Interview with Betsy & Bruce | Interview

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long have you been doing this work and how did you get started?

We have actually been presenting couples weekend workshops for about 20 years and using the tools we teach for about 20 years altogether.

What got us started was a long standing dissatisfaction with our stale relationship and also with everything else we had tried – counseling, seminars, books – you name it. We weren’t in full crisis (though it felt that way at times).

And we were great at hiding any dysfunction from others – Heaven forbid they’d find out that anything was amiss or that it be known that we were anything less than perfect. That would have signaled failure.  We have since realized the strong stigma of shame attached to failed marriages or marriages in any trouble.  Everyone wants to be seen as successful.

Because we had felt so “in love” in the first stage of our relationship which is the romantic stage, we also held on to the belief that not only did we want to keep up the image of a great marriage but that our problems weren’t really happening to us and eventually everything would be okay. But we also knew there had to be something more than the regular ups and downs that never seemed to land us in a more connected and intimate place. So we were very excited to come upon the work of Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt through a public TV series and also through Oprah Winfrey, on whose show he was (and continues to be) a frequent guest.

At last something made sense and held out hope. Our excitement led to our attending a Getting the Love You Want™ couples weekend workshop and then to Betsy’s certification training as an Imago Therapist and then as a couples workshop presenter. Bruce joined her in her workshop presentations first as an “accompanist” but over time has acquired extensive hands-on experience and a reputation as an adept and insightful teacher of the processes and teller of his own story and of his special challenges as a male in a society which is often emotionally illiterate.

So we now consider ourselves very much equal partners in presenting workshops. We sought to incorporate the system into our lives on a daily basis as well as to share and teach it in workshops and (for Betsy) in individual couples counseling. We had no other kindred spirits or trained coaches or therapists to guide us in a systematic fashion. We had to learn how to make everything work on our own, and then devise how best not just to teach others the basics contained in the workshop, but to make a different way of being with each other into regular habit.

It took a long time, many months, even years, for us to gain real competence with the skills and processes – not that they were that complex or impossible to master – they weren’t and aren’t. It was this experience that led us to this very work and to the creation of the Relationship Rebuild System.

Q. What exactly is the 6 Step Build Your Relationship™ System and what does it include?

The system is a practical program for learning powerful communication processes and skills to transform relationships. These skills and processes are based on sound information and widely accepted Imago theory, and have been honed by experience with hundreds of clients. We teach and coach these skills and processes both in our 20 hour weekend workshops and in our follow up packages and individual sessions.

Note from Betsy….

This work is about making the unconscious conscious so that in any given moment you can respond to yourself and to others with intentionality and awareness, because in each moment you are now more fully conscious of the feelings and thoughts that control your behavior.

See workshops and other services here.

Here are the six steps and what each entails:

1. Both of you acknowledge that there are flaws in your relationship and be willing to own and explore your 50% of the problem.

This work starts with an honest inventory of your own level of dissatisfaction with what you have now. Many couples live in denial there is anything wrong. Maybe one of the partners insists everything is fine. However, if even only one of you says there is something wrong, then you can trust there is something in the relationship that needs your attention. Our system helps you take a non-judgmental non-defensive look at what is actually going on as opposed to what you may be wishing were the case.

Once you acknowledge there are problems, the next step is to learn about how each of you contributes to the problem. We give you tools and processes that impel you and your partner into a non-blaming non-defensive safe mutual process of exploration and change. Often one of the partners wants us to fix the other. He or she mistakenly thinks if he or she could fix the other, everything would be fine. This viewpoint is a no-starter for success.

2. Make your relationship a top priority in your life

We guide you to take a systematic look at just how much time you as a couple actually spend with each other in a day or a week, how much of your relationship is spent away from each other, and how and why this has come to be. If you spend only a small percentage of each week with your partner, then it’s hard to call that a relationship. It’s a relationship waiting to happen. The work inventories behaviors that bring distance rather than closeness to your relationship, and equips you to reprogram your day-to-day activities so as to make a dynamic relationship not just possible, but actually happening.


3.Know and explore the stages of a relationship and the hidden reasons you chose your partner.

Your committed relationship goes through stages just as did your own childhood. Needs which were not met for you at particular stages when you were growing up will show up again in the adult relationship. For example, one telling consequence of unmet needs is the stage called the power struggle. In this stage couples turn to blaming and defending. In this dynamic you end up pushing your partner further and further away when what you really want is to feel closer and more connected.

