Advice: Heart to Heart
Counselor, Simcha Shtull Psychotherapy
Canadian-born, Ohio-raised Simcha Shtull brought up four children and worked in museums and new media while living in Israel during the ’80s and ’90s. Upon returning to the US in 2003 she made a career change in order to “help people find greater joy and satisfaction in their lives.”
Q| Some couples shy away from the idea of counseling, thinking it suggests there is something to “fix.” What do you think about this stigma?
A| There are areas in all our relationships that can be improved upon. Many of us have blind spots regarding our own behavior and interactions, and there are topics that are particularly sensitive and hence tend to be ignored. Counseling allows these conversations to take place, and thereby strengthens a couple’s emotional connection. Therapy is a wonderful opportunity for growth, for improving communication, for learning how to resolve conflict, for deepening intimacy.
Q| What can couples expect to learn in counseling sessions?
A| They will learn first and foremost that a loving relationship is about generosity. They will learn to be more generous in every way—with their time, their money, their patience, their affection, their listening.
Counseling allows sensitive conversations to take place, and thereby strengthens a couple’s emotional connection.
Q| What is the biggest benefit of premarital counseling?
A| Couples have the opportunity to devote time to nurturing a secure bond, one based on safety, trust, intimate connections, and emotional presence. Couples who really get this are able to create a secure base from which they can draw sustenance and strength. They are better able to enjoy one another, and they can venture out into the world with greater confidence and joy.
Q| What role does counseling play after a couple ties the knot?
A| Couples are encouraged to return at any point in the future to process issues that arise. After a few sessions, the counseling process no longer seems intimidating. Often, premarital couples express gratitude that they now have an address to return to if there is ever a need, and quite a few couples have even requested a periodic post-knot-tying “checkup” even when things are going relatively smoothly.
When time is of the essence I encourage couples to go to counseling after the wedding if not before. Personal relational growth is a lifelong process.
When choosing a counselor Look for feelings of comfort, safety, rapport, flexibility.
Words to remember Generosity is not the same thing as selflessness. If couples can learn to be more generous without losing themselves, more generous while still holding on to an independent sense of self-, their connection will be even more peaceful and loving.