Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, is an internationally-renowned relationship therapist, bestselling author, and professional speaker. Among the first in her field to courageously speak out about the pitfalls of unnecessary divorce, Weiner-Davis has been active in spearheading the now popular movement urging couples to make their marriages work and keep their families together. She is the author of seven books, including her bestselling DIVORCE BUSTING, and THE SEX-STARVED MARRIAGE.
She also is the recipient of several professional awards for outstanding contribution to the field of marriage and family therapy from the American Association of Marital and Family Therapy, Smart Marriages, and Grinnell College.
Weiner-Davis’ work has been featured in major newspapers and magazines and she has made extensive media appearances on shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, 48 Hours, 20/20, The Today Show, and CBS This Morning.
John D. Lentz: Michele, what do you consider is the spiritual side of working with couples?
Michele Weiner-Davis: Most of the couples I work with consist of one spouse who desperately wants to save the marriage and the other who just as desperately wants out. People often ask how I can handle the stress of seeing people who have such intense and chronic relationship issues in their lives. The truth is, little compares to the feeling I get when I bring together two warring and distant spouses and help them fall back in love again. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives.
About eight years ago, we moved to Boulder, Colorado, which is idyllic. The people are extraordinarily friendly, socially conscious, and kind. Most of the people I meet engage in activities that promote spiritual growth such as yoga and meditation. Plus, they regularly convene with nature through hiking, biking, hang gliding…anything with an “ing.” These practices and hobbies make Boulderites some of the most mentally, physically, and spiritually sound beings in America, according to countless surveys on America’s Most Livable Cities. From the start, I was impressed with the obvious emotional centeredness of the community.
I also noticed there is a high incidence of divorce here. People seem to follow their own hearts as the path to enlightenment, but it occurred to me that many miss out on another very powerful path to spiritual growth — through relationships.
I have learned that relationships are a remarkable arena in which to do inner work. I base this on nearly three decades of work with couples and almost 40 years with my own husband. It is through intimate relationships that we see mirrors of ourselves. Relationships provide opportunities to share our journeys; to confront our emotional demons and our shortcomings; to learn how to compromise; be altruistic; detach when necessary; and to forgive. Healthy relationships allow us to become our best selves, to increase inner awareness, and to share in life’s joys and sorrows. Ironically, rough patches in relationships offer us unending opportunities to learn about compassion, empathy, and acceptance.
JL: Your books have made you a household name and have given a lot of folks many more options than they had before reading your work. What spiritual strengths have you received by dealing with the recognition of so many appreciative people?
MWD: To say that my work gives my life meaning is an understatement. I consider it a never-ending gift to know that my books, therapy, and classes have helped countless couples. I get regular emails from folks thanking me for enabling them to make their marriages work and tuck their kids in at bedtime …together. I feel privileged that people trust me during critical times in their lives. My Ericksonian, strength-based lens allows me to see a person as resourceful and loving, which in turn provides a foundation for positive therapeutic relationships. The best part is that I take my Ericksonian, strength-based perspective with me when my day is over and see all people through this positive lens. I took a hike with my 26-year-old and he said, “Mom, you really like people. You talk to everyone on the trail.” (I don’t think that was a compliment.) He’s right. I do love people.
JL: Much of your recent work has focused more on helping couples reclaim and rekindle their sexual interest and enjoyment. Possibly because of your gentle and powerful way of communicating you have been extremely helpful to many people. What are your thoughts about the deeply spiritual and positive way that you have altered so many people’s lives?
MWD: I want the people with whom I work to feel understood, respected, and appreciated, regardless of their sexual values or expectations. It is a direct result of my connection to people that allows me to push them, to demand that they stretch outside their comfort zone, both for their own good and for the good of their relationship. I get so immersed in sessions that time stands still. I am in the flow. People feel my connection to them and trust that I will shepherd them to healthier, more loving places.
JL: While you openly admit that your early life experiences motivated you to discover ways to help others, what are some of the spiritual blessings that you have discovered as a result of your journey?
MWD: The early life experience to which you refer was the fact that my parents divorced after 23 years of marriage. I didn’t see my parents’ divorce coming because they never fought and our family life was a bit like the Waltons. I was about to leave home for college and my warm family nest was falling apart. I was devastated. But that devastation fueled my passion to help others avoid divorce whenever possible. And “others” includes my own marriage. Marriage is never easy. Most people who have been in long-term marriages will tell you that there have been periods in their lives when they wanted to throw in the towel. My marriage is no exception. But because of my past, my work, my love for my husband and our family, I feel determined to find a way, again and again, whenever necessary, to make things work, to have a healthy, loving marriage. (My husband often quips that we could never get a divorce; it would be bad for book sales.)
I consider this commitment to be a blessing in my life and in the lives of our children.
JL: Michele you are a blessing and so is your husband and his humor. Thank you.
Michele Weiner-Davis will be presenting a few seminars at the Brief Therapy conference, covering topics including depression, infidelity and marital relations. View her full profile here.