We know that you’re probably distressed and maybe even in deep pain about your marriage, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
Our heart goes out to you because we’ve been where you are now.
Along our path we’ve discovered what it takes to overcome the crippling effects of negativity and conflict to raise our marriage to a level of authenticity based on mutual respect, appreciation and love.
And based on our experience and studies, we’ve together provided over 30,000 troubled spouses and couples with marriage-saving, effective advice and expert relationship coaching.
We’ve been gratified that in many of those cases our readers and clients reversed the slide toward separation and divorce. Numerous of these have written us grateful letters of thanks (read some of the testimonials).
And sometimes they were even able to discover in their marriage a level of intimacy and happiness that they had never known before.
Getting to Know Nancy Wasson, Ph.D., Marriage Coach and Relationship Expert
Why do you think you could help save my marriage?
First off, I’ve been where you probably are right now emotionally—hurt, angry, confused or frustrated with your spouse and afraid of losing your marriage.
Because of that, I feel a deep empathy for you if you’re going through a marriage crisis. And I want to help you avoid some of the mistakes that either I made, or that I’ve seen many of my clients make over the past 20 plus years of my marriage coaching practice.
My story and my experience of marital failure and finally of success qualifies me to help you. Because the wisdom I’ll share with you will help you far more than just my academic and professional credentials (which I’ll describe more later).
What I teach is not about digging into your past or about some academic theories. It’s about practical change that works in many cases to totally transform your marriage.
I know. Because it’s worked in my marriage and for countless individuals and couples who I’ve coached over the years.
Why are you so passionate about helping couples save their marriage?
Because I know what it feels like to have dreams of a happy marriage dashed to pieces and to go through the devastating process of divorce.
I remember very vividly what it is like to feel so ashamed and in such emotional pain, feeling hopeless, helpless, and in despair.
It is crushing. I didn’t have the right guidance to help me navigate this unexpected journey—but I want others to have the guidance that I didn’t have.
Due to my own painful experiences, I now have a passion for helping individuals and couples around the world avoid divorce. I’m committed to helping them explore all their options for improving and saving their marriage.
And I enjoy helping others find creative solutions that make a real, lasting difference in their relationship. It’s all about seeing what’s possible when at least one partner is making a sincere, committed, consistent effort.
Was there a defining moment for you when you were unhappy?
Looking back now, I can recognize that I often lacked adequate insight into myself or my previous relationships. I didn’t have the self-awareness to fully recognize my part in disagreements or conflicts—it was just easier to blame my partner.
I wasn’t ready yet (and didn’t know the importance of doing this) to hold up the mirror and look closely at myself and how I was contributing to the marriage.
At one point in time, in a previous marriage, I was very stuck in anger, blame, and resentment. I remember one specific incident that stands out to me now very vividly.
I was standing in the bedroom with a jar of Vaseline in my hand and my husband at the time said something that made me really angry. In response, I threw the jar of Vaseline as hard as I could at the bedroom wall.
The jar broke, and the gooey Vaseline oozed down the beautifully painted teal wall—and left a greasy, ugly stain that never would come out.
I remember thinking and saying to myself, “If only he would change”—and I had a list of changes I wanted to see that I would recite to myself.
I also blamed him for my anger and didn’t realize that I needed to be looking at myself more closely to see what I needed to be doing differently.
It’s much easier to blame your spouse than it is to take responsibility for your own actions and attitudes—just like it was easier for me to say my former spouse “made me angry” than for me to take responsibility for my anger and reactions.
And because I was also a counselor, I felt a huge sense of shame in having “failed” at marriage. For awhile, I felt that I didn’t even have the right to counsel anyone else if I couldn’t make my own marriage work. Yes, I felt like a fraud!
What led to the changes you made in yourself?
Before meeting my husband Lee, I had been married before. It wasn’t until 11 years between the end of my first marriage and marrying Lee that I did the serious work on myself that it took to make significant changes in my attitude and behavior.
I invested in a significant amount of deep individual therapy with a quality, top-rate therapist (over a period of years) and made a firm commitment to work on myself. I read lots of spiritual, psychology, and relationship books and participated in numerous seminars and experiential workshops. All of this pushed me further into self-growth.
Also, I kept a daily journal and started analyzing my behavior and looking at what outside events were bringing up in me—not to blame anyone else but to understand myself better.
This started me on the journey I’m still on today, focusing on how I need to change by minimizing anger, blame, and resentment and working to become the kind of partner I’d like to have.
It also led to new profound work on forgiveness—of myself and others.
