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Don’t set your marriage up for failure! Why Premarital Counseling is a MUST!

January 14, 2019

By: Tyra Berger, MSMFT, LGPC, NCC

You meet the love of your life, you date, you fall in love, you are infatuated with each other, spending most of your time together, not wanting to ever be apart. Dinners, sweet gestures and so much PDA you make others around you gag! ūüôā Love. Then, after a year or so, after the honeymoon phase has eased a bit, you start to really begin to know each other, your disagreements may become less easy to resolve, some of the things you loved about your love now get on your last nerve; pet peeves! You begin to notice differences in your personality that you may not be that fond of, but you are still in love! You get through another year of growing in love all while still discovering your differences, and you might even decide to move in together. With that step you learn even more! He leaves the toilet seat up, she is messy, he doesn‚Äôt pick up after himself, she leaves the cap off the toothpaste, he snores, she‚Äôs a cover hog‚Ķ. oh, the horror of it all! Ha! All annoying‚Ķ. but! You‚Äôre still in Love. In love enough to want to move on to the next step! Becoming engaged to be married! Love. It was a lovely proposal. Candles and flower petals, she was surprised and excited, she said yes, he shed a tear‚Ķnow you have a wedding to plan! Venues have to be booked, caterers, florist, the cake, the dress, etc. All to celebrate the love and the coming together of two people who will spend the rest of their lives together‚Ķmarriage. Let me say that again… THE REST OF THEIR LIVES TOGETHER‚Ķ MARRIAGE! I don‚Äôt point that out to scare, but to accentuate the magnitude of what that means. Love. Marriage. In all the preparation you do for a wedding and to be together forever, there is another HUGE part of preparing for a wedding, a marriage, and helping to ensure that your marriage will last‚Ķ. Premarital Counseling.

I encourage Premarital Counseling 100%. Premarital Counseling helps set your marriage up for success. If you are preparing to get married and have not considered Premarital Counseling, I beg you, please reconsider!

Here’s 5 reasons why:

  1. Studies shows a 31% higher marital success rate for couples who did participate in Premarital Counseling than those who didn’t. That’s huge! Give yourselves this chance!
  2. You learn more about your differences, face them and agree on how to handle them before you are faced with them in a negative way once you do get married.
  3. Learn what your growth areas are (areas you need to work on) and what your strengths are so that you can use them and continue to build on them.
  4. Learn new things about each other; things that don’t come up in normal conversations, like hurtful experiences, sex and expectations. Deal with them and find resolution to them before you wed.
  5. Again…prevent divorce! Premarital Counseling will make your relationship stronger, provide a framework for a healthy relationship and empower you with tools and skills necessary to communicate effectively and navigate conflicts.

So…now you know. Premarital Counseling works. Set your marriage up to succeed. I specialize in couples counseling and Premarital Counseling and am a certified facilitator of the #1 Premarital Counseling assessment program, Prepare-Enrich used to help strengthen relationships.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for Premarital Counseling visit my website: or visit

Parenting Class This Friday!!!

January 14, 2019

Our Relationship Repair Associate Terrie Tyrie is leading a local parent workshop in Ellicott City this Friday!!!

Please plan to join us for dinner at 6:30. At 7:15 Club SciKidz will be leading a super fun activity for the children, and parents are invited to join Terrie Tyrie, LCPC, who will lead a parent session on how to talk with children about instilling healthy habits at every phase of development, toddler through teenager.

Friday Family Fun events are free, but so that we can be best prepared, we would love for you to let us know if you’ll be joining us. Please register HERE. 


January 11, 2019


At least once a week, I hear a new client say “This is just who I am.¬† This is who I have always been.¬† I cannot change who I am.”

Usually this is a defensive response to their partner who is asking for a change important to making the relationship successful.¬† It sounds pretty hopeless doesn’t it???

First of all, saying “This is just who I am.¬† Stop trying to change me” is a guilt trip because the words insist that the partner asking for change is somehow asking for way too much.¬† It suggests the idea that, “you should feel bad for being so unreasonable.”¬† You should feel guilty for asking me to change something that is such a part of me.

Second of all, saying “This is just who I am.¬† I cannot change” suggests that there is so much permanency to the behavior or the habit or the trait that it is completely unchangeable.¬† Whether intentional or not, this is a mental tactic that suggests to one’s partner or family member that there is no room for flexibility, negotiation, reconciliation, solutions or improvement.¬† The partner asking for change may as well just accept that change is not possible.¬† They should accept feeling hopeless and helpless about a behavior and accept that the problematic behavior is a permanent problem never to be repaired (*note that mental helplessness creates symptoms of depression and anxiety).

