Claudia Hawley is a counselor, speaker and a mental health advocate who owns Stoney Creek Counseling in the Denver, Colorado area. In this episode she shares her experience and perspective counseling married couples. She shares her Seven Principles of a Successful Marriage, as well as the four issues that can lead to divorce. WOW. Her practical advice and insight can help all of us who are in or who are seeking a committed relationship.
Claudia holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Denver Seminary. Claudia is coming to mental health as a second career after spending many years as a small business owner. Working alongside clients in her former career as a realtor, instilled in Claudia a deep empathy, and a sincere desire to serve couples, families, and individuals in the journey through depression, anxiety, and trauma to healing, connection, and self-worth.
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I would like to welcome Claudia Holly to the Pivotal People Podcast. She is a pivotal person because she has helped so many people with their mental health. She is a, she has her master's in clinical mental health counseling. So she is a counselor, she is a speaker, she is a mental health advocate. And what's interesting is she came to mental health as a second career after spending many years as a small business owner. In fact, she was a realtor and she worked alongside many couples, and she had a sincere desire to help them. She developed empathy. And Claudia, I love that because my mother was a realtor. Oh, wow. And for 35 years. And I heard the stories and all she cared about it was never just about the house, it was always about the relationship. It was always about. So I think, yeah, good training for what you're doing now.
What caught my attention was that Claudia is also, she does all kinds of things, but she is a facilitator for a workshop called Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, premarital Relationship, and a Marriage Workshop based on the Gottman method for marriage and relationship therapy. Now, that's a mouthful. But I saw that and I thought, you know, being selfish, I'm like, well, gosh, I've been married 32 years. I would like to know what those seven principles are, because hopefully I've got a few more years left. So welcome Claudia. Thanks so much for joining us. Tell us a little more about yourself and what you are into now.
Speaker 2 (01:50):
Well, oh my gosh. Well, as you mentioned that I switched from being a real estate broker. I had a small boutique real estate company here in Denver. Had a lovely staff, and it just was wonderful. And then one day God said, go do this. And literally it was Thanksgiving day 2017 when he said, I have things for you to do. And then it was my work to figure out what that was. And I applied to Denver Seminary, and to my surprise, I got accepted into their clinical mental health program. And then I started with one class. And from there my calling and my purpose really began to grow and development, develop in the field of mental health. And I, I really loved it. I really loved it. I really felt I had stepped into what God had designed me to do. And so that, so I started seminary in 2018.
I graduated in 2021. And since then, I've trained in becoming an emotionally focused couples therapy therapist. I am a Gottman level three trained couples therapist. I'm also on the verge of getting a certification from the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals. And the designation is an asap, an associate sex addiction therapist, as well as being trained in a trauma treatment called eye movement desensitization, desensitization and reprocessing. So all that said, I focus my work with couples, but the underlying theme of my couple's work is, is diving into all of the trauma that's underneath the dysregulation between that people are feeling in their marriage, and that often go back to childhood, or it can go back to just people not understanding how to live with one another in a coupled relationship. And wounding happens little by little by little disconnect, disconnect, disconnect. And pretty soon the person you thought you knew is unfamiliar to you and you're no longer able to turn and connect and repair in a tune. So,
Speaker 1 (04:13):
So when you had said that generally couples come to you five years too late, I'm curious what generally prompts a couple to go to counseling and is it the wife or the husband more than the other who prompts it?
Oh, usually, and this is anecdotal and I'm sure there's research on it. I just don't have that at the tip of my tongue. It's usually the female partner. It's usually the female partner and a heterosexual couple that will come and and ask for help. And that goes back to the principles of the way we teach, the different ways that we teach girls and boys to talk to each other or to talk to one another. Girls are more relational, and so it's usually the wife who is just feeling so disconnected and lonely in the marriage. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and the husband may be used to being lonely in the marriage because we generally don't do emotional or intelligence or any kind of feelings training for our little boys. And the interesting thing is that research shows that baby boys and little boys and young young boys have a higher need for nurture and connection than little girls do. And we treat them opposite
Speaker 1 (05:39):
Little boys. Interesting.
