Transcription: An Interview on WMMR in Philadelphia With Arlene
Markus: You’re listening to 93.3 WMMR. This is public affairs. I’m your host, Markus Goldman. With me today is Arlene Foreman, she is a professional counselor who has had the privilege of to be invited into the lives of struggling couples from all over the Philadelphia area to help them re-unify as one, reinforce their love towards one another, and repair and tighten the strings of love tying these couples together. Thank you very much for joining me today, Arlene.
Arlene: My pleasure.
Markus: So we are here to talk about relationships. Before we really get into it, why do people come to you?
Arlene: They’re hurting. They’re hurting and they’re scared. That’s mostly why they come to me.
Markus: What are they scared of?
Arlene: Losing their relationship. Losing the marriage. Of continuing to be hurt. They don’t know what to do.
Markus: Now, there are a lot of reasons for this ‘hurt’ and we’re gonna try to discuss some of these, and I guess, some of the ways that you work with people to resolve this. And there are, again, there are many reasons why people are hurting and scared because they don’t want their marriages to end. Do you find that in this type of situation, it’s always both people, and not one or the other as far as that goes?
Arlene: It’s a relationship. A relationship is two people. I have worked with a couple and have never met one of the partners, and just because one partner changed the way they communicate, changed the way they view the other person. The other person can’t help the change. They’re getting totally different responses.
Markus: When people come to you, you offer through your website, a free consultation. What is entailed in that consultation? So that people who may be looking… because people are having marriage issues and they may want to know what this consultation consists of.
Arlene: It’s a consultation. It’s not free therapy, it’s a consultation. So people will ask, ‘’How long is it going to take until I’m feeling better?’’ ‘’Do you take insurance?’’ “At what time can I make an appointment?’’ ‘’Do you take mornings/evenings?’’ Those are the kind of questions that we do for people that have absolutely no experience in therapy and what it’s all about. What we’re talking about is the therapeutic experience.
Markus: Now what types of questions are you looking for in this type of consultation that will help you gauge the situation?
Arlene: Markus to tell you the truth, I’m not looking for questions from this consultation. I’m just looking to make them comfortable and safe to come to get the help they need.
Markus: It’s interesting that people ask things like how long it’s gonna take. That seems to be really arbitrary because it depends on how bad the situation is. There are a lot of factors involved. It probably depends on how people are gonna work at making it right as well. A few other factors.
Arlene: You’re right. In the first session, the first question I need to ask is, are you up for change? Because couples therapy is not about, you know, laying on an operating table and the surgeon operates and then you go home. This is about ‘’I listen to what the issues are, and I give you skills that you have to practice at home and changes that you’re going to have to make.’’ Most couples come with the message that ‘’Will you please change my partner? Because if my partner changes, everything will get better.’’ Well, I’ve never seen that happen. Never.’’
Markus: That’s almost bothersome that people say that they make no mistakes in their relationship, then their partners are the ones who’re all wrong.
Arlene: You know what, it sounds that way. But that’s not what they’re really doing. They’re just frustrated because they’re trying to get their partner to change so things will work. They can’t conceptualize that the only way anything is going to change is if I focus on myself and I make the changes I need for myself because nobody wants to hear, especially from my partner, I don’t wanna hear from you what’s wrong with me in the ways I have to change. I just don’t wanna hear it, and I won’t be inspired to change. But what I will hear is when I ask myself and I ask you ‘’What’s happening, and I wanna know what I can do to make you feel safer?’’. It’s a whole different energy.
Markus: I don’t know if people realize how much work is involved in a marriage and / or relationship at that very heavily committed level, it seems that in the last bunch of years the divorce rate is so high, things get tough or hairy (so to speak), and people find it easier to walk away instead of working through it.
Arlene: Well, I’m going to differ with you. I don’t see it or call it ‘’work’’, because the reality is that what’s happening today in my life is not the same thing that’s gonna happen a week from now, and I need psychological flexibility. The person who is best at adapting wins. These are skills that everybody needs for their life as what they’re learning in marriage counseling. And it’s not about working – it’s about growing!
Markus: And you’re absolutely right! I have to agree with you on that. But I guess, from just what I have seen, and just from experiences through friends that have come through divorce, it seems that whenever things instead of really fighting through the battle, they’ve walked away instead of trying to figure out how they can fix it, and I’ve seen that more common with people.
Arlene: Far more common. The vast majority of people get divorced and they don’t come to therapy. You’re right. And I believe that they get a divorce because they can’t even conceptualize that there is a way out and there are skills that they can learn. They just don’t know that and often when people come for therapy, it’s hard for them to appreciate the hours, weeks, months, years of study and how technical couples therapy is and the amount of research that’s put into it. Where people kind of get a sense of they’re just coming in to talk and what’s good talking going to do, and how is that really gonna help me? So they don’t come and they don’t go for help, and the tragedy is the lifetime stress for children, money, every way you look at the tragedy of divorce. When they do the research, people are not any happier than they were before the divorce.
