couples counseling

It may surprise you to learn that infidelity and
cheating are more than just having sexual relationships with
someone outside your marriage. While infidelity is an abstract concept that must be
personally ascribed meaning, there are several key characteristics
that make cheating what it is: 1. A promise has been given (implied
or explicit) 2. That promise gets broken (intentionally or
unintentionally) 3. Secrecy is involved (hiding violations of
trust) With these basic premises in mind, infidelity can occur in
at least 3 domains of marital functioning  1) finances,
2) emotional space, 3) physically (sex, etc). Here are some basic
tips to help protect your relationship from infidelity in these 3
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I will begin seeing clients Feb 1, 2012. If you would like an appointment, email or phone me and we will discuss your needs.

Lavelda J Naylor, MA, LMFTA
The Key Counseling Services of SA
4230 Gardendale
Suite 502
San Antonio, Tx 78229


Approach to Therapy
As a marriage and family therapist, I enjoy working with the Satir Model (Satir, 1983; 1988; 1991), which is an experiential systems approach that suggests quality relationships are more likely when we effectively communicate from the Self. To do this, we must know the self, take personal responsibility for the self, and be willing to share the self with others. Good communication skills are also needed. When these qualities are present, there is an overall sense of well being that allows for creative and flexible problem solving. When absent or diminshed, things get stuck. If you feel stuck and want to get moving again, call me.

What is therapy like?

In our first session, we will do a brief assessment of the issues, set some joint goals, and make a plan that will identify where we want to go and how we might get there. In subsequent sessions, we will work towards your goals by examining the issues from different perspectives, identify conflict and  communication patterns, and seek for a “transformative idea” in your own experiences–The Key–that will continue to promote growth in the system long after our journey together ends. While each journey is unique and the length of therapy depends on client need, we are sure to know when you have arrived at the destination.

But does it work? 

The Satir Model has been applied successfully to children (Haber, 2011; Smith, 2010), individuals (Morrison & Ferris, 2002; Yang Li & Vivian, 2010), couples (Lee, 2009; Morrison & Ferris, 2002), families (Haber, 2011; Seligman, 1981), and groups (Root, 1989) to address a variety of concerns, such as depression (Caston, 2009; Srikosai, 2008), pathological gambling (Lee, 2009), suicidality (Smith, 2010), and alcohol dependence (Srikosai, 2008). The Satir Model integrates well with Emotion Focused Therapy (Brubacher, 2006), Social Construction Theory (Cheung, 1997), and cognitive-behavioral/mindfulness therapies (Claessens, 2009). The wide applicability and flexible nature of the model makes it a good fit for most cultures, including collectivist cultures (Yang, 2012; Bermudez, 2007; Cheung & Chan, 2002) and GLTB community (Carlock, 2008).

Evaluating Treatment Results

In my own practice I have found clients to become quickly engaged and to be willing to stay the course to get the desired results a majority of the time. To evaluate progress I run a brief spot check Session Rating Scale) over the course of treatment that assesses four domains of client-therapist-treatment interaction. Occasionally, we will evaluate outcomes using the ORS (Outcome Rating Scale) that briefly assesses four domains of functioning. These results are used to refine the process and enhance the journey. In addition, I use the treatment plan to help track positive and negative change as related to goals. Markers for termination are 1) client has reached all or some of the identified goals, 2) client/therapist feels the client is ready to take over, 3) there is no progress in treatment (referrals are discussed), and/or 4) other unique indicators are processed as keys for termination.

It is my goal that you get more of the life you want and my mission is to empower you to do just that!


Generally speaking, there are two people in a romantic relationship, two individuals that team up for a common goal of being together. Romantic unions are a critical part of human experience and modern psychology sees these unions as system forming, which includes a developmental perspective of such systems. Commonly met relationship developmental stages are 1) partnering 2) children 2) adolescence 4) launching 5) retirement 6) older age (Carter and McGoldrick, 2004). While it is true that a union takes on a life of its own, there are still at least two individuals’ developmental trajectories that demand attention.

