Before landing on a career as a marriage and family therapist, I was studying towards my Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Public Health at Columbia University. Despite continual unhappiness with this field of study, I persisted. There were parts of the degree that inspired me: the study of counselling, health behavior and disease prevention.
While studying, I was dating for marriage. I felt very alone with the whole process and didn’t know where to turn. Unlike my professional life, where I had a career counselor to turn to for advice, when it came to relationships, I found no professional who could help me.
My Rebetzin, married cousins and friends were unofficial mentors. However, I felt I needed more direction that would allow me to zoom in and identify who and what I really needed from a relationship.
I felt at a loss around what key things I should be focusing on in a potential partner, and I found the whole dating experience overwhelming. I felt that shadchanim were unsympathetic and only out to get me married for their own personal gratification. At that time there was a dearth of good relationship books for people looking to get into a relationship and keep it going. Many of those books, I realize now, were geared towards attracting partners who were not really into being in a long term committed relationship but rather about attracting avoidant unavailable partners. A lot of the information I received from my “mentors” albeit coming from a good place, often further confused me because it was based on their personal experiences and not on anything grounded in research or significant anecdotal evidence.
Ironically, despite my lack of experience with relationships, many of my friends turned to me for relationship advice at this time. I felt most inspired and useful as I helped many of them get into great relationships. I think I was largely blessed by many positive relationship models and I was able to draw upon this to help myself eventually identify my own husband, and help my friends get out of co-dependent and abusive relationships and choose healthier ones. I helped set my friends up with guys that were appropriate for them and helped several get married. Many of my friends who were scared of men turned to me and I introduced them at parties and events. These early experiences shaped my future career as a relationship expert.
When I did finally meet and marry my husband, I chose him based upon all of the key qualities that I was aware of that were important to me (and I assume he did the same). We were both very attracted to one another physically and emotionally. While we both had a good base for choosing one another, the place where we were each lacking was good skills to keep the relationship going. I am very blessed to have chosen a partner who was happy to make our relationship great and learn the skills necessary to do so with the assistance of external professional help.
One year into our marriage we relocated from New York to Melbourne, Australia.
Around this time it become clear to me that professionally I needed a change. This was when I chose to study for my Masters in Counselling which had a Marriage and Relationship Therapy component built in. I was blessed to work at several agencies where I gained a lot of hands on experience. I later felt I wanted to build my professional skills further and I studied Marriage and Family Therapy.
Over the past 15 years I have become very adept at helping individuals work through what they need to do in order to attract a partner who is best for them, overcome fear and ambivalence around being in a couple relationship, and help them to really learn how to consider their own thoughts and feelings and convey them tactfully to their partners. I have helped many newly married couples (some of whom I helped while they were single) work through their differences and create common goals. I teach couples’ communication and conflict resolution skills, help them to work on their relationship with money and finance, and build a life together that they can truly feel proud of.
By working in this way I am helping couples to feel really proud and capable of building upon their strengths from the outset. In my opinion (and according to several other relationship experts such as David Olsen, Harville Hendrix, Gary Chapman, John Gottman and Susan Heitler), I have found that working with couples early on enables them to have the greatest success going into marriage and the greatest likelihood of producing a happier family that can withstand the challenges that life brings.
It is my sincere hope that many more individuals and couples will catch on to the idea that working on themselves, before they even met a partner, is the most successful way to create a long and prosperous marriage and family.
firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting her website: www.mickilavinpell.co.il.