Markus: That’s interesting. Very interesting. I think in that other interview that I listened to, and it makes a lot of sense because I have some really good friends who have gone through a bad divorce right now and neither of them is happier.
Arlene: Yeah. Divorce is not a road to happiness.
Markus: No it isn’t. Now let me ask you this: with the problems that you see with communication in couples today, you’ve been doing this for a while obviously, and you’re very experienced at what you do, do you notice that there’s different socialization or communication skill levels of people today versus when you first started? And when people seem to work a little bit harder at making their marriage work?
Arlene: I wish I could say yes, but I don’t see any… it astounds me, my feeling is that people should learn communication skills in the first grade. I mean we’re learning how to connect. I don’t see anything anywhere that’s making people today learn any better how to connect.
Markus: I was wondering because it just seems that reasons for divorce now are a lot different than when I was a child. When parents got divorced, it seemed it was for a different reason or it seems there’s a lot less growing apart and that seems to be a common excuse or it seems to be a common reason that I heard from people ending their marriages.
Arlene: It’s probably one of the number one causes of divorce – is growing apart. But growing apart is just an effect because to me the number one issue is when you want a white car and I want a black car, then we have a needs conflict. We don’t know what to do, and when we have decision-making it is endless. And as life gets more complicated, and then we get children, and we buy houses, and whatever, there are more and more opportunities in decision-making, and when I wanna do it one way, and you wanna do it another way, and we don’t have problem-solving skills, we don’t know what to do. It just gets worse and worse and worse until I don’t even wanna talk to you about it anymore and I’ll do anything to avoid looking at the problem we have to solve until there’s nothing left.
Markus: Sobering, but true.
Arlene: I would like to add something else to that. You know when we dated and we had fun doing small talk, and we could talk on the phone for hours, and then we got married, and we had children, and the talks turned into problem-solving. There were so many problems to solve and so much to talk about that we don’t do small talk anymore. And instead of having fun, the relationship or the marriage becomes one gigantic problem to solve until I’m sick of it and I don’t want to talk to you anymore. Just the thought of talking to you makes me nervous or upset. We gotta find our way back in a marriage to small talk and fun.
Markus: That’s true. Now what types of things would you recommend as far as getting back to that small talk and that fun?
Arlene: Number 1, time.
Markus: What’s that? Nobody has that anymore.
Arlene: And you know what? It’s sad, but I have clients block off time, like you gotta put it in a calendar when we’re going to have sex, as there’s not time for sex.
Markus: That’s awful.
Arlene: There’s no time to just sit down and chat. And when we have time, we’re so exhausted, we don’t wanna talk to each other. So we just like ‘’chill out’’ watching TV.
Markus: That’s awful. You’re right. I hear stuff, now you brought up sex and people scheduling it in. I read stuff online, I worked a couple overnight so we kinda do overnights in the air, and it gives me time to search around and read, and the things that I found reading about relationships whether it’s beyond the lifestyle sections on the websites or the bloggers. Do people’s sex drives change as they move into the marriage because the sexual relationship changes completely, and I don’t know if that’s because people make it change, it can be as good as it was before you got married, and technically and ideally people should work on keeping it that good because that’s part of the spark that really kept the fire going and people lose that spark.
Arlene: You’re right. Sex hooks people back up. So if I’m stressed and distanced from you, and we have sex and orgasm and oxytocin and endorphins and all the good hormones, we connect back up. The problem is, I’m too tired. I’m too busy. And when we dated, there was time for small talk. There was time for a connection that would suddenly turn sexual. All we do is take care of kids and clean, and cook, and go to work, and problem solved! yet there’s no time to connect. Now we’re gonna get in bed and try to feel sexual and it doesn’t work that way. And we’re so tired, we just go to bed and fall asleep.
Markus: You’re right. And so then the women complaining about guys always wanting sex, and there’s more to it than that. Is that an excuse for them while saying ‘’Well I’m tired, we haven’t had small talk, we haven’t had those other things that we need that go well with this or is that truly a shifter or changer of thought?
Arlene: Guys aren’t always having sex, but what the guys are doing is they are always solving problems, and they don’t take the time to romance her even when she’s doing the dishes and you go up behind her and kiss her neck is having sex. And if guys could romance her and she loves small talks. A woman loves to sit on a sofa and chat, rather than watching television. That’s sexual for her. That’s the first step to foreplay, and he’s busy. He’s busy doing this and that, sports and whatever, and then he wants to get in bed and have sex. Well a woman’s body doesn’t work that way.