And then you met Lee?
By the time Lee and I met, we had each worked on ourselves and learned to take responsibility for our own actions.
If there was an emotional “pile of trash” to wade through, we each had our own broom. With honesty and openness, we learned to sweep what was “ours” to our own corner of the room where we could deal with it.
Over time, as we practiced handling events that happened in a new and healthier way, we realized that we had developed a specific set of tactics and strategies that were more effective than ever before.
And as I worked with individuals and couples in counseling sessions, I found that, based on my own painful experiences and subsequent growth, I had more insights and guidance than ever to contribute to them.
My professional training was still vitally important, as well as what I had learned from years of working with individuals and couples. But the real heart of my work developed out of my own experiences of emotional wounding, lack of success in marriage, and the road of learning and discovery that I followed afterwards.
What is your professional training and background?
I have a M.Ed. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. For more than twenty years I practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). In 2011, I retired my counselor license and am now providing services as a marriage coach and consultant.
This change reflects more accurately where I am currently and the kind of present-focused work I do now in working with individuals and couples. It’s important to know the key points from the past, but the goal is to determine the best course of action in the present moment and how to accomplish that.
Many individuals have a negative concept of counseling and don’t want to get into a situation where the main emphasis is on the past marriage problems.
For this reason, the model of coaching and consulting can be a more inviting and action-oriented framework. And it yields powerful results.
What kind of help do you offer in saving marriages?
I offer individual and couples marriage coaching and consulting by phone. While I do work with couples, actually the majority of my work is with individuals who want to save their marriage.
Their marriage may be in current crisis, or they may be worried that things are on the verge of falling apart. It’s not unusual for their partner to refuse any coaching or counseling. Or maybe they go for counseling several times, and then it all falls apart.
Sometimes the partner has already left or said they want a separation or divorce. At other times, the partner has announced that the feelings of romantic love are gone and they’re not sure if they want to stay in the marriage.
In situations like this, I make individualized recommendations in the telephone sessions we do together. The spouses who contact me want to know that they are doing everything they possibly can to rescue and fix the situation. They want a plan of action that increases their chances of success.
And that’s my goal—to give them the specific help, support, and encouragement they need to have the best chance possible to save their marriage and create a healthy, satisfying relationship.
In addition, my husband Lee and I co-authored the book Keep Your Marriage: What To Do When Your Spouse Says “I don’t love you anymore!” It is designed to give you immediate help in handling the marriage crisis, buying time, avoiding blunders that could cost you your marriage, and step-by-step advice for saving your marriage.
What type of person benefits the most from coaching with you?
My ideal clients are individuals who are ready to take responsibility, to become more self-aware, and who are open to growth and working on themselves.
Also, the chances for success are increased if the individual is open to considering new ideas and methods and is willing to try different approaches in their marriage.
There’s a saying that “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This has certainly been true in my life, and it is at the core of my belief that we are here to learn various lessons and to grow from the experiences.
Of course, you can always decline the opportunity to grow, but then life has a way of serving you a repeat opportunity at a later date!
Every experience is an opportunity to stretch and grow and learn in some way—and every experience that appears negative actually has some positives hidden beneath the surface, to be discovered and explored.
I work especially well with individuals and couples who are ready to see the bigger picture and delve deeper into their own personal growth and development.
Are there any clients you have difficulty in working with?
It’s difficult to make progress if you’re a chronic skeptic or chronic whiner. Also, if you’re not open to new perspectives and learning and growing from your experiences, you won’t be likely to benefit.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s crucial to be able to accept responsibility for your own actions and not be focused on blaming your partner for everything. If you’re invested in hanging onto your anger, resentment, and bitterness and keeping your focus there, you won’t be able to move forward in a positive direction.
There’s another type of personality that doesn’t do well in coaching, and that’s the “Yes, but” person. In this scenario, anything a coach suggests is met with resistance and a reason why the idea won’t work. So it’s a no-win situation for everyone.
What if my spouse isn’t willing to work on the marriage with me?
Then you work on yourself, knowing that small changes can lead to big changes in a relationship. Just the smallest shift in direction can change the course of the relationship and the outcome.
If your partner is resistant and reluctant or unwilling to work on the marriage, that’s all the more reason for you to develop more effective relationship skills.
One of the things we’re not taught in school is how to build and maintain emotional intimacy and connection. Or how to handle anger, confrontation, and resentment without destroying a relationship. And these are crucial skills to master. We’re not born with these skills—but they can be learned and developed.
