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Repairing and Improving Relationships Through Choice Theory

By Joseph Sullivan, MA, LAC

Catholic Counselor


A married couple came to see me about a year ago wanting to work on their marriage.  I provide counseling services in Mesa, AZ.  They had been in a rough relationship for some years.  With a one-year-old daughter and another on the way they wanted to have a peaceful and loving home for their children with both mother and father present in their children’s lives.  This seemed impossible to them and they were desperate.  They had already seen three previous therapists for marriage counseling and both agreed it did not help much.  They were at their wits end but agreed to try it one last time.  Divorce was rearing its ugly head just around the corner.  Ryan (not his real name) was more willing than Megan (not her real name), who remained extremely skeptical.  

Their first session was rough.  Each was given an opportunity to describe the marriage emphasizing what they felt was wrong in the marriage and what they felt was right.  Ryan worked hard to pull out some positive sides of the marriage and soon managed it.  Megan took a long while thinking and was not able to think of anything positive about the marriage.  I knew this was going to be a long haul. 

There are always two sides to any relationship.  There is the emotional side and there is the intellectual side.  Both are important and both need to be grounded in reality in order for it to be approached in a healthy way.  A relationship that is too emotional or too intellectual will naturally invite conflict.  In the same token a relationship that lacks emotion or lacks the intellectual will also suffer. 

A relationship grounded in reality will provide the proper balance.  But how is reality understood and applied in a relationship?  This seems like a difficult question because people have different views of reality and sometimes those views can seem to be quite the opposite.  Choice Theory is an approach based on universal basic human needs.  It is an approach that emphasizes common respect toward personal choice and personal responsibility and from this framework the relationship is firmly grounded in reality.  It is an approach I routinely use at my counseling office in Mesa, AZ.

Ryan and Megan began working with Choice Theory principles.  It was difficult for them because they had to relearn some things.  For example, they had to relearn what it means to give oneself, and not just how to give, but how to give oneself selflessly outside of one’s own understanding.  Ryan and Megan soon realized that in order to do this meant sacrifice.  It meant learning what love truly is and what love demands. 

The first few weeks for Megan and Ryan was an uphill battle.  They were discouraged and tired.   After about six weeks things changed.  All their effort started to pay-off.  They began absorbing and really understanding the ideas and concepts of Choice Theory and they began forming healthy habits in its application.  If there was ever a couple that was ready to throw in the towel it was Ryan and Megan.  Choice Theory taught them the meaning of love in a practical, real world way. 

Those interested in improving their marriage or improving, repairing and maintaining any relationship with their spouse, parents, family members, children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, please contact Joseph Sullivan, LAC at Family Strategies for a free 15-minute phone consultation.  Phone: 480-668-8301 or www.FamilyStrategies.org