If your partner or a family member is saying this to you, this could be a mentally abusive and controlling response.  If you are seeking systemic change in your relationship, do not accept this response.  For example, I recently had a husband telling his wife that he cannot stop touching women because this is just who he is.  She perceives he is inappropriate with women and even though he is a married man, she should accept it.  I have had wives tell their husbands they cannot ever learn to initiate sex because that is just who they are.

In most cases, the “This is just who I am” defense is just a bunch of BS.¬† Even if someone has a deeply ingrained personality trait that causes their behavior, people can still learn to adjust and change habits that are causing pain or neglect to their loved one.

Of course, we do need to make attempts to accept certain aspects of our loved one’s personality.¬† However, this does not mean that behavioral changes are completely out of the question!¬† For example, your partner might be spontaneous and not big on planning things.¬† However, this does not mean they cannot learn to put a date night on the calendar every two weeks to make sure your relationship is prioritized… instead of spontaneously ending up going out with coworkers.¬† Or your significant other might be very focused on care taking for the children because their personality is very protective, however this does not mean they cannot learn to be flexible enough to sometimes take time away from parenting to make vacation plans with you!

In fact, research shows that mentally healthy people work towards being less extreme regarding their personality traits.  People who are extreme extroverts benefit from learning to sometimes be alone or to have quiet time at home with their family.  Likewise, people who are extreme introverts benefit from learning to get out in a crowd and make friends!

The bottom line is this.¬† If your partner or child or parent is saying “This Is Just Who I Am” don’t buy into it!!!¬† Be persistent.¬† Insist that this is not true, everyone can learn to make changes.¬† If the behavior is a deal breaker for your relationship, put pressure on the relationship for change instead of accepting the BS.

If you are the one saying “This Is Just Who I Am,” then you should reconsider.¬† This is a defensive response, and your defensiveness and inflexibility is a predictor for relationship failure.¬† ¬†Even if the other person stays in relationship with you, they are still likely to withdraw.¬† You will never know how close or happy you could have been together unless you are willing to make adjustments and be influenced by one another.

You can do this.  Creating change in your relationship is hard work, however I wish you the best in overcoming hopelessness.  No guilt trips. No BS allowed!  For some additional guidance, schedule an appointment with myself or an associate at www.therapyportal/p/drstephanie/

All Heart,

Dr. Stephanie


Is Your RRC In Tip-Top-Shape?

January 10, 2019

A lot of people are confused about how to create an amazing relationship!¬† They try all kinds of different things including things such as giving a small gift or engaging in a kind gesture.¬† However, no matter how great people are as a parent, a lover, a partner, a coworker, or a friend…. there are still some factors that can cause Relationship Failure according to research!

For example, defensiveness is one of the top predictors for Relationship Failure and Dissatisfaction.¬† If you have not heard of this metaphor before, just imagine that there is a Customer Service Counter for your relationship.¬† Imagine that your partner comes to you with a concern and instead of listening and helping to find a solution, you get defensive…

Many people have no problem imagining this because defensiveness happens in their relationships every day.  In a customer-business relationship this causes trust to break and loyalty decreases.  Depending upon the importance of the business relationship, the customer might even become angry and contemptuous.

However, defensiveness can be fixed with an important mindset shift.  If you get defensive when your partner brings up complaints or concerns, you must change your mindset in order to improve your relationship in 2019!

Instead, think about how an excellent customer service person responds and open up what I call your “Relationship Repair Counter (RRC).”¬† ¬†To keep your RRC in tip-top shape, you then need to follow certain steps such us telling the person who is bringing up a complaint that they are important to you and you value them.¬† Of course, then you should listen and validate¬† them before asking the ever-important question, “How can I resolve this for you?”¬† or “How can I make this up to you?”

I always say that having a RRC in tip-top-shape is the “easiest hardest thing you will ever do in your relationships.”¬† It sounds easy and it makes sense to a lot of people.¬† In the moment, when someone you have a relationship with brings a complaint to you about¬†your behavior or personality¬†it is not easy.¬† Having an RRC takes work!!! However, non-defensiveness is one of the most important predictors for you having a successful life and happy relationships with the people whom you live and work with.

Almost everyone needs some help and tweaking with how to apply these concepts in their life.  If having a RRC in tip-top-shape is something you need to discuss, please Contact Us to meet with one of our Relationship Repair Experts!!!

What Is Your Decision?

January 9, 2019

Decisions.  Decisions.  Decisions.