It’s also important to realize that the only behavior we can control and change is our own. We can’t make another person change.
The wisdom of the “Serenity Prayer” guides my work:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
What are some of your favorite quotes about marriage?
Here are three of my favorites. They also sum up my beliefs about what creates a strong marriage:
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin
“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – Ruth Bell Graham
“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
– Dave Meurer
Getting to Know Lee Hefner,
What gives you credibility for helping troubled marriages?
Because I’ve been where a lot of our subscribers are coming from, I know what a marriage going downhill feels like.
And I know that for Nancy and me, the key to our marriage’s success has been not one big turnaround, but a series of small turnarounds.
Every marriage has conflict, and when that happens, the marriage at that moment is going downhill. The trick is to immediately stop the downward progress and change the direction back toward harmony and emotional intimacy.
This is where Nancy and I are experts, and it’s how we help couples have good marriages.
What led to your career of helping couples save their marriage?
At the lowest point in my life, my first marriage unraveled and my wife at that time and I separated. The split was the sad result of nine years of my avoiding conflict with my partner while pressure inside of me grew to the point of rupturing the marriage.
Like many hurt spouses, I was full of anger and blamed my mate for the situation that finally let to divorce. I have since discovered that many marriages like mine end with control issues as a root cause.
It was some time later before I fully understood how my addiction to alcohol had been a symptom of a deeper issue—my lack of courage to face my problems and take responsibility for having the life I want.
Long story short—I entered treatment and had an amazing personal transformation that turned my entire life around. I started dating Nancy, who’d been through massive changes herself.
We realized that we’d each formulated our own “recipes” for having a wonderful relationship and that together we could help other couples build healthy relationships.
Why do you think your book and other products could help me rebuild my marriage?
I think the testimonials that Nancy and I have received demonstrate how effective our methods are in helping rebuild marriages.
I know what it’s like to be in a failing marriage because I didn’t know what to do to stop my first marriage from ending.
It took me some years afterwards to gain insight into myself and my own behavior. That was when I realized that I well might have saved my first marriage had I known what I now know.
When I met and eventually married Nancy, I learned through personal experience how to have a successful relationship. The principles Nancy and I have developed have helped countless clients and subscribers avoid divorce.
There was a period after my divorce when I sank into depression and continued even more heavily to abuse alcohol to drown out my negative feelings about my marriage and the experience around it.
A defining moment was when I decided to do whatever it took to overcome my addiction to alcohol. That was a day when I had a chance conversation with a friend of mine who happened to be a doctor.
I told him some of the things that had happened to me and he suggested that I check into a nearby alcohol and drug treatment program.
That day, I had a small glimpse of a part of myself that I had forgotten, a part of me who was empowered and in charge of my own life.
I entered the treatment program and regained my direction toward my true path.
That was the beginning of a spiritual path that led me to my soul mate, Nancy.
What insight helped you change the direction of your life?
Some people repeat the same mistakes over and over again in serial relationships. They never realize that their own thoughts and behavior create many of the problems in one failed relationship after another.
I was fortunate. I’ve been able to gain a great deal of clarity and insight into many things that I was doing that hurt my first marriage. I’ve been able to reevaluate my own thinking and how I act in situations with my current wife Nancy.
You might say that my marriage is my relationship laboratory. Whenever Nancy and I are out of harmony (which is not that often), that is my opportunity to watch myself and observe my emotional reactions.
So the key to me changing the direction of my life was a series of realizations that led me in small steps to self transformation.
What can you say about control issues in a relationship?
Since I’ve experienced first hand the dynamics of control issues in a relationship, I know how it feels to feel trapped and stuck in unhealthy behavior with a mate.
I’ve been like many spouses who think they’re doing the right thing by not rocking the boat in the marriage by provoking conflict. In these cases, a passive partner like I was maintains an outer calm, all the while denying the growing body of resentment and frustration that leads to an explosion and rips the relationship apart.
When my marriage finally did blow up, I thought I was angry at my partner, but I was really angry at myself for not standing up and being true to myself.
In short, rather than face the unpleasant feelings of anger and confrontation, I had taken the seemingly easier way of avoiding conflict. But unfortunately, by giving in to the path of least resistance instead of working through issues with my spouse, I avoided learning my part in creating a successful marriage.
I had lost touch with who I was and instead had tried to be someone who I thought that my wife would like. And so for nine years, the pressure in maintaining this artificial facade had built up inside me, until at some point I could no longer hold it in.
I’ve since learned that many couples split up over control issues. And usually both spouses contribute to the failure of their relationship in some way.
