the light out
Roll off on your side
Like you’ve rolled away for years
Holding back those king-size tears

The individuals in the relationship mirror one another’s fear of vulnerability, and yet both individuals are longing to be truly seen and known.

At the end of the song, Palmer concludes with this emotional plea:

And I finally ask you, “What was the matter?
Was it a matter of worse or of better?”
You stretch your arms out and finally face me
You say, “I would have told you

If you’d only asked me.”

 

Powerful lyrics.

Can you relate with the desire to be in an intimately close relationship, or the ache of a distant marriage?

I practice couples therapy because I feel that there’s hope. In the words of Katherine Welch, who recommended this song to me: “This doesn’t have to be the story’s ending.”

The couple in Palmer’s sorrowful song may have had a painful history that hindered them from trusting other people.  Or, they may have not had the communication skills to verbalize their feelings and needs, perhaps because this practice was not modeled by their own parents when they were young. Or possibly ,they didn’t value their own feelings and needs enough to consider them worth sharing.

Regardless, these are issues that can be discussed openly, honestly, and vulnerably in the safe context of couples therapy.
Its never too late for healing and intimacy in your closest relationships.

Relationships rarely change without effort. And yet, the cost of stagnation in relationships is a gradual but devastating loss.
In The Bed Song, neither individual took initiative to change their relationship. They allowed the habit of guarding and restricting their emotions to slowly deteriorate their marriage.

Day to day, they chose the illusion of safe distance over the risk of self expression. And as a result, they silently suffered.

Through therapy, individuals and couples learn how to speak with courage. They learn to take risks with their therapist’s help, and often they see change in their lives as a result.

Are you ready for change? Are you feeling brave?

Communicate your needs.

If you need help, you can schedule a session with one of our Marriage and Family Therapists by calling (626) 272-4908 or going here.

You are not alone.

Next week, I’ll be continuing our discussion of intimacy and distance in marriage by exploring the themes of Hope Springs, a 2012 movie about a couple’s journey through therapy starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carrel.  Stay tuned!

 

   

Megan_Monrovia_Therapist

Megan Lundgren is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and supervises the team of Therapists at Relationships For Better. Megan co-owns Relationships For Better with her husband of 9 years, Daniel. Together, Megan and Daniel are focused on helping individuals and couples thrive in their closest relationships. Megan earned B.A.s in Psychology and Educational Ministry from Seattle Pacific University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Megan and Daniel both received their Masters in Marriage and Family Therapist from Fuller Seminary and Graduate School and recently welcomed their son into the world.

Erika_Monrovia_Therapist

Erika Forsyth is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern with years of experience providing counseling to teens, individuals, couples and families. Erika earned her B.A. from Princeton and completed her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fuller Seminary and Graduate School. Erika and her husband are expecting a daughter.

Justin_Monrovia_Therapist

Justin Little is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern with a passion for Restoration Therapy, a form of therapy that assists individuals and couples identify and change the thoughts that contribute to pain in their relationships. In addition, Justin also has experience treating individuals struggling with addiction. Justin earned his B.A. at Azusa Pacific University and completed his Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Seminary and Graduate School. Justin and his wife have a daughter and live in Monrovia.

Johny_Monrovia_Therapist

Johny Thompson is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern with a vision for bringing hope to individuals, couples and families who need support in the midst of their challenges. Johny has completed two Masters degrees: a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Master of Theology, both from Fuller Seminary and Graduate School. Johny is in the process of receiving ordination in the Nazarene denomination, and provides treatment to people of all faiths and backgrounds.

   
  • Joseph Kim - March 8, 2016 - 10:38 pm

    Hello!

    My name is Joe, and my fiance Wendy and I are seeking to go through pre-marital counseling in April.

    Just a little about me, I’m a Fuller alumni, recently stepped down from pastoral ministry, and am Korean American. Wendy and I hope to go through pre-marital counseling sessions in order to better understand our strengths, differences, potential future and current conflicts, and to gain self-awareness, and grow in our skills in conflict management, as disciples of Jesus.

    Questions:

    1) I wished to ask if you would accept Anthem Blue HMO insurance, by chance?

    2) If Anthem Blue HMO is not accepted, what is your pricing? I’d like to inquire if there is any sliding scale for your pricing?

    3) Is there a set number of sessions that your pre-marital counseling entails? We are looking for 4-5 sessions, if possible. Any details on the length of each session, the total number sessions, and the frequency of meetings, would be appreciated!

    4) Do you have evening, Saturday, Sunday appointments available?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!
    Thanks so much!
    -JoeReplyCancel

You’ve seen his portrait at the top of this website for the past month. You’ve wondered about him. And now, you finally get to meet him!

Johny Thompson is our newest Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at Relationships For Better! Johny is known around our graduate school as an “all-around good guy” who is personable, warm, and trustworthy. We are so excited to have him on our Therapy team!

