Best Advice for Couples: Elle Magazine Interview

ELLE MAGAZINE:  What are your top three pieces of love and dating advice based on your research and experience with couples?    

GRACE:  1. Listen with Your Heart—Good communicators listen for feelings as well as facts. They naturally make people feel special and heard. They “ooh and ahh” at the right place. They look you in the eye and are not easily distracted. We naturally fall for those people who “get us”…and to do this, you must really listen with your whole heart.

2. Be Yourself—authenticity is what we are seeking in relationships and it just happens to be the greatest turn on—too many people wear masks because they feel that who they are is not good enough or because of childhood wounds, they may feel unlovable. Women harshly judge themselves as not being perfect enough. The most common wound is not feeling “good enough”. If this is you, do some work on yourself. Gain greater self- awareness and self- acceptance. You’ve got to love you before you expect others to love you.

3.  Don’t Give Up on Love: It might feel like a battleground out there and you may have suffered relationship wounds. But don’t give up. We are mammals who need love and connection above all. There is a “special mammal” out there for everyone!

ELLE MAGAZINE: What’s the most interesting insight you’ve gleaned about love and relationships and why?
GRACE: Most marriages that end in divorce could actually be saved. In my work with over 2500 couples, I’ve learned that people considering divorce just don’t have the necessary emotional intelligence or maturity to navigate the negative feelings that inevitably accumulate in committed partnerships. Once they learn how to communicate and heal their negative feelings without blaming or shaming themselves or their partner, true intimacy is achieved. Relationships that were previously in crisis miraculously heal.  Empathy flows and trust is restored. I’ve seen couples do a complete 180 degree transformation and it is amazing to witness.

ELLE MAGAZINE: What’s the biggest challenge people encounter in love and relationships, and do you have any advice for overcoming this particular challenge?
GRACE: The biggest challenge is time.  Modern life bombards couples with work and family demands, and consequently the relationship takes a back seat. When couples are stressed or pressed for time, they don’t talk enough or share how they feel; they don’t do fun things together just the two of them. Advice? Be vigilant—check in emotionally with your partner weekly. Aim to have at least one date night per week. Once a year go on a vacation, just the two of you. Go for daily walks if you can to share your day and how you feel. And if there’s conflict and damage done, get help early. Very much like in medicine, early detection saves marriages and ensures long term happiness and life satisfaction.

Why a Couple’s Retreat vs. Traditional Counselling

Traditional Therapy Only Goes So Far:

There are many reasons why people choose a Couple’s Retreat or marriage intensive over traditional talk therapy for marital issues. First of all, traditional therapy  (CBT cognitive behaviour therapy) is extremely limited when dealing with the emotional bond that is romantic love.  It involves the thinking rational brain not the emotional limbic brain.  It also tries to motivate you to change your behaviour by appealing to your rational mind. The problem is that the next time your partner triggers you, the anger, hurt and resentment in your Emotional brain hijacks you and everything you knew about dealing with conflict or behaving rationally goes out the window.

Romantic Love is a Slave to the Emotions:

Romantic love is a slave to the emotions.  I see it all the time. If we feel  positive emotions towards our partner, we behave in beautiful ways. If we feel hurt, slighted or negative, watch out! Our behaviour can become downright toxic or low vibration as I like to call it.

Traditional Therapy is Slow:

Another reason to choose a marriage retreat over traditional weekly appointments is that the latter approach is extremely slow.  Even if you are lucky enough to have found a super skilled and compassionate coach or therapist, it takes a while.  In work as in life, I tend to be extremely impatient for results. I think most people are.  There is momentum that helps the healing process at an Intensive Retreat. Reconciliation happens when we feel understood and for that to happen, we need to have a deep conversation. Giving yourself one weekend with no distractions is the way to go.

5 Reasons to Choose a Marriage Retreat: 

  1. CLARITY:  They have been sitting on the Relationship fence for a long time. They are confused, conflicted and numb. They’re tired of the same communication dance that plays out over and over.  In many cases, they are in crisis and they are playing the blame game.  They’ve lost hope and yet…they can’t bring themselves to break up the family. There is a lot on the line:  A home. Stability. Identity. Friends. Family.  So the majority of the couples who come to my marriage retreat come for clarity: do they stay or do they go?
  2. RE-SET/HEALING:  The second group of people come to work on their issues. They are not in any crisis but they keep falling into communication holes. They’re not as happy as they could be.  They’ve fallen into some bad habits and they want to be pro-active. They want to fix their issues before they become too big. This group of people usually like to learn and educate themselves. An ounce of prevention….
  3. CLOSURE:  These couples come for emotional closure–to “uncouple” at the highest possible frequency and with the kindest of intentions.  They want to do the “work”– so that they can co-parent and not hurt the kids. They also do the work so that they can avoid a costly divorce, and finally they come for closure so that they can understand themselves and what went wrong so that they don’t attract the same type of partner with the same issues next time around.
  4. CRISIS: These couples come because something “big” has just happened, (usually one person announces they want out or that they’re in love with someone else or one person discovers that there is an extra-marital affair) and they need immediate help. Traditional weekly counselling cannot address the canyon of hurt that betrayal brings.  Betrayal is a deep wound and you need an intensive approach to help heal the shock and trauma of the event and to find some stability and a plan for moving forward.
  5. TRADITIONAL COUNSELLING DIDN’T WORK: These couples are sick and tired of going to different therapists only to come out more frustrated and feeling alone and disconnected. Finding the right professional to work with can be a daunting task. I’ve heard it all–from therapists who take sides to counsellors who do more damage.  One of the biggest differences between traditional counselling and an Intensive workshop/retreat is that the conversation in talk therapy is between one partner and the professional while the conversation at my retreats is between the two of you. Great things can happen when someone teaches you how to communicate your inner most feelings to your partner. Vulnerability is the bridge to understanding.
Grace Cirocco
179 King Street
St. Catharines, ON
L2R 3J5 Canada
Telephone: (905) 688-0868
Fax: (905) 688-2788
grace@gracecirocco.com