Speaker 2 (05:41):
They have a higher need for nurture than little girls do. And that's, that's from research. And so it's profound loneliness and chronic isolation that will bring a couple in. It will be a crisis. It will be the final straw bite, it will be issues with infidelity, it will be issues with substance use. It will be issues of just being on a different page for so long and not having needs met. And five, usually they wait five, if I'm lucky, a couples therapists, if we're lucky, they'll, they'll not wait beyond five years. Often we'll have couples that have been struggling for 10, 20, 25 years, and they come in and seeking help to be able to reconnect with their partner.
Speaker 1 (06:29):
So do you have a sense of how successful counseling is for couples in terms of how, you know, how long they come or what the general outcome might be? Or if they both seem satisfied with the counseling?
Speaker 2 (06:47):
Gosh, that's such an an interesting question. I think it goes down to really the motivation and the call of the heart in each individual person. There are couples that come where one or both of them have, have hit what we call the tipping point, where it's like a point of no return. If one of them has already hit the tipping point, you are there to help validate their emotional experience and to guide them through the end of the relationship in the most civil and empathetic and kind way, not only to themselves, but for each other. And I've certainly had my part of having, of guiding couples in that way. If, if both parties come and they, and the, and the desire of their heart is to repair the marriage, it can be in really bad shape. I mean, we can have issues of addiction and infidelity that's gone on for a long period of time, and we can repair that marriage if it's the desire, the heart's desire of each member of the couple. Now is it hard and excruciating work? Yes, it is. But it all goes down to the heart of the person, the heart of the person, and what they want.
Speaker 1 (08:09):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So that makes sense.
Speaker 2 (08:11):
Speaker 1 (08:12):
So, well, thank you for that background. So having a sense of why people come and what the issues are, what are the seven principles for making marriage work?
Speaker 2 (08:22):
Okay, I was just putting my phone on. Do not distract. They are the first one. You know, it's interesting and it's so simple and we never think of it. It's, it's staying friends or becoming friends with your partner. And the way that Gottman method refers to it is you enhance your love map. And what that is, knowing that your partner knows me, likes me, and has got my back. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, if you know that your partner knows you and likes you and has your back, you can rely on that person for, and a lot of couples will come and they won't know if their partners like them. They, they just won't know if their partner likes them or knows them or has their back. It becomes an unsafe space. And so we rebuild the friendship. And the way we start with that is we do just exercises and get them talking to one another and get them curious about one another and opening up the experience of where they are now, not where they were when they met, but what is my life like now?
And I want you to enter into that experience. And this is simple as asking each other questions like, do you know your partner's best friend? Do you know your partner's dream? Do you know your partner's? Biggest disappointment? Do you know the thing that's scariest for your partner? Or do you know the thing that brings your partner the most joy? And can you enter in with that? And so the foundation, the very first principle is, is friendship is rebuilding and knowing your partner's world. The second one is nurturing fondness and admiration. And that's, you know, that's a tricky one. They're all tricky. But if you just think about your best friend, think about your best friend, and as you evoke the memory of your best friend, you're flooded with more memories. And I remember that time and it was so lovely, and I can't wait to see my friend again.
And then think about your partner and are you fond of your partner as a person? Do you admire your partner as a person? Do you see the loveliness and the goodness of what they do on a daily basis? Do you see or do you see them as an annoyance and a distraction? And so rebuilding. The second principle is to nurture, like we nurture a child, like we nurture a garden, like we nurture our puppies and our kittens. We need to nurture fondness and admiration for our partner. And then number three is learning to turn towards each other instead of turning away. And what that, what turning towards or turning away. And I think for me, this is so important because we all long to be seen. And if you just think for a minute of going to meet someone you haven't seen for a long time in a crowded place, and you don't know anyone else around you, and you see your friend and your friend sees you, and you recognize within yourself, my friend sees me and I see them, and the warmth of that, we forget how to turn towards our partners and we become armored up against their bids.
It's called a bid for attention. Three things can happen. You can make a bid and your partner can turn towards, your partner can turn away, or your partner can turn against. And when the last two happen, you stay in your isolation, in your loneliness. Hmm. So teaching couples how to recognize when their partner's making a bid, and then teaching the each, each of them how to make a bid and how to receive a bid. So turning towards, instead of turning away, and then this is a, this is, you know, they're all, they're all simple but complicated sometimes letting your partner influence you. So and they, that would look like respecting your partner's opinion, taking into account in a deep way, what is important for them and what is it important for you. And then weighing the balance and then having a conversation.