Johny_Thompson_Therapist_Vertical_0001

Hi there,

My name is Johny Thompson, and I am a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern with a passion to see people thrive. I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena with a Masters of Science in Marital and Family Therapy in 2012 and a Masters in Theology and Ministry in 2014. In addition to my schooling and clinical experience, I am a certified Family Wellness Instructor and have had extensive specialized training in a marriage and family therapy model known as Restoration Therapy.

The services I provide include:

  • Individual, Couple and Family Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Educational Groups
  • Teaching Seminars

And, my particular areas of interest include:

  • Helping families through seasons of distress, including divorce;
  • Equipping parents with tools and insights for effective parenting;
  • Working with premarital couples and couples working through relational conflict towards deeper love, trust and intimacy;
  • Walking with individuals dealing with depression, anxiety, grief (loss of life, relationship, health, etc…) and issues having to do with transitions in life or faith.

One of my greatest passions in life is helping families, couples, and individuals move forward towards experiencing more satisfying and nurturing relationships and finding a place of greater personal wholeness and peace. This happens, in large part, as individuals become aware of destructive patterns of belief and behavior and gain the insights and tools needed to allow them to begin to engage in restorative patterns of love and trust with self and others.

As you make the very important decision of who to choose as a Therapist, it would be my honor and privilege to come along side you as you journey towards restoration.

Sincerely – Your advocate,

Johny

-

Johny Thompson, MFTI

818.640.6622

Johny@RelationshipsForBetter.com

   

Hi Everyone,

As you can tell by the new website, Relationships For Better is growing! Justin Little joined the practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern a month ago, and we couldn’t be happier!

In the years that I have known Justin, he has been a model of care and compassion – two qualities I believe are essential in an effective Therapist. If you are someone who has considered seeking healing through relational Therapy, I encourage you to consider Justin as a potential Therapist for you and your loved ones.

But first, allow him to introduce himself:
Justin_Little_Monrovia_Therapist_Horizontal_0001

Hi all,

My name is Justin, and I am a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern being trained in the Restoration Model. I believe that family and community play a crucial role in shaping how we see our identity and our safety in close relationships.

I work to empower clients to name and regulate painful emotions regarding identity and safety, and work towards building love and trustworthiness towards themselves and others. This often means breaking generational cycles of pain and destructive behavior, which is why therapy can be so beneficial. I can help you see these patterns more clearly, and learn to do something different today.

Whether you are seeking to work on issues related to friendships, dating, engagement, marriage, parenting, caring for aging parents, divorce, work or school environments, or other relational concerns, I will work to help you understand and change the underlying emotional force behind the problematic behaviors that hinder your chances for growth. As love and trustworthiness are restored, clients experience an increasing sense of peace in themselves and their relationships.

I am particularly interested in the problems families face when one or more family members abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol, and I have experience working with adolescents, adults and families in recovery. If you or a friend or family member struggles with addiction, help is available, and I can connect you with the resources you and your loved ones need, as well as work with you to process your experiences and find hope.

I received my Masters of Science in Marital and Family Therapy from Fuller School of Psychology in 2013.

I have also completed levels I and II training in Restoration Therapy. I have been a Monrovia resident since 2008, and live here with my wife and daughter. My interests include hiking in the canyon, fantasy novels, running, writing songs on my guitar, freshly roasted coffee, making my wife laugh, baking, camping and going to see good action movies at the theater.

Justin

Justin Little, MFTI
626.807.0334
Justin@RelationshipsForBetter.com
   
  • Rica - May 14, 2015 - 4:30 am

    Hi, my name is Rica. I am from San Gabriel academy, I am doing the marriage project for the bible class and I have a couple question want to ask you, because I need your suggestion, I wish you can answer the questions. Thank you for your help.
    1. Why is marriage counseling important?
    2. Is marriage counseling necessary?
    3. What are issues that usually arise during counseling sessions?
    4. How often do people find that they should not get married?
    5. What advice do you have for people who are thinking about getting married?
    Thanks so much for all of your help.ReplyCancel

  • Adrian alfaro - June 29, 2015 - 3:49 am

    Hey Justin my name is Adrian I am 24 and I have been married for a year and two months ,with 3 year old boy and seven year old girl and I am contacting you cause I need your help. I’ve done counseling in the past but that was about a rough eight years ago. If you can please reply to my email above ,really appreciate it thank you.

    AdrianReplyCancel

  • Gary Mittelberg - January 8, 2017 - 7:16 am

    Interested in my 13 y.o. daughter working with Megan L. who was referred to me by Tsega Worku.
    Would like to discuss her situation and plan to assist.
    Do you take insurance? Cost, etc.
    Thanks-
    GaryReplyCancel