Often, partners will synch individual development to the relationship development.  For instance, a relationship often starts with passion, an all consuming desire to spend every second together,  putting individual developmental needs aside for relationship building. At other times, partners take turns pursuing his/her own dreams and goals, and this desire for personal fulfillment may coincide with relationship development or not.

When both relationship growth and personal growth demands are met and tended to, partnerships remain in tune and can continue to succeed.  A prominent Marriage and Family Therapy researcher, John Gottman, even includes sharing hopes and dreams between partners as the pinnacle of marital functioning; Hopes and Dreams is the very top floor of what he calls “The Sound Marital House.” Partners can reach this level of self actualization in the relationship when they have tended to the needs of the unity, such as keeping in touch with each other intimately, maintaining a high ratio of positive to negative interactions (5:1 minimum), and being able to manage conflict that occurs around passing and perpetual issues.

When relationship developmental needs are mismatched with individual needs, sometimes a partner will seek therapy to address personal growth. While the partner may benefit, research has shown that when only one partner in a relationship seeks therapy, the relationship is more likely to fail than if both seek therapy. One explanation that has been given is that the treated partner grows away from the relationship. Does it hold true that growth in one partner is always damaging to relationships?

It turns out that it depends on the state of the relationship; relationships that have a more egalitarian orientation fare better when one partner’s growth needs are met while another’s are on hold. That is, when spouses see each others as equal, avoid being locked into gender stereotypes, and are willing to support each other’s hopes and dreams, chances are a partner’s growth will not harm the relationship  In fact, in these types of relationships, partner growth actually enhances the relationship;  egalitarian partners report high levels of marital satisfaction even when one partner pursues hopes and dreams while the other supports his/her growth.

Sounds good, right? Well…it is, but in spite of the benefits of partner growth to the relationship, there are problems; while one spouse has a growth experience, the other partner genrally attends to the mundane. S/he gets stuck doing more chores, must often make personal sacrifices (taking one for the team), and generally ends up picking up the slack in more down-to-earth areas of relational functioning. This can be wearying. In addition, the maintaining partner may feel isolated from the growing partner and the couple has to break through an additional barrier to reach the each other emotionally.

To support  relationship growth during a partner’s individual growth, partners can refocus attention on intimacy building. In Gottman’s terminology, differential partner growth may be treated as a ‘perpetual issue’. This means that each partner needs to allow for a dialogical space, a two-way exchange between Selves in the relationship and how each self experiences growth both in and out of the relationship. This is not to be confused with problem solving, it is a distinctive kind of sharing that abstains from judgment or fixing, it involves listening and empathizing with each other.

Practical concerns are necessary to address as well. Contextual Family Therapy suggests that partners in a relationship need to feel a sense of trust and justice in relationships, like there is some equality between entitlements and debts. Successful couples who manage dual careers report tending to justice demands by alternating opportunities for career growth. Sometimes these bargains include relationship developmental needs, like when to have a child may be planned in accordance with career switching. What is critical here is that both partner’s needs are tended to as well as the demands of the relationship.

Thus, relationships are even more complex than you may have thought but acknowledging growth trajectories can extend the life of a system and improve its overall functioning. Remember, if a relationship gets stuck for more than 6 weeks in a trouble spot, seek treatment for the system you are in, not just yourself as many issues are influenced by our context.