When relationships get into trouble, you may be mystified as to why something that started out so beautifully now seems to be ending up so full of negatives. We explore the unconscious but powerful aspects of how you chose your partner in the first place, your unwitting agenda to find not just romantic bliss but a healer of childhood wounds, someone to meet needs that were not fulfilled by your parents growing up. Through writing exercises and new communication processes we teach you, you come to identify and see the how’s and why’s of your parents’ inability to meet those needs and how you thus unconsciously chose a partner similar to your parents so you could get those needs met and in effect complete your childhood. This couples work guides you to identifying the three stages and the specific actions, perspectives, and commitments required in each for you to get the love you want.

4. Break the negative cycle of communication and turn your frustrations into vehicles for growth and healing .

The basic tool for breaking the negative cycle of communication and creating mutual understanding and empathy is called The Imago Couples Dialogue. It is the gold standard for turning frustrations into positive requests for change. Communication is not only about listening, but also about expressing yourself in a way that does not invite more conflict, defensiveness, and reactivity from your partner – to rehearsing the same old dance. In this work whether in individual couples sessions or in the workshop, the Dialogue helps couples to explore what they are feeling and thinking and where those thoughts and feelings originate from in their childhood experiences. The importance of understanding our childhoods is similar to the importance and rationale behind understanding the history of anything be that politics, law, wars, etc. We learn from our relationships in the past. If we don’t understand our past we just keep on doing the same old thing. History in our case teaches us to understand in more detail the past dynamics of our families and how our present beliefs, communication styles, fears evolved from those dynamics and remain stuck there and are a huge contributing factor to the problems in the present. Building awareness helps us to see that change often breaks some of the old family “rules” which pertained to 20 years ago but not now, such as crying is for sissies, feelings are unmasculine, don’t talk about hurts and pains. Growth requires change. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

5. Learn to appreciate, validate and build on the positives in your relationships.

The profound value of appreciation is especially emphasized and explored and taught until it becomes second nature. Couples work also addresses the importance of having fun and what couples do for fun. It also redirects your attention/ perception away from the negative aspects of your relationship and teaches you ways to acknowledge verbally to each other behaviors your partner does now that makes you feel loved. It also emphasizes paying close attention to specific physical traits, and character traits you admire and love about your partner and telling him/her. In the stage of the power struggle, we get so caught up in what we don’t love, that we forget what it is that we do love. Giving and receiving this kind of attention is essential to rekindling passion and building self esteem.

6. Create your relationship vision and put it into action.

This work is about excitement and passion in your future as well as frustrations or hurts from your past or present. Using a structured process, you and your partner develop joint goals and precise strategies to make sure your future is a conscious journey. You develop a joint vision statement embracing all the critical areas of your relationship and ways to ensure continued mutual accountability toward fulfillment. This is truly the payoff for your hard work.

“This material has taught us a tremendous tool, and the way you have personalized it using your own life experiences really solidifies the experience.We are grateful for your authenticity, humor and wisdom. ”  couple from Massachusetts

Q. What is unique about your system and why does it work so well?

What we feel makes the system unique is that it builds on tried and true steps to rebuild safe and passionate relationships and in fact impel a whole new way of your being with one another.

This work is not simply about information or advice in the usual sense. Nor is it simply about generating insights or understandings. While all these have a valuable place, the main focus is teaching about connection using very specific communication processes. This can happen either through

  • Getting the Love You Want© couples weekend workshop
  • individual couples sessions in my office including 90 minute sessions, 3 hour sessions or 6 hour all day intensives
  • individual couples sessions by phone for couples who have attended a workshop and live a distance.

Incidentally, one of the ways the couples weekend workshop is so powerful an introduction is that even though it is not therapy or group encounter, you are certainly welcome and invited to share in group discussion about how the workshop content and process may apply to your own situation. This often leads to building a supportive atmosphere and multiplied learning opportunities among participants. That said, we do want to repeat that in the workshop you not pressured in any way whatsoever into unwelcome self-disclosure. Primary emphasis remains on private sharing with your partner and confidentiality in order to create a safe and comfortable environment.

Additionally, the system works well because it is solidly grounded in, and synthesizes, well tested theories of human behavior and development. The basic theories as well as the processes were synthesized and evolved by relationship authority Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., founder of Imago Institute International (III), with major contributions from his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. the theory draws upon and embraces a wide range of well known theories of personality, human development, and social behavior from leading scholars and practitioners.