What have you learned about making choices and growing as a person?
I’ve learned that instead of placing all the blame on the person I’m with, I’m responsible for how I react and if I choose my reactions carefully, I can guide the outcome that I want.
Relationship is THE arena of spiritual growth. That’s because any relationship (especially a marriage) comes with a certain amount of adversity. And some adversity is paradoxically the path to happiness in a relationship, because conflict can be the catalyst for self growth and therefore of self fulfillment.
In my writing, I guide people in building their relationship through self growth. I’ve learned how to avoid doing what tears down a relationship and to do what strengthens it. This is what I teach.
What are your qualifications and background?
My background is in engineering, but life led me to an interest in relationships.
Then Nancy and I wrote a book called Keep Your Marriage™ What to Do When Your Spouse Says “I don’t love you anymore!” It was first published in 2004 and has been updated since then.
The book has been downloaded over 30,000 times by our customers and is a core part of our Keep Your Marriage™ System. I’ve also written numerous articles on relationships, in addition to being interviewed on radio stations across the U.S.
In addition, I’ve been writing about relationships for over 10 years, starting with the first book I wrote with Nancy, called Divorced Dads: 101 Ways to Stay Connected with Your Kids, published in 2002, which won national book awards from the Publishers Marketing Association and from Writers’ Digest.
How have addictions played a part in your helping couples?
My own experience with alcoholism for the first decades of my adult life and with recovery, has given me insight in understanding how addictions can affect relationships.
Addictions are a root cause in many of the divorces that take place. The lessons I’ve learned during my ongoing recovery from alcoholism have been key to becoming the person I now am.
Every kind of addiction is an attempt to escape from the present moment. People are afraid of the freedom they have to become self realized.
Back when I was newly sober, I started reading everything I could about self-transformation. I went to therapy; I was in a support group. In short, using small steps consistently over a period of time, I changed myself radically.
In my writing, I use 12-step principles, like taking small steps one day at a time. I know that my history with addiction has surprisingly been a blessing, since my recovery from it has helped greatly in changing me into the person today who can help others with addiction issues.
How has financial hardship impacted the message you take to people?
After 9/11, the economy took a plunge and, due to a series of events, Nancy and I were facing financial ruin. Over a period of several years following, we actually used the experience to become stronger as a couple.
In that difficult time, the Universe brought many surprises and upsets. We prayed a lot together. That’s another thing that bonded us together—our spiritual connection, which grew stronger as the challenges mounted.
In the middle of this economic crisis, we became soul mates—a unified front against all the obstacles in our path. We always said, “There’s a reason this is happening to us. We will survive this crisis against all odds and be able to share our story to help others who are struggling against circumstances beyond their control.”
What do you offer to couples having marital issues?
Mostly I write based on my own insights, observations and direct experiences about relationships and how couples can live in harmony more of the time.
What makes me happiest is when I can help a spouse or a couple stop doing the things that tear apart the relationship and start behaving in a way that builds it.
In doing this, I’m sharing a gift that I’ve enjoyed myself for some years now. That is the insight that I’ve acquired in what it takes to have a good marriage.
What experience do you have searching for a soul mate?
Much of my life, I was afraid of true intimacy that comes from the honest sharing of deep emotions. Consequently, my relationship with women suffered as a result until I made a fundamental shift in my thinking.
Sadly, my first wife had to endure some of my emotional limitations until we split up. It wasn’t until I made the decision to check myself into an alcohol abuse treatment center that meaningful changes began to transform the results I was getting in my life.
Flash forward some years. I met my current wife Nancy, who had also been married before and had suffered two painful divorces.
We had each independently made a conscious decision to avoid mistakes of the past and to work on ourselves in order to develop what has become our guiding philosophy.
And it was this attention to self growth that set the stage for each of us to be ready to find a soul mate.
What can you say about someone who has failed at relationships?
Nancy and I have proven that two people who failed in marriage could learn new relationship skills and could have a soul-mate relationship. We have shown that you can learn to love, honor, trust, respect and have a passionate relationship with a soul mate, even if you’ve failed in a relationship before.
If I had known in my first marriage what I know now, I would have had a much better chance of staying married and having a quality relationship. And due to my early experience of failure in marriage and then success, I have a passion for sharing what I’ve learned so that others who are suffering in troubled marriages may get relief.
I believe that small steps can lead to big changes. And when spouses realize that all they have to do is make small changes on a consistent basis, their success in marriage becomes believable and therefore achievable.