Markus: Nor does her mind. And it all works together. (laughs)
Arlene: Right. Exactly right.
Markus: Before we go any further, again with me is licensed therapist Arlene Foreman. Why don’t you give out your website and phone number so that people can contact you if they have any questions and would like more information or possibly to discuss some counseling with their partners and themselves.
Arlene: My website is ACenterForMarriageCounseling.com and my phone number is 610-896-3735.
Markus: And you’ve got some good stuff, some little things that people should look at on the front page of your website. Things like tuning into your own heart, notice negative thinking, say ‘No’ without feeling guilty, giving and receiving affection, and there are a lot of little aspects that are important in a relationship. Do you think the ‘’little things way’’ as much as the big things in a relationship or more or less?
Arlene: In line of what we were talking about with sex, little things are everything. We can be distant and you were talking to me sarcastically and putting me down, and I’m feeling really bad, and then you come home with roses and think it’s really gonna be okay. I don’t need the roses, I need to feel you respecting me, and loving me, and feeling close to me, and enjoy being with me, and those are all little things. That you read something in the New York Times email and you wanna share it with me. It feels better to me than the big things that you wanna do. Or I’m sitting down here, and you bring me a cup of tea. It’s everything. Or you see that I’m tired and you say ‘’You know what, I’m gonna put you in a new bed tonight and you just relax.’’
Markus: Relationships are so fascinating because there are so many aspects of them and there are so many things that we tend to overlook because of all the distractions of our everyday lives. And I noticed you’ve said before that we tend to hurt those we love the most and that’s true, and I don’t know if it’s intentional or not but it happens a lot.
Arlene: It’s not intentional. It’s just that the relationship is the highest stakes I have, and that’s where I am the most scared. That’s where I’m the most desperate. So that’s where I do the most hurting.
Arlene: It’s really sad. But I wanna speak for a moment about the word ‘’relationship’’ because we, especially in today’s culture in our individualistic society, I see myself as my own person married to you, and what’s real is in a relationship, when I’m with you, I only exist in relationship to you. Everything I do impacts you, affects you, and changes you. Everything you do affects me. And I start yelling at you and calling you names and saying you’re a jerk – I’m not just saying you’re a jerk, I’m hurting you. I’m hurting you. And you know, years ago, when I was in graduate school and I took a course in cognitive therapy, what I was taught was ‘’You can’t hurt me. That you say something and I decide to hurt myself. Well neuroscience and brain imaging is showing something totally different – that when I call you a jerk, your brain changes.’’
Markus: What if I am being a jerk and it’s totally justifiable that you’re calling me a jerk?
Arlene: You know what, you are being a jerk and that doesn’t give me the right to call you names and put you down. What I need to do is just tell you how I’m feeling and what I need, and say it in a caring way.
Markus: Now I see that point, and I agree with that point. But it seems that sometimes that approach does not always work with couples because you’ve been together for so long. You know each other so well, and that nice approach does not seem to attract the attention and sometimes you have to… sometimes it does not get through in a nice… when you try the nice route I’ve learned from mistakes that I’ve made in relationships in the past, and sometimes you have to say ‘’Look, you are being a jerk! I don’t wanna call you a jerk, but you are acting jerky.’’ And I’m not doing it to be mean and put them down, I’m just doing it to call them out on their behavior so that they’re aware of their behavior and that maybe makes them stop and think that ‘’You know what, I am being kind of a schmuck or a jerk or a fooler or whatever, and they’re right, maybe they should not have called me out that way, but they’re right, and you know what, we can move to the next step and work through it.’’
Arlene: There’s one big flaw in your philosophy.
Markus: It’s not my philosophy necessarily. It’s just a different way of looking at it.
Arlene: Okay. The problem is I love you.
Arlene: How can I love you and respect you, and call you a jerk, and make you feel bad and hurt and insult you and your dignity is like wounded? I love you. How can I do that?
Markus: I see what you’re saying, but you know what, I guess if I’m acting like a jerk and my girlfriend says ‘’Hey, you’re being a jerk!’’ I don’t get mad at that because she’s right. It doesn’t hurt, it just gets my attention, it doesn’t hurt me. If it’s unwarranted, yes, it hurts. But if I’m being jerky and she says like ‘’Yo, you’re being a jerk. Quit it! What’s up? Talk to me.’’ I’m okay with that, and it will make me stop and say, ‘’Yo, hey I am not being very nice to the woman I love, and here’s what I have to do.’’ And sometimes it will definitely get me to sit back and say ‘’Yo, I am being a jerk.’’ and it’s worth both ways, and I’m using me as an example to get my point across because there are things that I’ve done in the past relationships what other people have done in their past relationships, and I’m trying to bring them to example to learn from. And things that I actually have seen other couples do publicly.
