Therapy Matters
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Couple Maintenance

By Jennifer Imming, PhD. You wouldn’t think it would be wise to ignore your car, right? Putting gas in the car to get to where you need to go? Regular oil changes? Required state stickers for inspection and registration? You wouldn’t think that children could manage themselves without attention, right? Food. Clothes. Shelter. You wouldn’t think to run your business without regular meetings, evaluations for employees, adjustments to programs you offer, right?

But, all the time I see how couples expect their relationships to run themselves. When I ask the last time a spouse has taken time to review the “business” of their marriage, I am no longer surprised by the answer. People often try to say something about intending to schedule regular “date nights,” and I believe their intentions are good. But, I’m not talking about date nights. They are too infrequent, and too “optional” for folks to manage or even too difficult given typical family circumstances of finding sitters (which cost a fair amount, making the whole idea all the more burdensome to implement regularly).

What am I talking about then? The morning coffee together….most mornings if not every one. The morning walk together….most days if not every day. The evening talk before bed (and after you’ve put the children to bed). A chance to see how your spouse is doing. A chance to see if there are any grievances which require repair between you — before they get too big and create a lasting memory. A chance to check in with what is new in your partner’s life, sometimes emotionally and sometimes practically. Maintenance…of the “business” called your relationship. The person who you chose. The person who you enjoy — or used to when you made time — and can again.

When was the last time YOU sat down with your spouse to see how she or he was doing? To see how well YOU are doing in the relationship as a partner? You can wait until your car engine fails because it ran out of oil, you are stranded by the side of the road with no gas, until a police officer pulls you over because your stickers have expired. You can wait until the job at work is done, the children are grown. But often that will be too long.

Your heart is in the right place of knowing how much you care about your spouse. Your priorities are surely to make time. No need to wait for “date night” to happen. Start a routine where most days allow just a few minutes for a sincere check in — seriously, just a few minutes (maybe ten!). How is your spouse doing? How are you doing? Someone should ask. And, someone should listen. Let’s have that be the two of you.

Dr. Jennifer Imming is in private practice, working with individuals and couples. She practices from a model of therapy, ISTDP (Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy), with the intention of working in an active, focused manner to bring suffering to an end in patients’ lives as rapidly as possible. Dr. Imming values ongoing training to pursue precision in her therapy skills and regularly is involved with international collegial groups for this purpose. She has been active in the community in a number of ways, including being a founding member of the Therapeutic Assessment Institute, participating on several boards, doing presentations, publishing articles, and volunteerism. Personally, she considers herself blessed to have an integrated family of two girls and two boys, who constantly have her laughing and striving to be the best possible model for them.

Jennifer Imming, PhD, Psychologist, 3307 Northland Dr., Ste. 220, Austin, TX 78731, Phone: 512.374.4900. Website:

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