Even making small decisions such as what to do on Saturday night or what kind of Pizza to buy can cause some couples a big problem.  Some couples describe that decisions are painful because neither person is decisive whereas other couples can get into major power battles because both partners want to be the General!

I always ask couples about their patterns for how conflict gets started.¬† It’s usually either the complaint resolution process or the decision making process that trips people up.¬† If you and your significant other sometimes have a disagreement that escalates into conflict during the decision making process, then I have some ideas for you.

Here is the process that I recommend for a decision that has two possible outcomes.¬† For example, you might have to decide “do we move to a new house or do we stay in our current house?”¬† Or, “do we start our child in kindergarten this year or next year?”

Most of the time, when there is conflict it is because one partner discusses all the reasons to do one of the options and the other person camps out in the alternative viewpoint.

In these types of decisions, do this:

  1. Promise one another that you will listen to each other’s thoughts and feelings about each possible option with the intention of being influenced by your partner.¬† Not with the intention to only think about your own viewpoint.
  2. Each partner should talk about all the pros and cons of one of the options.   (*Notice it helps to hear your partner discuss possible pros and cons, making them appear more reasonable and not having already made up their mind without hearing what your ideas are).
  3. Then each partner should discuss all of the pros and cons they see for the second alternative option.
  4. Next, each partner should discuss which decision they are leaning towards and why.¬† The other person listens and shows respect for their partner’s thoughts and opinions.
  5. Each partner should now say how important this decision is to them on a scale of 1 to 10.¬† Sometimes, if it is difficult to make a decision, partners might take turns deferring to their partner’s leaning if the decision is about something very important to their partner but less important to them.
  6. Now, if you don’t have to make a decision right away then set a date in the future when you will come back to discuss further.¬† Agree that in the meanwhile you will think about and consider the other person’s viewpoints and thoughts.
  7. Finally, meet up a few days later after having time to think about the decision.¬† See if you can agree on what the final decision should be.¬† Keep in mind that you might sometimes defer to what your significant other thinks the better decision is, with the understanding that sometimes they might defer to you on a decision that is very important to you…

In a future blog post, I will review how to make a decision about something that has many possible outcomes.

How Positive Was Your Therapy Experience At Our Relationship Repair Shop?

January 6, 2019

We pride ourselves on helping our clients to have a positive therapy experience.¬† There is nothing worse than having the courage to seek out a therapist, taking time out of your schedule, going to your appointment … only to not have a positive experience or get the help that you need!

If you have had a negative experience, please Contact Me right away.  As the owner, I want to find a way to resolve what happened.

More likely, I trust that you had a very positive experience with your therapist at one of our locations.  If so, please RATE YOUR EXPERIENCE!!!

Your positive reviews can help other people who are looking for a therapist to find our private practice.  We love to hear that our customers received a positive and helpful service.

In my own work with clients, I have worked with many clients who have had previous negative experiences with other therapists before they find our practice.  In some cases, the therapist did not give them enough direction or strategies to help them create change.  In other cases, the provider did not really listen or show enough compassion.  In still others, the therapist did not review possible treatment options.

As I said, I trust that we are doing well for most of our clients but please also be sure to advise how we can improve via direct contact to me.

I am all heart when it comes to servicing customers… Dr. Stephanie

Breaking Bad Relationship Habits

January 4, 2019

Research shows that healthy relationships can help you live longer, manage stress, feel richer and be healthier. Relationships are often one of our greatest sources of joy yet one of¬†life’s¬†greatest challenges. ¬†To meet the challenges, it is important for each of us to look at our¬†past relationships and make sure we don’t repeat bad relationship patterns. Bad relationship habits are hard to break but if you want to ensure a healthy relationship then you need to make a daily effort to¬†develop¬†new positive and healthy habits and avoid repeating¬†cycles. Here are some tips on how you can break these bad relationship habits:
Be aware and identify your toxic relationship¬†habits-¬†You first need to figure out what your bad relationship habits are that have played a part in past breakups or conflict with other people. ¬†You can’t¬†change¬†something you don’t¬†acknowledge. Take ownership of these habits, forgive yourself, and¬†learn to¬†replace these habits with healthy ones. Focus on being positive even during the tough times, this will help you develop healthy habits.
Let go of jealousy– Jealousy can be a huge relationship killer. If you are bringing¬†low¬†self-esteem,¬†narcissistic¬†behavior,¬†codependency¬†or feelings of¬†inadequacy¬†into your relationship then you are putting¬†it¬†in danger. You need to put your focus on working on yourself first¬†in order for you¬†to¬†become¬†a confident partner. Being¬†jealous¬†stems¬†from¬†your own¬†insecurities.¬†¬†It has nothing to do with the love that you have for your partner.¬†However,¬†if you want to love your partner unconditionally then you need to love yourself first. Let go of the fears, anxieties and doubts. If you’ve had reasons not to trust your partner in the past then you need to both work on building trust back into your¬†relationships.
Focus on open communication– ¬†Open and honest communication is key to a healthy relationship.¬†It is important¬†to open up to your partner so¬†you’re¬†not creating¬†unnecessary¬†confusion in your¬†relationships. Pick the¬†appropriate¬†times to have serious conversations. Think before you emotionally react. Pick and choose your battles. Always be honest. Learn how to be a good listener. All of these things will help you¬†maintain¬†a balanced relationship.
Open a Relationship Repair Counter-  Most people have the bad habit of getting defensive when our partner brings up a relationship complaint.  Try to start seeing relationship complaints as a positive opportunity to build loyalty into your relationship and to fix your bad habits!  Pretend you are going to provide good customer service for your relationship, and open up the counter. Show value to your partner, listen to their concern, then ask how you can resolve it.
For more information about how to break bad habits in your relationship, please contact me to book a Therapy Appointment.
Improve and Repair Your Relationship in 2019