For Therapy Services: The Key Counseling of SA

1. Go on a date and begin collecting something together.
2. Theme date: dinner, clothing, and movie, all from the Greco-Roman era.
3. Invite a couple (or a couple of couples) to meet for a game night.
4. Have a friendly decathlon. Each of spouse brings five competitive events to the table.
5. Prepare a special meal for someone and deliver it to them.
6. Write a skit and act it out.
7. Play one-on-one basketball at a local court.
8. Is there are room or area of the house that needs a makeover? Let’s tackle it together!
9. Watch a classic movie musical together.
10. Get a fresh pack of crayons, a bunch of construction paper, and go have an art date!
11. Find a coffee shop with live music.
12. Write a timeline of your relationship together; each milestone will become a chapter for your marriage story someday.
13. Shoot pool at a local pool hall.
14. Go people watching at a mall. Make up an ongoing story using characters of unrelated people as they walk by.
15. Plan a dream vacation; if it never happens it will at least be fun to plan. If the opportunity arises, a lot of the legwork will already be done!
16. Go to a sporting event at the local school or rec field.
17. Discover a part of your county that you’ve never visited.
18. Go to a Lowes or Home Depot clinic and learn to build something together.
19. Go canoeing or tubing.
20. Go to Dollar General and find the best gift for each other for under $5. Then go for a celebratory ice cream cone!
21. Pick wildflowers.
22. Have a picnic and take a stroll at a nearby park.
23. Spend an evening looking through photo albums and reminiscing.
24. Go fly a kite.
25. Go to the park and push each other on the swings.
26. Have a water gun target-shooting contest.
27. Order a pizza and have it delivered to somewhere for a “wilderness picnic.”
28. Find a nice hillside to lie on and watch the clouds.
29. Wash the cars together.
30. Find a trail and go mountain biking.
31. Decorate a sidewalk at a nearby park with sidewalk chalk.
32. Make a paper clip sculpture together.
33. Go for a creek walk.
34. Spend an evening making a “bucket lists” together.
35. Feed fish at a nearby creek.
36. Get an astronomy book from the library and learn as many constellations as you can.
37. Portable drive in: go somewhere and watch a movie on a laptop.
38. Break a record together: get the Guinness Book of World Records and break one; or create a new category and set a record!
39. See how many fireflies each of you can catch in a glass jar.
40. Play a round of Frisbee golf.
41. Take a picnic dinner to Pen Mar Park and watch the sun set.
42. Have the kids go overnight somewhere and have a lock-in.
43. Go for a hike.
44. Take a roll of quarters and go to an arcade.
45. Go for a bike ride on the Gettysburg battlefield. See how many state monuments you can find.
46. Take a bottle of wine and catch the sunset from Raven Rock cliffs.
47. Catch the sunset from High Rock.
48. Go produce picking; what’s in season?
49. Go to a playground and compete in obstacle course races.
50. Take a ball and mitt and go play catch somewhere unique.
51. Go tubing.
52. Visit a zoo and pick an animal totem for your relationship strengths.
53. Go make dinner over an open fire.
54. Begin writing your relationship story together. Take turns doing the typing to share each other’s perspectives.
55. Play tennis.
56. Go rock scrambling at a nearby outcrop.
57. Sit under a bridge overpass and listen to the cars pass overhead.
58. Visit a Hallmark store and find the funniest or cheesiest cards you can; read them to each other.
59. Go for a country drive. Get yourself lost and then find your way home again.
60. Play monopoly together…in the park.
61. Make a music video together: what was you “first dance” song?
62. Go for a jog together.
63. Go climb a tree! (Pack a meal for an aerial picnic!)
64. Find a free lecture or event to attend at a local college.
65. Having a hard time finding good movies? Bring the laptop to a Wi-Fi hotspot of view trailers; begin a movie list.
66. Visit a graveyard.
67. Drive to a scenic overlook and park, listening only to am radio.
68. Bring a game of Scrabble to the park.
69. Have a mini-S’mores date: Golden Grahams, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and a candle!
70. Read a children’s book or short story together, taking turns to impersonate the characters in the story.
71. Find a used bookstore and spend $5 apiece.
72. Play Trivial Pursuit…subject, each other.
73. Discuss something you’d like to learn together, then go to the library and learn!
74. Fondue in the park!
75. Husband plans a date; wife picks the theme.
76. Wife plans a date; husband picks the theme.
77. Wife plans a surprise date.
78. Husband plans a surprise date.
79. Write your wills together. You can get inexpensive software at Staples for this.
80. Go to an antique store together, even if you don’t buy anything.
81. Sketch your dream-house floor plan and talk about the possibilities of each room.
82. Write the story of how you met. Get it printed and bound.
83. List your spouse’s best qualities in alphabetic order.
84. Take a stroll around the block – hold hands as you walk
85. Give your spouse a back rub
86. Rent a classic love story video, microwave some popcorn and watch the video while cuddling.
87. Go to a swimming hole together.
88. Have a candlelight picnic in the back yard.
89. Plant a tree together in honor of your marriage.
90. Create your own special holiday.
91. Visit a local flea market and see who can pick out the cheapest, most fun, wacky and/or useful treasure. Ask a vendor or a passing visitor to judge.
92. Go to a dollar movie.
93. Go to an outdoor concert or sporting event, but stay in the parking lot and tailgate!
94. In preparation for this date; think of a story about yourself from before your life together. On the date share it with one another; be as animated and creative as possible (embellishments encouraged!)

