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Maya Kollman and Jeannie Ingram discuss Couples Therapy
by Maya Kollman on 


Maya Kollman and Jeannie Ingram discuss couples therapy, unconscious relationship
dynamics, and how to work effectively in collaborative growth and healing.
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by maya kollman on 

Hello Everyone.  My name is Maya Kollman.  I am 68 years old and have been a couples' coach for almost 30 years.  I happened upon an Oprah broadcast in 1989 when I was feeling incompetent working with couples and managing my own 8 year relationship.  Dr. Harville Hendrix was on that show and it was a workshop with couples.  He and his wife Helen Lakelly Hunt had written a book called Getting the Love You Want. I was astounded by the shift from the beginning of the workshop till the end.  Couples started out looking so miserable and by the end of the workshop they were smiling and connected to one another.  I was hooked.  I wanted what he had both for my couples and for my relationship with Barbara.  We had both left marriages with men, we both had children and 8 years in things were really tough.  We were completely bewildered about why a relationship that had been so positive, powerful and promising, was now in the midst of a serious power struggle.  

So now 30 years later I have coached thousands of couples, presented over 400 couples' workshops, taught many therapists around the world, and have the relationship of my dreams.  You may think that the relationship of my dreams would be conflict free but that is not the case.  We still have conflict.  We are different people with different ways of looking at the world.  The difference is because of the work we have done using the tools that Harville and Helen developed so long ago, we no longer see conflict as a sign that something is wrong with us or with our relationship, but rather that conflict is a sign that growth is trying to happen.  We have a special way of talking and listening to one another that helps us to slow down and really experience each other and move from a place of rupture to a place of deep connection.  We have learned that ruptures and conflict are inevitable, but we have a repair process that allows us to find our way back to each other.  Every time we repair, we repair at a deeper level of intimacy and closeness.  Every time we repair, our relationship becomes stronger and more resilient.  We have now been together for 37 years, have raised four children, have 11 grandchildren and live a life that is rich and full.  

Before I learned this model, I dreaded seeing couples because I felt so helpless.  Today, I love seeing couples and have complete confidence that teaching them this skill and helping them learn the language of vulnerability and connection, they will find the outcome they desire.  I know even if they decide to let go of their relationship, they will do so with kindness and compassion and a deep knowledge of how they each contributed to the difficulties.  They will know clearly the relationship dynamic they co-created so if they choose to enter a new relationship, they will be conscious and able to behave differently when they get triggered.

I have never written a blog before, but I wanted to start today.  I am at a place in my life where I would like to reach out to as many people as I can to inspire them to find their way to a life that is full of purpose, meaning, and joy.  The road to get there is not always easy.  We must let go of old beliefs from the past and find new ideas that fit for the current time.  We must be willing to feel our fear and pain, and behave in a way that supports connection rather than ruptures it.  I think learning to love another person is the hardest thing we ever have to do and we often have very little training about how to do it.  The fairy tale "Happily Ever After" after the wedding doesn't quite prepare us for the inevitable difficulties life will through at us.  

I also want to write this blog now because the state of the world and our country is more chaotic than I have experienced in my life time.  I was born in 1949 in Iowa City, Iowa to parents who had escaped Nazi occupied Austria in 1939 just in the nick of time.   In spite of all they endured and lost, they were able to decide "we are so lucky to have survived, and we owe it to those who lost their lives to live a life that contributes love, kindness, compassion and a deep curiosity about difference."  And that is indeed how they lived their lives.  My mother is still with us at 105 and I am convinced that the main reason she is still alive and thriving is her ability to see the good and to meet every new person with curiosity and an open heart.   Both my parents deeply loved this country because it saved their lives.  And, this country has a lot to learn about dealing with difficulty.  In my opinion we have the wrong idea about success.  We think success means being happy all the time and so when we are not happy about something, we think something is wrong with us, our partner, our work, etc.  To avoid feeling those difficult feelings, we blame others for the pain we experience.  How sad it is for me to see this country that has so much wealth, diversity and potential that was founded as a home for the persecuted and different from other countries, turn into a country that wants to keep people who are different or struggling out.  

The current state of our United States is inspiring me in my own way to move into more action.  And my action today is to reach out to you out there and encourage you to end the blame game in your own life.  All of us are born with a special gift to contribute to this magnificent world.  We are unique.  There will never be in all time another person just like you.   I believe it is our sacred duty to discover what our contribution is and to wholeheartedly live it.  This journey begins with our current, close relationships.  Our significant other, our parents, our children mean the most to us and so are often the most difficult place to practice loving kindness, and if we can do it there, we can do it anywhere.  When we create homes full of joy, with a deep knowing that when in pain move toward relationship and that everyone has a place no matter how different they are, we raise children who will know their gifts, who will feel loved and a sense of belonging and therefore will create a world where others will experience that too.

