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A Marriage Counselor Gets Personal

I think I was put on earth to write about marriage. But no one who knew me when I was single would have guessed it. After a couple of decades of looking for the one and meeting many men, I finally married. At my wedding, a friend said, “It’s the end of an era.”

Long before becoming a wife, I was a marriage expert — for other people. A licensed clinical social worker, marriage counselor and psychotherapist, I helped couples transform their relationships. My clients helped me too, probably without knowing it.

During a session with a husband and wife I saw for couple therapy for some time, they said I must think they were totally messed up. They noticed my eyes tearing up. I blurted out how touched I was by their caring and commitment. I hadn’t grown up seeing that and wished my parents had that kind of connection instead of divorcing when I was 13.

I admire couples who seek professional help to get through the rough patches. Too many give up too soon.

Why People Fear Marriage

Many people fear marriage today. They may have grown up with parents who either divorced or stayed together unhappily, so they didn’t see a good marriage up close. It’s common for divorced adults to stay single rather than risk another failure.

When I was single, I thought I wanted to marry, but shied away from marriage-minded men. I viewed them as boring or found fault with them about one thing or another. Part of me yearned for a soulmate, but another part feared I wouldn’t succeed at marriage. So I pushed away men who wanted a serious relationship. Finally, I understood that I was ambivalent about marrying.

Therapy Can Help

I began seeing a therapist who met my requirements: he was still married to his original wife and had successfully raised children who were now adults.  

I think that children believe that their parents will stay together. When they divorce, the child’s trust is violated — with lasting consequences.  

My therapist was wise, compassionate, and understanding. I think I needed an older man like him to give me a sense of always being there for me, unlike my father who’d left, quickly married again, and started a new family.

My therapist helped me to trust again. He also helped me catch myself getting ready to dump still another marriage-minded man I dated. “There you go again,” he’d said.

Gaining Marriage Mentors

I wanted to believe I could succeed at marriage. I started looking for happily married couples as role models. I found them among my coworkers, clients, and patients, while working as a clinical social worker in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry settings. I became the couples and family therapy expert at the alcoholism agency, where I trained staff and interns.

As executive director of a family service agency, I developed a close relationship with a happily married board member. She shared her wisdom and supported my goal to get married. I also gained hope also from spiritual/religious advisors and from other people who encouraged me to marry.

Overcoming My Big Dating Obstacle

My therapist helped me get past my pattern of rejecting marriage minded men. Had I not been in therapy, I might have stopped seeing David, who I married.  

After marrying, I realized that it’s one thing to be a marriage expert when viewing couples I worked with, and quite another to be inside of a marriage, where you can’t be so objective.

I knew David and I had more to learn. We signed up for a weekly evening class for couples that lasted about eight weeks. For just a few minutes during one session, our instructor described a marriage meeting couples can hold every week. Of all the ideas presented in the class, that was the one we implemented and refined. Nearly 30 years later, we still hold a weekly meeting, which I give major credit for our lasting happiness.

Sharing the Marriage Meeting Tool

After a while, I began sharing this simple, effective communication tool by writing articles which were published nationally and internationally.

I began leading workshops to teach couples, step-by-step, how to hold a marriage meeting. My follow-up studies showed that virtually every couple who continued to hold the meetings gained a significant increase in marital happiness. This wasn’t surprising. Successful marriage meetings increase romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.

My Mission

My mission is to help people create the marriage they’ve always wanted. My book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, tells just how to conduct effective meetings.

My next book will be for single women who want to marry. My goal is to help people create a marriage that fulfills them in all the important ways — emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically and materially — whether they are already married or want to be.

Virtually anyone who wants such a union can create one — by choosing their partner wisely and by gaining and using skills to keep the relationship thriving.

A Marriage Counselor Gets Personal

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Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). A Marriage Counselor Gets Personal. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Jan 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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