Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Licensed Professional Counselor Pat Ward works with people every day to overcome obstacles. Premarital and couples counseling are also part of his practice. Here are some of his thoughts on how to strengthen a relationship.
“We are natural storytellers. It’s our way of simplifying a complicated world. In our relationships, we often tell ourselves stories about our spouse, ourselves and the relationship itself.
These are stories about motives and perspectives, the past and the future. ‘She’s only happy when.…’ / ‘I would never…’/ ‘I don’t think we’ll ever be able to….’
The positive stories inspire daydreams, engagement rings and reconciliation. The negative ones breed discontent, resentment and cycles of conflict.
When couples struggle, it’s often because we are so lost in these stories that we forget two things. First, we forget that our partner is more than the story we’ve constructed. They are a growing, hurting, healing, anxious, dynamic soul needing connection just like we are. Recognizing this and responding empathetically can resolve many conflicts.
Second, we forget that we hold the pen. We are the authors of these narratives, and those who love well edit well, shaping our stories until the truth is told, the connection is strong and the best path forward is clear.”
Pat Ward works with couples and individuals at his office in Oxford and online every day. He helps people evaluate their stories, foster deeper connections, manage diagnoses and write a new chapter. He also provides pre-marital counseling and has an online course about couples’ communication. Details at patwardcounseling.com.