January 3, 2019


So, this may come as a surprise to many of you… ¬†My couples therapy private practice is a little bit like a gym after the New Year. When people set their New Years Resolutions, a common goal¬†is for couples to improve their relationship. Fortunately, the commitment required for couples therapy and the doctor-patient relationship help people to stay on track much further into the year than many people are able to continue going to the gym!

What are the most common goals that people set?  To improve communication, to learn how to resolve conflict better, and to increase passion and intimacy.

What actions do I think will help couples to improve their relationships the most?  There are two things.  First, is to have a Relationship Repair Counter for your relationship.  More to come in a future blog about having your RRC in tip-top shape!

The second is to build a culture of appreciation.  Showing appreciation and being willing to stretch and grow in the relationship are vital to success.  So, I suggest that at the dinner table or to kick off a date night together Рdo the appreciation and stretching exercise from Imago Couples Therapy!  Each partner takes a turn filling in the first three phrases below to show appreciation, then each partner takes a turn completing the second three phrases below to express how they are stretching in the relationship.


  1.  Something I have have appreciated about you during the last (day, week, weeks) is ……
  2. This was very important to me because …
  3. The way you made me feel is … (express positive emotions such as happy, cared for, loved, accepted, calm, supported).


  1.  One way that I have been trying to grow to improve our relationship during the last (day, week, weeks) is ……
  2. This was a stretch for me because …
  3. The way I felt while I was stretching was … (express emotions such as scared, happy, proud, frustrated, concerned).

Please contact me for more information about Couples and Relationship Therapy


January 2, 2019

What are your visions for the future?
Are you able to visualize and dream about what you can accomplish?
Can you imagine reaching more dreams and goals this year than ever before?
More importantly, do you Believe that you can move forward if you set the right objectives and follow the right path?
If your answer is Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes then we look forward to hearing all about how you are Crushing It in 2019!!!
If not, you might just need some encouragement. All of us can benefit from some goal setting with a therapist.
In fact, the best therapists have had their own therapists to gain insight.  The more goals you want to achieve the more mentors, coaches, and therapists you can benefit from!  I have had several in my own life.
I want YOU to see yourself the way I see you.¬† As someone who can accomplish your goals.¬† With the right help… With Inspiration and Encouragement.
NOW.  WHAT DO YOU SEE??? Visualize, Plan, Get Support, and GO FOR IT!!!
For additional support and encouragement to reach your personal, business, and relationship goals in 2019 go to our Online Scheduling Portal.
Welcome to our New Therapist Associate Terrie Tyrie, LCPC

January 2, 2019

Welcome to our new therapist associate, Terrie W. Tyrie, LCPC.¬† Terrie is available on Wednesdays form 10 am – 8pm at the Laurel office.¬† You can read more about Terrie’s education and areas of expertise on her Personal Page.

Tyra Berger, LGPC has also added additional hours at the Relationship Repair Shop!!!  Tyra will be in the Laurel office on Mondays 9 am Р6 pm, Tuesdays, 5 pm Р8 pm, Wednesdays 10 am Р8 pm, and Saturdays 9 am Р3pm.  She will be at her Waldorf location Thursdays 10 am Р8 pm.

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Dr. Stephanie's Relationship Repair Shop
9660 Iron Leaf Trail Laurel, Maryland 20723
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