I have been given so much in my life.  I had a family that inspite of its struggles was a safe and warm place where all three of us kids felt a strong sense of belonging.  We lost my brother in 2001 to cancer.  He was the most wonderful big brother that anyone could ask for.  He was kind and loving and smart.  He was the 11th most cited chemist in the world and taught at a medical school. He was loved as a teacher and mentor.  All his students and colleagues remarked on his capacity to inspire.  They also talked about his lack of arrogance and his sense of curiosity about how others saw things.  He learned well the lesson our father taught us.  "there are no solutions.  seek them lovingly".  My sister and I have become even closer since his death.  We deeply love each other, support each other and even though our homes are miles apart, there is a deep sense that we hold each other close all the time.  This is a direct result of how our parents raised us.    I have known much love in my life from dear friends, colleagues, my x husband and my current wife, Barbara.  And of course like most of you, I have struggled.  I have struggled with irrational fears of people dying.  I have lived with panic attacks.  I left my first marriage because I had started an affair with Barbara and caused enormous pain and damage to my husband my then three year old daughter.  

Goodness, I am going on a lot more than I thought I would.  Not really sure what a blog is supposed to be, but just started writing.  I feel a bit foolish and I certainly am familiar with the thoughts in my head that tell me I don't know anything.  That sit on my shoulder and whisper "who will want to read this stuff".  And yet I need to kindly notice those voices and keep doing it anyway. Maybe all of you will think this stuff is self indulgent and not helpful.  Inspite of all that, I feel compelled to write about my life and to hope that in some small way anyone out there who wants to contribute, wants to find purpose will be inspired to do so and feel supported by me.


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I Cheated! Now I Want My Partner Back!
by Maya Kollman on 

John only had a short affair. And it was a long time ago. Years later the truth came to light and his marriage to Maryanne hit the critical list. Maryanne didnít want the marriage to end. But how could she ever again trust John? John desperately wanted to be forgiven for the past, and find a way for the marriage to continue.

By the time they came to see me for help, they were completely stuck, hopeless and miserable.

Unfortunately they arenít alone. Iíve worked with many other couples in a similar situation, and always my goal is to leave them with a much more rewarding relationship than they ever had before.

Here are the steps that John and Maryanne were able to take, which illustrates how many couples can rebuild trust and transform their nightmares:

 Step 1: Make a Clear Decision

When there is an infidelity, thereís a decision to be made. The unfaithful party must immediately cease all contact with the person they have been seeing; no phone calls, no emails, no texts, no cards or notes, no drive-bys. Johnís essential first step with Maryanne was to commit willingly and wholeheartedly to emotional and physical fidelity Ė and to mean it.

Step 2: Shift from Guilt to Remorse

John felt guilty about his affair and horrible about himself. Unfortunately feeling guilty didnít help at all. It led John to be quiet and keep his distance. But what he couldnít see was that as a result Maryanne felt shut out. This formed a downward spiral, leaving her feeling even more tense, unhappy, and unloved.

Guilt is useless! Donít let it ruin your relationship. Guilty people are so absorbed in their own feelings that they canít even see what is happening for someone else. Johnís guilt was driving his wife even further away from him.

The dramatic change came when John made the huge shift from guilt to remorse, and focused on the pain Maryanne was experiencing instead of his own. He got interested in what was going on for her. Feeling compassionate rather than self critical, John was able to begin creating connection with Maryanne rather than distance.

Step 3: Be willing to sit and listen

If you are going to leave an affair behind, sooner or later you have to talk about it. John had to be willing to let Maryanne ask for whatever details she wanted to hear. Whatís more, he needed to listen to her feelings of betrayal and hurt in a supportive way. Thatís extremely tough to do, which is why John and Maryanne chose to do this part with me, over several therapy sessions.

To make it easier, I taught John and Maryanne a three-part communication skill called the Imago Dialogue. We worked together to bring respect to the dialogue structure by eliminating shame, blame and criticism as John and Maryanne learned to focus on their own deeper feelings and express them.

John and Maryanne found a deep understanding of one another. A deep connection was building, perhaps deeper than they had ever experienced before.

Step 4: Re-imagine your role in the relationship

Although John felt and understood Maryanneís pain, internally he still had plenty of excuses for the affair. He still wanted to justify his actions to her in some way, but every time he did he undermined his attempts to rebuild trust.

Instead, I coached John to take on a new role, as protector of the relationship.

He prepared himself, like a martial arts expert might. He knew that he would have to be able to absorb Maryanneís anger and yet still hold his ground. Just like in Aikido. He worked on calming his reactive tendencies with breathing exercises, used music to calm himself, and learned to sit in a grounded position when he talked with Maryanne


Creating new mental images was another important step. In addition to seeing the pain he had caused, he also recalled positive times in their years together, and all the things that led him to fall in love with Maryanne. All of these actions helped Johnís romantic, creative side come alive, and he began to court Maryanne much like he had when they first met.

Naturally, Maryanne responded by beginning to feel more trusting and secure.

Step 5: When itís time Ė explore and repair

Up until now, weíve really only talked about John examining himself. But it takes two to make a relationship. For complete healing, John and Maryanne became a team to understand how their histories and their present day dynamics may have made them vulnerable to an affair.

But itís important to complete steps 1 to 4 first. Thatís because Maryanne canít feel safe to explore until she truly feels Johnís remorse.

This is very tender territory and can be aided tremendously by the coaching of an Imago therapist. Just like steel rods are broken and re-soldered many times to make them stronger, a relationship can emerge from a betrayal stronger than before when the couple are willing to climb the above steps.

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