95. Create a fill in the blank Q&A sheet for the other to answer and explain. Questions could include: “My favorite thing about you is _____.” “I knew I loved you when ____.” “It makes me laugh when you _____.”

96. Go fishing.

97. Go to a sporting event at a college in Adams, Franklin, Washington, or Frederick County.

98. Go to a store and play “The Price Is Right.” Take turns guessing what different items cost and keep track of who guesses closest without going over the actual price.

99. Paint murals on the garage doors. (Watercolor paints recommended!)

100. Take a roll of pennies to a fountain; make wishes out loud as you throw them in


The Key Counseling of SA



1. Emotional shifts are necessary in the couple dyad and with other children due to having feelings for a new entity that may overwhelm or compete with existing emotional ties.

2. Relational shifts are necessary in that the new child disrupts status quo ways of maintaining the couple dyad and other children in the family.

3. Couples must also face the reality of a growing family instead of fantasies and expectations.

4. With first children in particular, family of origin relational patterns will come to the forefront and must be acknowledged and/or resolved.

5. Couples must also manage the family-work dilemma.


1. Husband/partners are generally days, weeks, or months behind the mom in developing emotional bonds with a new baby and do not have the same hormonal advantages for bonding with the child (e.g., Oxytocin) as the mom does. Moms may not recognize this disparity and may not facilitate connection with the baby, expecting partners just to be on the same page.

2. Babies are very dependent during the first 6 months of life. Moms often spend so much time caring for the baby initially that they may have depleted internal resources for the rest of the family. Date night goes by the wayside and parents often divide and conquer other kids’ events or needs. What is more, previously egalitarian relationships can slip into more traditional gender roles when babies arrive, with moms doing the bulk of the childcare.

3. Parents often spend a great deal of time fantasizing about becoming parents or extending the family and these expectations are often not the reality they must face. Sometimes kids are born with some difficulty, or moms have post partum depression, or the family does not easily adjust to the change. The disappointment is often not processed openly and this can create fatigue, distrust, resentment, and/or other emotional burdens, especially if the expectations are subversively continued.

4. On top of all these issues, parents must come to terms with the models they each have, referred to as families of origin models, which are gotten from childhood experiences and passed down from one generation to the next. Most people have models that include aspects they strongly do and do not like, particularly regarding gender roles and discipline. Partners can butt heads over these values as they struggle to make a model of their own with which to raise their children. Even if couples have discussed these things prior to birthing, it can be surprising what turns out to be important to someone regarding childrearing.

5. Then there is the work-family dilemma. This refers to the fact that childrearing demands are often not compatible with work demands and compromises must be made. Unfortunately, even in the most egalitarian families, moms are the ones who make these sacrifices the majority of the time. There are 3 main contributing factors to this reality: 1) unequal house/childcare distribution in the home, 2) inflexibility in the workplace, 3) increased demand on worker in number of hours regardless of gender.

When not dealt with, the tasks and issues common to this phase of the family life cycle can lead to divorce. In fact, this is the stage of family development with the highest divorce rate. Issues lead to feelings of isolation, sexual dissatisfaction, conflict, identity loss, and unfairness among one or both partners. In addition, extended family interference and finances can add to the problem of staying together in the face of such adversity and change. 