If there's a difference, an easy, like surface level one is are you gonna buy a Honda or a Toyota or in our, in, in my family of origin, it was Ford versus Chevy. And we all had passionate feelings about that. But if your partner has a strong feeling about something and you discount it, you've minimized your partner's experience, you've minimized them as a human, and you've got, you've chosen to go it alone. Sometimes women are more, it's more easy for women to accept influence from their partner than it is for men to accept, accept influence from their partner. So it's a mindfulness, did I really hear my partner and what's
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important to them?
Speaker 1 (13:42):
And that's a way of showing respect too. I mean, it's yeah, respect versus contempt, you know? Can we, yeah.
Speaker 2 (13:49):
Oh yeah. Oh, and may I just divert for a minute into the four the four horsemen of a relationship apocalypse. And this is this is the kind, this is something everyone should work out, look out for, and you can find this online, it's everywhere. For the formen of a cop of relationship. Apocalypse, according to John Gottman is criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, if you have one of those four or all of them in your relationship, you need help. The highest predictor of divorce is contempt. If you hold your partner in contempt, which means you're critical, you don't like who your partner is, and you don't mind saying, it's not that I don't like what you did, I don't like who you are,
Criticism is, I don't like what you did. Defensiveness is, it's not my fault. And stonewalling is I'm not talking to you. And so those are, those are four things, and you can get more information on those. Just Google the four horsemen and it'll come up. So or we can talk more, whatever works for you, Stephanie. Yeah. About the next principle of making marital marriage work is recognizing the two kinds of marital conflict. And a lot of people don't realize that every couple, across generation, across culture, across a relationship style, it's universal. There are two kinds of marital conflict. You have solvable problems, and you have perpetual problems. 69% of all your problems are gonna be perpetual problems, a suc and a successful couple. It's not that they don't have conflict, it's that they're able to solve the solvable problems, and they're able to talk about and discuss the perpetual issues without going into gridlock.
When we go into gridlock, we have the same argument about the same thing over and over and over. And what happens is that the minute it comes up, we, our bodies flood and we go into our fight or flight and we go into our defensive position and our bodies react in the same way every way. So that every time, so that there's no way to make progress in a grid if an issue has become gridlock. The way that works, it's similar. It's like people who are going to have twins, they then see twins everywhere. They're, they live their life through the filter of twin ness. When you have a gridlock issue, and it's become what Dr. Julie and John Gottman call negative sentiment override is that either generally or in this issue, I believe negatively towards my partner, your body, mind, spirit react in the same way every time you, you go into lockdown, you become unaccessible to your partner. And it is, it is a gut wrenching place to be in a gridlock issue that will go on forever. And the antidote for a gridlock issue is being able to talk to one another and hear the deeper emotion and feeling and the values behind the issue for, for the partners to hear each other, to hear the deeper need underneath the gridlock issue. And <crosstalk>, what are
Speaker 1 (17:32):
Some of the most common gridlock issues you see in couples? A couple come to mind for me, but I'm not a professional.
Speaker 2 (17:39):
If, if an introvert marries an extrovert, okay, that, that's one issues of money, a spender, marries a saver step families parenting non step families, parenting time. How is time gonna non-work time gonna be spent if there are different values put around different elements of running the family? We get into the whole issue of if one person has what we call med meta cognitive or meta emotional differences from their partner and what that looks like if you're slightly a D H D or a lot A D H D, there are literally things you don't notice or see. So if you've married someone very organized and very clean and very neat and everything in its place, it's a different way that you function and process where someone who has neurodiversity literally sees the world through a different lens, that can become very grid gridlocked if there's not an understanding about the, the deeper identity of who the partner is.
