Premarital Counseling Tip #2

April 1st, 2013


Welcome to the second edition of the Premarital Counseling Blog. I hope you enjoyed last month’s blog on electromagnetic attunement. The next two articles will examine the concepts of commitment to “repair” and commitment to “mutuality” in maintaining a healthy relationship. 


Premarital Counseling Tip #2: Repair Part One, Choosing Love

Knowing how to “repair” with your partner after an emotional injury is an essential element to a healthy relationship. It is not only an act of atonement; it is a re-attunement and demonstration of our “caring about” and our “feelings of importance” towards our partner. In fact, “repair” is so important… studies have shown that it is the lack of “repair”, not the original injurious incident that causes the most damage to the individual and the couple’s relationship.

Couples often struggle to create repair. One common sticking point is when both people feel hurt and the need to be listened to… but both feel too hurt to listen to the other. This involves a loss of mutuality – an inability to find the place in relationship in which the couple can hold compassion for both you and me. A common concern I hear in session is, “If I attend to his/her pain then I have to ignore my pain or needs.” Again, this is an either-or mindset rather than embracing the concept of “mutuality.” It simply indicates that the couple has not learned to hold each other’s pain and needs together as a team. The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned but needs to be practiced. If you have trouble creating this together, it is something that a trained professional can help you achieve.

Another sticking point in creating repair is feeling too upset or hurt to want to repair. There are all sorts of reasons why couples hold on to their pain or resentment. You have to realize though, that this is your life! You can either hold on to pain and/or fear, or you can choose love. Either way, it is ultimately up to you. How many times have you thought to yourself after a fight, “Well that was stupid! Why did we fight about that?” Normally (not always) it does not feel good to fight. Most couples regret getting caught up in a fight after all the dust settles. I am also not suggesting you abandon your hurts and needs. I am suggesting that you can choose to treat each other with love while discussing things that bother you at the same time. I am also suggesting that choosing love is a choice. If you make it dependent on someone else’s behavior, you are not taking responsibility for your life and your behaviors.

Here is an example of making an “offer for repair“:

“Wait a minute, honey. I know that you’re (upset/hurt/etc.) I’m starting to feel really triggered. I don’t want to fight with you about this. I love you too much. Can we slow down and try to figure out how we got off track… together?”


Notice that the example includes simple sentences, creating:

  1. A boundary
  2. Empathy for the other (first)
  3. Empathy for the self
  4. Commitment to the relationship/love
  5. An invitation into mutuality.


Remember, fights often involve one-sided argument, blame, defensiveness, needing to be right, and other losing strategies. Successful couples understand the need to commit to being in each other’s care. They are committed to the need to protect their relationship first and foremost!

 “Thou shalt correct all errors…and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.”

–       Stan Tatkin



Premarital Counseling Tips #1

March 20th, 2013

I have recently launched a new premarital counseling and maintenance program. One of the tragedies of my profession is that couples wait too long before coming in for help. They show up with so much pain and resentment from years of fighting or disconnection that it is extremely difficult to repair or re-open lines of communication.  Much of the damage could have been avoided by an earlier effort to seek out professional counseling.

I have written a six-part blog series to share some of the common insights I discuss with premarital couples who want to safe guard their relationship. Help spread the word. Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you know who is planning on getting married or just got married (even the starry-eyed couples), or anyone else who might benefit from this information. Thank you.


Premarital Counseling Tip #1, The Limbic Brain and the Heart

Our ability to give, receive and feel love is governed by the limbic portion of our brain (the emotional center) and the heart. Scientists have shown that both the brain and the heart attune themselves to the energetic fields of the brains and hearts of those around us. This means, whatever we are feeling, our brain and our heart create an electromagnetic frequency that is then perceived by the brains and hearts of those around us. This is particularly true with the heart. One of my favorite books on the Heart as an organ of perception is The Secrete Teaching of Plants by Stephen Buhner.

This electromagnetic resonance between people can even occur at a distance. Studies have demonstrated that even when two people are in different rooms, if one person is shown an emotionally evocative image, both people register a predictable electromagnetic frequency on devises such as EEG’s and EKG’s.

As a Couples Therapist, I’ve seen many examples of how deeply a couple “wires together.” There is a nonverbal dance that occurs (or is absent) between a couple that operates far beneath their level of true consciousness. For instance, have you ever seen a couple sitting at a booth at a restaurant and under the table (outside of their visual fields) their feet are wiggling in perfect synchrony with each other? We call this “tail waging.” This unconscious synchronization occus frequently in couples therapy.