Keys to managing the stage effectively:

1. Partners of moms need to start the bonding process as early as possible, and remind moms that that they need help to manage this process. Moms need to encourage bonding for the whole family, particularly new fathers, and involvement is KEY. Moms can engage family members by giving everyone specific tasks for the new baby that are especially for them. For example, a three year old may pat the baby to sleep and help the partner take out the trash. An added benefit is that with less to do regularly  moms may be able to encourage their libidos and renew a sense of self outside of being a caregiver. Moms with post partum depression need to seek help to manage symptoms.

2. Special care needs to be given to maintaining equality and demonstrating an interest in each person’s internal experience of the changes in the family. Moms may need to gently remind partners that caregiving is not just for moms and demonstrate what would help maintain a good balance. Recruiting help according to resources can be a great rebalancing tool, this can help keep date night going (although frequency will still be diminished in all likelihood) and help with presenting a dual front at other kids’ events. The most important thing is to keep an open dialogue (this means non-judgmental and not all about problem solving) about gender, parenting, and personal needs of all members of the family. To do this, partners may need to learn new communication and negotiation skills–a family therapist can help!

3. Make expectations clear, exposed, and realistic. This means each partner needs to spend time in introspection to understand what expectation were built and not met. It is also good to try and understand influences on expectations and fantasies, such as family of origin, religion, movies, etc., then have a discussion with your partner. Doing this can enhance the marital bond and make parenting more of a pleasant than an unpleasant surprise.

4. Partners need to explore values regularly. Not only do family values evolve with new experiences, what evolves may not match between partners. Here it is important to negotiate; partners can find this difficult because there is a sense of self involved in values talk. However, revealing the self is what can keep couples strong in spite of all the changes they may experience over time. It may increase feelings of safety to picture a partner as a port in a storm instead of as the storm.  If partners cannot turn toward each other and conflict continues to escalate, couples therapy may be in order. Importantly, DO NOT WAIT until the relationship is jeopardy to get help. A good rule of thumb is if an issue continues for 6 weeks, get some counseling.

5. The work-family dilemma is a harsh reality and couples need to explore hopes and dreams to understand what is at stake. Even childless couples make sacrifices for each other in career pursuits but this is heightened dramatically with young children in the home. Time and money are squeezed, and good, affordable childcare is one of the biggest problems families face.  Some couples have found it helpful to rotate career growth (e.g., wife goes to grad school, then husband) and/or work hours (husband works part time, wife works full time, then switch). However, the focus here needs to be on fairness and equality. If too many sacrifices are made by one partner, resentment may strangle the marriage.

An aside: sex changes after babies come! Some couples report better sex, some worse, but almost all couples will have less sex with babies around. This is mostly due to biological (e.g., women’s brains are wired differently then men’s) and social differences (e.g., disproportionate childcare chores for women) between genders.  What helps get things back on track is noncritical, loving attention to the sexual relationship, the physical changes in the mom, changes in the partner, emotional and relational changes in the dynamic between partners, and how time crunches disrupt coupling activities. Be creative and resourceful!


Guise, R. W. (2009). Study guide for the Marriage & Family Therapy national licensing examination. Boston: The Family Solutions   Institute.

Together Texas Curriculum for marital partners.

Carter, B., & McGoldrick, M. (Eds.). (2004). The Expanded Family Life Cycle : Individual, Family, and Social Perspectives (3rd ed.). Pearson Allyn & Bacon.