Arlene: I’m going to agree with you. If you got a lot of small talk, a lot of little things in the bank so that she and you have a lot of memories, of nice things that she has said to you and you feel really good and close to her, and then she throws you a punch and calls you a jerk, you’ve got enough good stuff to sustain it and you’re okay. If there’s a lot of jerk calling and not a lot in the bank, then the marriage is in trouble.
Markus: Or the relationship or whatever. Now before we continue to talk about this real quick, do you deal with people that are not married but in a relationship as much? Or is it more married couples that you tend to deal with?
Arlene: It’s both. I have couples in a relationship that never get married and stay forever in a relationship. I have couples in a relationship and they say yes, it’s really working, let’s get married, and I have couples that are married, gay couples…’’
Markus: I was gonna ask if you’ve had gay couples or heterosexual couples.
Arlene: Yes, they’re all people.
Arlene: The issues are all the same.
Markus: I was gonna say it’s great to know that everybody with every issue, I mean that there are certain things that like with homosexual couples are gonna have some different issues, and bi-racial couples have little issues that they deal with. But it all comes down to communication in the end, and that word’s not racist, it does not discriminate against anybody, it’s there. It’s interesting all these different aspects, I mean just talking to you I learned a little bit already, and I can’t wait to see if any of that stuff will help down the line as well because I mean with every relationship we have good and bad, and there are times when it’s tougher than not.
Arlene: I would like to address what you’ve said about every relationship is good and bad, because an important part of our relationship is if you use the word forgiveness or letting go, and when you do something that hurts me, and if I have to hold on to it, I will forever be indignant. I kind of infer that I would never do that to you. I do it in a different way. And when I can appreciate that I love you, you hurt me and you’re sorry, and I can let go because you’re not perfect and neither am I. We have flaws. You know it’s gonna be forever, what’s never gonna be just right, the perfection is in never letting go, letting go, letting go, letting go, letting go, and it’s kinda like you’re driving a car down the highway and you see one tree after another, after another, after another, and you don’t memorize and you’d get stuck on this tree you let go, and you look at the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and when a relationship is humming like that, ‘’You hurt me, I hurt you, we talk about it, we’re sorry, we problem solve and do what we can to make us feel better, let go, let go, let go, because you’re flawed and I’m flawed, and I love you.’’
Markus: Okay. But how do you know after you have a bad run in, how do you know that everything’s okay, and that both sides are okay and everybody’s at peace after you’ve solved the problem. Because sometimes I’ve had issues in relationships where you know you feel like you’ve solved the problem, but you don’t feel like it’s all solved. Do you know what I’m talking about? Is there anything you can do to tell that…
Arlene: Absolutely! When a client calls me, sometimes this is the homework I give them. “I’m not going to see you until tomorrow or if they call maybe on a Friday, I’m not gonna see you until Monday. How about giving the problem a rest and bring it to me and remember how you met and how you enjoyed each other, and have fun for a couple of days until you see me, because when you get here, you’re going to find out what you thought was the problem is actually not the problem anyhow. You’ve been solving the wrong problem that’s why you’re coming.
Markus: (Laughs) Interesting. With problem solving, do you offer individuals different methods to their problem solving based on their personalities? Do you open their eyes to different methods of problem solving?
Arlene: There are really not a lot of different methods of problem solving. All there really is is that I need to be really open to your view, and again I love you, and I respect you, that’s why I married you. So I really want to hear your side and want you to really hear mine. We can write down what we both see, and when we’re doing this with respect and dignity, we can start looking at all of our options, we can prioritize, we can say what makes the most sense, we can say we can make the decision and try it for a while, and come back and see if that works. If it’s possible, and if it’s not possible, then you and I form the collaborative, and the word collaborative means that we care about each other, we want it to work for both of us as best as we can, and it’s probably not gonna be a one hundred percent right for either of us, and we’re gonna do the best we can and let go.
Markus: Fascinating stuff, and very heavy too! Again, Arlene Foreman, you are a licensed professional counselor and you have a website and a phone number, let’s give that out again.
Arlene: My website is ACenterForMarriageCounseling.com and my phone number is 610-896-3735. Markus: Hey Arlene, what do you say we stop right here. We’re gonna finish this discussion next week. You have so much to say about relationships, so please tune in next week if you would like to learn a little bit more about communicating relationships, love and all that. Again thanks to Arlene Foreman for taking time to come in. If you would like more information, drop me an email at publicaffairs@WMMR.com. Part 2 with Arlene Foreman about relationships next Sunday. Have a great day!
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