Here’s a sampler of some exciting and fascinating pieces of the theory itself:

First is the idea that you selected unconsciously a partner who has some of those same negative and positive traits (which compose the image) of your primary childhood caretakers, and you made this unconscious choice because you were trying to get the emotional needs met that were not met in your childhood – with someone like your parents. So, unbeknownst to you, you are drawn to partners like your parents.

Also, because these needs arise from natural impulses toward growth, these impulses do not go away if not satisfied. Instead, you as a child put them underground while you adapted to what was presented or not presented to you. You develop a “personality” around these adaptations and unconsciously have told yourself that you do not need what inherently you do need in order to grow up whole and complete with a strong sense of self.

It is in your committed relationships that those needs have surfaced.

Therefore, committed relationships are about much more than ever usually realized. They are about spiritual evolution and psychological growth, about evolving and growing so as to experience ourselves as beings neither dependent or independent of other beings, but rather inter-dependent, fully connected with all human beings in the world as well as with the environment and with a strong sense of self.

With a strong sense of self, we may interact with others in a way that understands others’ needs and sees that in meeting others’ needs our own needs get met. We all need love, validation, and attention, and when we experience this as children we give freely of it to others as adults. Real love is about the free movement of this vital life force energy between partners.

Q. Who exactly is drawn to this work?

Couples are drawn to this work from all kinds of individual situations and circumstances and with various goals and needs. At the workshop you would find yourself with company if any of these circumstances describe your current circumstances:

  • Your relationship has grown stale and disconnected and you want to restore the intimacy and connection you once had.
  • You want to make a good relationship a really great one: fun, exciting, and passionate.
  • You are beginning a relationship that you want to foster and grow. Maybe you’ve experienced one or more failed relationships and want to avoid repeating past mistakes or maybe this is your first long term relationship.
  • You want to resolve long-standing conflicts. You are in crisis – near break-up or divorce – and want to decide if the relationship can be saved.

We have found that nearly anyone truly wanting to change and improve what they already have will benefit enormously. Our testimonials from participant after participant confirms this.

Q. What do I do if I really want to attend a workshop but my partner is unwilling? workshop or individual sessions help me and a new partner?

If your partner is unwilling, you can set up an appointment with me to talk about your situation and explore your contribution to his fear of attending. Remember, the second step of the Build Your Relationship System is for both parties to accept 50% responsibility for the problem. This is your opportunity to look at your 50%.

Something else you can do is to encourage him or her to listen in on one of our free and frequent Teleclasses. These are great opportunities to hear us speak about the workshop content, purpose, and process and also to get a sense of who we are and what we bring to this work. There is no pressure to even identify yourself as a listener, though of course we welcome questions and comments.

Then, too, you might on your own listen to your partner’s reasons for not wanting to attend without trying to change his or her mind. If s/he is unaware of any problems in the relationship, you might ask him/her if s/he would be willing to attend in order to support you, because you are having problems and want to learn more about yourself and how you react and behave!

Partner still in doubt but hasn’t closed the door?

Then call directly 908-329-5877 or email to set up a free consultation call with Betsy to discuss possible solutions

Q. I seem to keep making the same mistake over and over when seeking a life partner. Now I’m with someone who really matters I’m really scared I might lose what I want most. of How can I break this pattern?

First, congratulations for noting and acknowledging this phenomenon! The names and faces have changed, but something stays the same, right? The workshop experience will show you the dynamics of how you have chosen your partners and guide you to becoming more conscious of the precise places where things have unravelled. Equipped with new information and tools, you can minimize the chances of repeating the same pain and disappointment, and approach the future with more enlightenment and confidence.

Q. Because our relationship is pretty good, how could we gain from doing this work?

You may describe your relationship as a “pretty good” or even “good” if there is no overtly hostile conflict: “We don’t fight.”

Our question to you is: Does that mean that you never disagree or have different opinions or feel frustrated with each other?

What we know is that there may be a certain amount of denial or fear playing out in relationships described as “without conflict,” but we always consider that such conflict is potentially good – an opportunity – and you might want to consider this.

To clarify a bit, it is not the conflict that is bad but how we communicate about it that is hurtful. What we say to each other or do or not do. It is where growth is trying to happen, where the unconscious is trying to be made conscious. If you are in this situation you can benefit enormously from the workshop by acquiring the tools and skills that assure safety in communication and pave the way for a richer connection.

Upcoming Couples Workshops

September 23-24, 2017  (Olympia TownePlace Suites by Marriott)

December 2-3, 2017  (Olympia TownePlace Suites by Marriott)

 Register for this workshop!


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