For Therapy Services: The Key Counseling of SA

  • The Conflict Avoidance Affair. This type of affair is when a partner expresses discontent outside the marriage. The cheating partner is unable, for whatever reason, to share the feelings of discontent with his/her mate and uses infidelity as a way to be “heard.” Thus, the affair can be emotional and/or physical in nature.
  • The Intimacy Avoidance Affair. This type of affair occurs when one (or even both) of the partners builds a wall to protect him/herself from the outside world. Often the lack of intimacy can reflect a disturbed attachment to the world in which a person feels too vulnerable if they expose any deeper part of the self. In fact, the affair may occur because there has been an overexposure of the self to the partner and the infidelity rights the balance.
  • The Sexual Addiction Affair. This type affair is marked by addictive sexual patterns that disturbs relational harmony. One partner is constantly having physical affairs and enjoys the chase and the thrill of having new partners. He/she denies any problem and may even be proud of the conquests.
  • The Split-Self Affair. This type of affair occurs when a partner’s feelings and needs are not expressed or met and communication is not genuine  between partners. The cheating partner is often  torn between the positive history of the relationship and the need to really be him/herself. The affair represents an attempt to be authentic but generally does not satisfy that desire since infidelity is not the authentic desire.
  • The Exit Affair. This type of affair indicates that a partner lacks the courage to leave a relationship honestly. Instead they act out via an emotional or physical affair in the hopes of forcing the other partner to end the relationship. In other words, the unfaithful person wants out on a conscious or unconscious level and uses the infidelity  to accomplish that.


Brown, E. M. (1999). Affairs: A guide to working through the repercussions. Jossey-Bass, CA: San Francisco.

For Therapy Services: The Key Counseling of SA

Good news! there is not just one type of couple that is well-functioning! According to the research of John Gottman, there are at least three distinct types of couples who can be successfully mated, the volatile couple, the validating couple, and the avoiding couple. Each one of these has a particular set of characteristics that make them distinct but compatible and each pairing focused on a different ingredient of the love cake (see post

The Volatile Couple

For this couple, conflict represents an opportunity to express the internal life of an individual, a moment of deeper connection. Volatile couples value their individuality and have a high need to feel free to express their disagreements since they see the point of contention as representative of where the partners differ from each other. They are passionate and when in conflict, they may have raised voices, gesticulate wildly, and be very emotive. Successful Volatile Couples also soothe each other, use humor, and appreciate the other partner’s expressiveness while in a conflict.

The Validating Couple

Validating couples typically avoid conflict unless there was a very serious issue in the marriage. They rely on the marital friendship to weather conflicts and when in conflict, they look and sound very different from volatile couples–they rarely shout or become impassioned, they display minimal vocal responses (such as “mmmmhmmm” or “yeah”) when listening and these are done to illustrate support of the other partner and to tell the partner they are being understood. I have yet to see this type of couple in session and there may be a reason for that beyond coincidence. Research has shown that this type of couple has a higher level of couple satisfaction than Avoidant and Volatile Couples, respectively (Holman & Jarvis, 2003).  This partner type is more invested in the we-ness than the me-ness  (Volatile & Avoidant Couples promote me-ness) so to some degree this can be predicted merely based on what is emphasized in the pairing.

The Avoidant Couple

Avoidant couples minimize marital conflict. Similar to Volatile Couples, they value independence but uniquely, they are often distant from each other, demonstrating less sharing and companionship between partners than the other two types.  But they are highly invested in the commitment aspect of partnering; thus, they tend to minimize problems and focus on the strengths of marriage. In spite of the high degree of individuality in this pairing, the couple will often end conversation on note of solidarity, demonstrating the choice they have made to be together.

Trouble can arise when partners are mismatched. Gottman’s research suggest that when certain mixes are paired, withdrawer-pursuer patterns emerge. Withdrawer-pursuer patterns are just as they sound, one partner tries to communicate with a partner that has stonewalled or shut down and these roles are fairly consistent in the relationship. this pattern is very difficult to live with for the long-haul but may be improved via marital therapy.

What kind of partnership are you in?

Gottman, J. M. (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (1st ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.

Read more:

Marital Typologies – Using Scientific Methods To Create Typologies – Family, Couples, and Marriages – JRank Articles

Holman, T. B., & Jarvis, M. O. (2003). Hostile, volatile, avoiding, and validating couple-conflict types: An investigation of Gottman’s couple-conflict types. Personal Relationships, 10(2), 267–282. doi:10.1111/1475-6811.00049

For Therapy Services: The Key Counseling of SA

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