While most of this synchronization goes on whether we recognize (like) it or not, couples can use this knowledge to their advantage through intentionally developing and engaging with each other with emotional intimacy. In my free report on successful couples, I discuss several ways couples can strengthen and utilize emotional connection to strengthen and enhance their relationship. (You can download this report for free when you sign up for the Couples Connection newsletter.

Remember, emotions are electromagnetically “contagious”! Your brains and hearts will “wire” together. Learn to recognize and choose moments of loving connection. Relationships are meant to enhance our lives and help us grow. Keep in mind… emotional intimacy is the most pleasurable when we learn to properly meet each other with all the flavors of emotion – joy (mutual celebration), sorrow (compassionate presence), fear (comfort and reassurance), and even anger (care and understanding).


Helpful Hint:

  • Make sure you take time to relax together. Life can be very stressful.  Long term or extreme stress is inherently damaging to our health and sense of wellbeing. Everybody knows the importance of stress management. Not everybody knows how to best utilize their relationship as a power resource for stress reduction.
  • Learn to tolerate feelings of sadness by simply offering your compassion. Sadness does not need to be fixed. It needs to be “cared for”. Practice compassion with each other.
  • While keeping in contact through phone calls and text is helpful, long distance “mechanical” connections are insufficient.  Face to face, eye to eye, and belly to belly connections have a profound effect on our nervous system, our blood chemistry, and our ability to attunement to one another. Hug belly to belly until you feel each other relax. Frequently gaze into each other’s eyes. This may be uncomfortable at first, but it is well worth the effort in the long run.
  • Make sure to take time to laugh and play together. Every moment of positive interactions builds “credit” in the “love bank.” Keeping your love bank in the black is important for when you get on each other’s nerves. And let’s be honest, you will get on each other’s nerves.


“Laughter may be the shortest distance between two brains.”

– Daniel Goleman



New Year’s Vision

January 1st, 2013

Happy New Year!


I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.


The New Year is upon us, a time for self-reflection and setting intentions for the growth and visions of the future. As a therapist self-reflection has long been an interest of mine. (Big surprise.) Intention, on the other hand, is a value that I have become more and more enamored with during 2012. So I wanted to share two thoughts about intention.

First, there is often an aspect of self-growth that is pain driven. My life has been no acceptation. Much of who I have become has grown from “the sacred gift within the wound.” While I hold a sense of gratitude for these gifts, I didn’t really like the pain. I much prefer to derive motivation elsewhere.

In the beginning of the year I came across this quote, “pain pushes ‘till vision pulls.” As I sat with this in 2012 I began to really appreciate mind-set that it speaks to. Instead of self-growth being about fixing what’s wrong, self-growth becomes about embracing values such as creativity, joy and expansion.

Couples often come to see me trapped in the grasp of blame and defensiveness. Feelings of being denied or devalued lock partners into an unconscious dance of mutual alienation in which nothing ever changes. While growth and intimacy can come from working through these struggles together, I highly encourage couples to find ways to create a shared vision as well. I ask them what they think a healthy relationship would be. Not so much to get a specific answer, more to get them thinking about a vision of what intimacy, connection, and shared creativity would actually be.


Talk to each other.

  • Share your ideas and dreams of how your relationship could look at the end of the year, in five years, in twenty-five years.
  • Find a book or workshop (or me) as a resource to guide your actions towards your dreams.
  • Put up inspirational quotes and pictures in your home to remind you of your vision.
  • Do the things for you have said, “We should do that one day.”
  • Appreciate each other for the ways you already are the vision you hold.


Second. In regards to arguing… far, far, too often I see couples engage in “charged” conversations without setting or verbalizing an intension. That’s about as smart as boarding a plane and assuming it will eventually take you where you want to go.

When you need to talk to your partner about something that is bothering you, don’t just jump in gun blazing. Take a moment to really think about what is bothering you. Then think about why that bothers you. Then keep thinking about it until you find a “why” that has substance and meaning in the relationship. Typically this will cause you to feel more vulnerable.

Next think about what you need from your partner. Again, look beyond the surface response of needing him or her to be a “better” person. See if you can find something more meaningful.

Then think about how you would like the conversation to go. Think about what it would look like if it got off track and how to keep it on track.

After you have your vision and intension clear share that with you partner. Talk to him or her about his or her needs, visions and fears about the topic. Decide as a team to help each other stay on track with where you want the conversation to go so that both of you come out feeling OK.

Remember, as a couple if you both aren’t OK, the relationship is not OK, so no one will be OK for long.


Wishing your visions come true,

Craig Toonder




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