Inside the mind and heart of a marriage therapist

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Emil Harker

(KUTV -- How would you like to sit in an office and listen to people talk about their problems hour after hour and day after day? Does this sound exciting to you? This is what marriage and family therapist Emil Harker gets amped about. Today on Fresh Living the hosts sat down with Emil to get inside Emils head and find out what drives a marriage therapist.

"Recently I had a couple come into my office. They have been married over 25 years. They are a normal family. He is accomplished in his profession and she has also been very accomplished in the arts. Although they had tried therapy from time to time, there were only small changes and the changes didn’t last. As a result they started avoiding issues that would cause problems. Over the years these problems started to pile up and clutter their relationship. It was as if each unresolved issue became one more thing that got literally between them, making it harder and harder for them to connect. In a desperate attempt to get help before things got irreparably worse, they came in.

I love these situations. Two people that love each other but haven’t learned how to deal with the issues. And the fact is, that most couples are like this. This couple is not a unique situation. The reason for this is because we aren’t really trained on how to deal with relationship conflict. So, no wonder why this couple and most other couples are in the same boat.

I grew up in a family where the parents thought it was best to not argue or fight in front of the kids. This was great to help us feel safe and secure in the family, but it didn’t prepare me for relationship conflict in marriage. I couldn’t deal with conflict in a marriage like I did with my brothers. So, shortly after getting married my wife was upset with me, and she told me so. I was so alarmed by this, I thought this was the end of our relationship.

Shortly after getting married I was accepted to the marriage and family therapy program. Although I learned a lot about psychology and relationship dynamics and fantastic stuff, there wasn’t a conflict resolution model that I could really get into. There was the “reflective listening” model, but it seemed to me to be missing so many more components. So, I set out to find or create a program that not only my clients could use, but I could use as well. Through trial and error and a lot of research the end result is now in my book “You Can Turn Conflict Into Closeness.” In it you can learn how to complain - say what you need to without it turning into an argument. You also learn how to deal with disappointments an frustrations from your partner in a way that creates closeness instead of hurt.

With these tools in less than 30 minutes, I was able to help this couple work through an issue that had been a thorn in their marriage for years. Due to the sensitive nature of this particular issue, I can’t share it. However, they were able to have an “argument” while holding hands and crying together.

I see that many issues stay issues and cause difficulty because they just don’t know a different way to deal with intense emotional issues. It can be done.

Since you are such a big fan of Fresh Living, if you want to know what they did and how they did it, you can get a free copy of the book “You Can Turn Conflict Into Closeness”

Right now you can get Emil's book for free by going to emilharker.com/free-book

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