Those are some of the ones, if there's been infidelity, and a lot of people get real confused about what infidelity is, and infidelity is anything that takes time, attention, and importance away from the partner and turns it to someone else. The way a research sci marriage research scientist named Julie Sharon Glass described it is you, you're a partners or a married couple stand in the house and look out through the windows, and they only open the door when there's agreement to let someone in. Infidelity happens when one of the partners lets someone else into their inner world. And that can be social infidelity, it can be emotional infidelity, it can be financial infidelity. It's not always about what we're doing in bed. And so if it's, and so partners get really confused, well, they're just my friend at work, but I'm calling and texting 'em all the time, and I, you know, and so that just doesn't work. That's infidelity and that causes a huge gridlock issue and different values around that. So did,
Speaker 1 (20:06):
Did we hit all seven? I wasn't keeping track. This is so fascinating to me.
Speaker 2 (20:10):
We are at principle four. Principle five is Solve your salt. Okay. Oh, and then I combined four and five. Actually I combined four, five, and six. The two principle four is let your partner influence you. Principle five is solve your solvable problems. And then principle six is overcoming gridlock, which is what I just explained because it's, you see how it's all together? All together?
Speaker 1 (20:43):
It's all together.
Speaker 2 (20:44):
Yeah. Three, yeah. And then the seventh pri principle is creating shared meaning, like, what are your dreams? And you know, Stephanie, I think of you, we met at a Bob Black Writer's Workshop and and I, I was witness to a woman who made her dreams come true by, by experiencing you at that workshop. And there were many people there who their dreams came were coming true, or they were having their dream for the first time. Many of the people that were at that workshop with us, their partners were there along with them supporting and sharing the dream. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And I think creating shared meaning is realizing what are some of the dreams that we had as younger people that we've let go? And how can we, the term we use is disinter the dream, and we need to do that in the context of our relationship and with the support and love of our partners. So we can have mm-hmm. <Affirmative> shared dreams. We can have individual dreams, but the, the principal is to be there to acknowledge, to support, to root for, to be part of, or maybe not, maybe just to support mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And that's yeah. So that's just like a whirlwind trip through the seven principles. The Gottman's wrote a book called The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. If your readers would like to know more.
Speaker 1 (22:12):
Well, I love what you said. It's simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Right. And I'm sitting here, you know what I'm thinking? I'm like, I cannot wait to sit in the car with my husband while we're driving and listen to this podcast. You've actually, you know, we all have, we've all gone through stages. I think I told you I've been married 32 years and so many of these principles take 32 years to learn. And we're still learning it, but it's, it's almost like exercise or diet. We have to stay healthy. We can't wait, as you said, until it's an emergency, it's a crisis. There is, it's only healthy to discuss these things, even if, you know, sometimes I'm, I'm just gonna speak for myself even if husbands don't always like to talk about emotional stuff as much as women do. So but as you said, it's there, right? The need for nurture is clearly there.
Speaker 2 (23:10):
From the cradle to the grave, Stephanie. Yeah. We need known to be known from the cradle to the grave. I wanna offer a really fun resource. If you, if you have a smartphone or an Android, you can go to your app store and look for Gottman card deck, Gottman or Gottman card or Gottman card deck. And I think there's eight different card decks. There's love maps, there's creating ritual, there's expressing emotion, there's how to ask open-ended questions. There's questions on intimacy and they're super fun. I use them all the time in my practice and it helps couples who've gotten out of the habit of talking to each other to be able to retrain themselves on having something to say. And in a way, I
Speaker 1 (24:03):
Love that. I'm gonna find it. I will put the details of that in the show notes. My husband and I have a 21 hour drive across the country coming up. He's just gonna be so excited that I found this app with all these questions. <Laugh>. Oh,
Speaker 2 (24:15):
Oh my gosh. You go, that'll be 21 hours. Oh my gosh.
Speaker 1 (24:20):
And I also, you can find Claudia, she is a counselor in the Denver, Colorado area. You can find her email@example.com. I will have that in the show notes. I just wanna thank you so much for your time. This is so wonderful and I'll be looking forward to hearing from people on, you know, and how this impacted them. I think it's gonna help a lot of people. Certainly help us think
Speaker 2 (24:44):
You, that's so kind of you to say. And I appreciate very much that your invitation and asking me to join you today.
Speaker 1 (24:51):
Oh, you're welcome. And we'll talk soon. Take care. Thank you.
Speaker 2 (24:54):