Weed Pulling

               My friend and colleague  Dr. Samuel Raj taught me to think about marriage as a garden. In this garden of your relationship he would say “you have to pull the weeds that are coming up and choking it”.  A weed refers to something that grows quickly and is not wanted, in other words, weeds are conflicts.   Resolving conflicts in your relationship require a very special kind of dialogue.  This particular dialogue was developed by psychologist and couples therapist Dr. Elyn Bader.  In this dialogue one of you will initiate the discussion and one of you will be the active listener. If you are the initiator you get to freely disclose what is bothering you, including some of your thoughts about your partner.  If you are the active listener you will accept what is being said with no verbalized judgment toward your partner.  If you do this each of you will feel emotionally safe and this will allow for open and honest communication.  From this, mutual understanding is possible.  It sounds too easydoesn’t it?  Let’s look more closely at how it works.

               If you are the active listener you will listen calmly without taking what you hear personally or becoming defensive.  You will ask questions, acting curious and interested so you can better understand your partner’s experience.  It is important to remember during this dialogue that you don’t own the problem being discussed and only you can manage your own reactions.  You then provide a re-cap of what you heard to ensure the information you received is accurate and your partner feels understood.  When this point is reached you, as the listener do your best to put yourself in your partner’s place and respond with empathy until a soothing moment occurs between you.  You will know it when you see it because when someone is understood in a difficult circumstance they often cry or have some sort of emotional reaction.  Remember that you can hold on to your own perspective and still imagine what it’s like for your partner.  Also remember that your partner is a separate person with their own feelings, thoughts, personality and family history.  You only need to listen, not look for solutions.

If you are the initiator you reveal yourself and focus on one issue.  Be clear on what your main concern is and make sure your partner is ready to listen.  Stay on track as you describe what you want.  Express your feelings and thoughts.  Go to the deeper emotions that show your partner your most vulnerable self.  For example, you could say, “I have acted angry over this issue but I am really scared because I’m afraid we are going to hurt our children emotionally”.  In this way you own this problem because it is an expression of who you are.  Of course, you will avoid blaming, accusing or name calling because blaming stops you from knowing yourself.  You also maximize your chance of being heard.  As you share, be open to self discovery by exploring your personal, inner experience, going deeper into how you feel.  You tell yourself, “this process is about my willingness to take a risk to speak or discover my truth.  It’s also about increasing my ability to tolerate the expression of our differences.

So that is how you can deal with conflict.  You’ll notice that in this process neither of you are right nor wrong.  The problem is not even totally solved.  This is a journey and you and your partner are both on it together.  There is no room for right or wrong.  If you believe that you require more assistance with managing conflict in your relationship I encourage you to contact me so I can help you in this process. Happy weed pulling!

About “Table Talk and Pillow Talk” by Dr. Samuel Raj


As my readers know, I am a social worker in private practice specializing in couple’s therapy.  I started seeing couples in 2002.  At that time and for ten years hence I shared an office with Dr. Raj.  Dr. Raj has launched his first book entitled “Table Talk and Pillow Talk”.  It is a compilation of most of his 160 articles written on a quarterly basis for his clients and referral sources since 1986.  The articles have been subdivided under appropriate chapter headings so that one can easily find the area they want to read more about.  I heartily endorse this book and recommend it to “anyone” because there is something of relevance to “everyone”.  The book is available through Amazon and other publishing websites and will be available on eBook tablets soon.

Whether you are in a good relationship, a bad relationship, getting dumped, dumping someone or starting a new relationship, this book can help you.  Dr. Raj stresses the importance of self-love and total commitment to your partner.  He also challenges us to accept that we are moral beings and capable of treating each other very well.  He is not judgmental however, and not overly technical in his suggestions and insights.  He trained as a marital therapist later in life.  He had already earned several degrees and has a world of knowledge in many disciplines.  I value his knowledge and approach to couple’s therapy so much, I make this book available to my clients to support and enhance what we are covering in sessions together.  Often I actually read parts of a chapter from his book during a session and often send couples home to read a specific chapter before the next session.  I trust that you will enjoy this book as well.


Brian Wilson, MSW/RSW


Hurting During the Holidays?

               Christmas is a stressful time; presents to buy, people to see, food to prepare and, kids to keep entertained through the holidays.  Oh – what’s that you say – you and your partner are thinking about calling it quits?  That’s all you need right now.   If this sounds like your plight, please read on.  If you know someone in this situation, please read on.  If you want to avoid being in this situation, please read on.  

               If you and your partner have reached this point, it’s safe to say you are both starving emotionally.  You are not feeding each other with emotional support, intimacy or, practical caring.  This will not change overnight so it’s not reasonable to expect it to improve much in the three or four weeks of the Christmas season.  What you can do, is agree to not make things worse.  

               To begin, one of you suggest to the other that you have a meeting in a quiet neutral place outside the home; preferably a coffee shop, or a room in a friend or family member’s house.  In this meeting, one of you will propose that you agree to see a couples counsellor right after the holidays.  You can discuss your feelings about how things are between you but make no accusations of the other and don’t bring up any new issues.  You are only trying to establish that outside help is needed.  One of you will then volunteer to look into counsellors available in your area.  Google, Bing or other search engines are a great place to start.  Using key words such as: couples; counselling; and your location, you will get enough results to start “shopping”  What this action does is give you a reprieve from having to think about what is going to happen to your relationship over the holidays.  You have effectively put the decision on hold.

               In this way, you can choose to act in your most adult way to provide your family; kids, parents, siblings, with the best “you” possible.  You and your partner can negotiate what activities can be tolerated for the sake of the family given your depleted emotional energy.  As simple as this advice may sound, it will be very difficult to execute.  May you do your very best to get what you need and deserve this holiday season.  Help awaits when you are ready.

What you can expect from your first couples counselling session.

Let’s say, you have decided to see me for couples counselling.  It hasn’t been easy.  You have been fighting constantly for months.  You are both at the end of your rope.  If something doesn’t change soon one of you will be out of here. Does this sound like your story?  Don’t worry, help has arrived.  You have made a good decision to seek help.

One thing is for sure; neither of you are getting fed emotionally by the other.  Your needs are not getting met, nor are you meeting your partner’s needs.  In the first session I will ask each of you to explain in your own way what has gone wrong.  Where does the source of your pain in this relationship lie?  I will then ask you both to share your deepest need in this relationship.  Next, I’ll ask for a few examples of how each partner can meet that particular need in terms of specific behaviours. After agreeing to meet each other’s needs in these ways I will ask you to talk about happier times in the relationship, or recall how you first met and how you decided “this is the one for me”.  With some goodwill being shared between you I will then ask if you can tell each other that you are committed to the process of repairing your relationship.  This is sometimes when a hug or a tender comment between you can be shared.  Depending on the flow of the session I will either start out asking or ask you near the end of session about  earlier experiences in your family of origins and other relationships.  This is where you can gain insights into your dynamics as a couple because what you experience in your early life and how you adapted to it is brought into your current relationships.

Lastly, I give you each a questionnaire to complete and bring back to me at the second session.  It asks for more details about your health and family background, your educational and occupational experience, your own assessment of the relationship problem, and your goals for therapy.  This is to be completed on your own and not shared with your partner so that you can be completely honest.  I hope this helps you know better what to expect when you come for your first session.  Let’s get started…

A Special Resource for you from Hand in Hand Parenting – Hand in Hand Parenting

A Special Resource for you from Hand in Hand Parenting – Hand in Hand Parenting.