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Power Tools for Couples Liz Carl, LCSW and Barry Carl, CCEP Exceptional Marriage Mentors

The 2nd Edition of Launching the Exceptional Marriage Workbook

Power Tools for Couples Liz Carl, LCSW and Barry Carl, CCEP Exceptional Marriage Mentors

The 2nd Edition of Launching the Exceptional Marriage Workbook

Power Tools for Couples 2nd Edition of Launching the Exceptional Marriage Workbook Š2012. 2013 Liz Carl and Barry Carl Cover photo: Martine De Graaf | Illustrations: Pakmor |, Liquid Library Logo Art: Joan Strauss Carl

Acknowledgements We would like to acknowledge and thank those that helped us in the conception and completion of this workbook. Thanks to Jill Silverman and Morna Flaum for their editorial expertise and help. Thanks to Joan Strauss Carl for contributing her beautiful logo art. We thank Caroline Meyers for her artistic input and sharp editorial eye, for her friendship and moral support and for making this book organized, coherent, and fun to look at. We thank the couples and individuals that helped us find our way, especially Brian and Marcia Gleason, Michael and Marsha Antkies, Neal Brodsky and Judy Gotlieb, Craig Thurtell and Margo Harris, Gerry and Sandie Rumold, Meis Thewissen, Cees VanLoon and Anna Timmermans, Jorge Galindo and Loly Sierra Finke, James Brace and Doug Wirth, Gerard Janson and Jeanneke Kempen, and all the exceptional people that make up our global Exceptional Marriage community. Last, and perhaps most importantly, we’d like to thank each other for all the life experience that went into this volume.

Preface to the Second Edition In writing the first edition of this book, we imagined that most of our audience would be premarital couples. We were wrong. Well, perhaps not wrong, but our vision was too narrow. We discovered, to our surprise, that this book was meaningful and relevant for couples of all varieties in all phases of committed relationship, and that the Power Tools that form the spine of this book can be learned at any point in a couple’s life. We also discovered that the information in this book was meaningful for people in their teens and twenties who are just beginning their investigation of committed relationship. At the other end of the spectrum, our work has shown us that our Power Tools are effective with marriages of many years and even decades. We found out, to our intense delight, that it is indeed never too late to launch your own Exceptional Marriage. We chose “Power Tools for Couples” as the new title after years of watching couples express their helplessness in trying to understand their partners and simultaneously comprehend the mysterious mechanisms that put them in need of our help and guidance. We were struck over and over at couples’ strong and often urgent desire to ‘fix’ whatever was wrong in their relationship, and at their heartbreaking lack of proper tools with which to do the required fixing. Our Power Tools are drawn from the Exceptional Marriage (EM) Method. Learning and using them will restore your sense of competence in relationship and aid you in deciphering the complex, layered communication of relationship, which so often feels hopelessly snarled and messy. We call them Power Tools because they are indeed powerful in the most benign way – they are designed to help couples find that nourishing ‘power with’ each other, rather than fuel a useless, destructive power struggle in which one seeks ‘power over’ another. Working with couples has often led us to examine – and be extremely grateful for – the relationship that we have. We are not a perfect couple, and we’ve never met a perfect couple. Coupledom is both treacherous and wonderful, sometimes simultaneously.

Being part of a committed

relationship, a marriage, is the job of a lifetime, and couples need support. This workbook, along with our personal work with couples and our belief in the model of ‘couples helping couples’, is our heartfelt contribution to everyone who is struggling in a relationship. Power Tools for Couples will help you if you use them. Learning to use them effectively takes time and practice. Practice is what it is – practice – which means that you are not going to get it right all the time, and sometimes not even part of the time. That’s how it is for all of us. We encourage you to keep at it because even though the challenge is at times daunting, the reward is enormous.

Barry and Liz 7-4-2013

Introduction Launching the Exceptional Marriage While watching the liftoff of the space shuttle Challenger one morning, we were struck by the similarity between a rocket launch and launching a marriage. There is a whole lot of commotion at a rocket launching, lots of smoke and flames and fanfare. It’s a big event. What happens next? You’re out in space with no gravity to tell you which way is up and which is down. We believe that it doesn’t have to be like that following the launching of an Exceptional Marriage – and event that can, ironically, take place at any point in the life of a relationship. Research has shown that couples who have some basic training have a much better chance of staying together in a mutually fulfilling relationship. More importantly, learning some basic skills will support and guide your growth both as individuals and as a couple through this intense and rewarding journey. Living as a committed couple presents partners with some of life’s most profound and challenging growth opportunities. The possibilities for emotional, intellectual, and spiritual connection and expansion exist within any given moment in the matrix of the long-term committed relationship. It can be wonderful and fierce, blissful and scary, wondrous and messy unknown territory. While there seem to be support networks for lots of other groups facing life’s many challenges, there is little support for couples that are struggling in their process. We are working to change that, one couple at a time. We are Exceptional Marriage Mentors. We work as a couple with couples. There is a natural balance in this configuration that lets both partners be seen, heard and represented. We believe in the concept of “couples helping couples.” We believe in it because we have seen it work over and over again. We are also trained and certified Core Energetics Practitioners, and the EM approach borrows heavily from Core Energetics, a psychotherapeutic modality that pays attention to the body as well as the mind, emotions, and spirit. In working with this book, you are invited into the dynamic, evolving world of embodied psychotherapy. Nobody lives solely from the neck up, and embodied techniques – i.e. techniques that involve the body – aid us in becoming more emotionally expansive and fully alive in the moment. In a very real sense, they help us to ‘put more life in our life.’ As a married couple of almost 30 years, we welcome you all to the wonderful, challenging

world of shared dreams, hopes and experiences that form both the incentive for and the ultimate fulfillment of life together. Most of us begin with lofty hopes and expectations, many of which soon become mired in the reality of the day-to-day stress that acts upon love much as water and wind erode solid rock. Our work with couples often causes us to remember our beginnings; when we met, how surprising and exciting it was to finally find another soul with whom we could share our lives. In the beginning, and for a long time thereafter, we didn’t really know what we were doing. Even though we were overjoyed to be together we didn’t have a clue. We had watched and taken our cues from other couples, most notably our parents, yet we frequently felt lost, confused, angry, and shaken when conflicts and trials arose. We kept on hoping, perhaps illogically, that our love for each other would get us through the worst of our fights, follies, and foibles. And it did. Barely. We needed help at various critical junctures when life threw us some real curves. It took a hefty chunk of years, many misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and people who knew way more than we did about relationship. Along the way we found ourselves at opposite ends of a number of couples counselors’ couches. With their help we finally learned to respect each other as individuals, acknowledge our personal responsibility, and to cherish each other and the partnership that we had forged. In retrospect, it would have been an excellent idea to have gotten some practical knowledge and the ability to apply it before we jumped in with both feet. It certainly would have saved us much needless stress, pain and grief. Like many newly minted couples, we had to test the limits of our arrogance before we could accept that love wouldn’t conquer all, and that we didn’t, after all, know everything we needed to know about marriage. This volume focuses on providing you with practical, usable tools that will serve you in your relationship, whether you are in the first rush of love and discovery or you have been in a long-term committed relationship for years. These tools are techniques and practices that can be put to use now and every day of your partnership. The basic tools we present are Being Present, Handling Survival Mode, Emotional Layering Awareness, and Generating Compassion. If used consistently and consciously, they will help guide you to greater fulfillment at any stage of relationship. These tools will not relieve you of challenges in your relationship. They will, however, help you grow constructively through the challenges that life inevitably brings to you, bidden or unbidden. It’s a lifetime practice. As a couple we employ these tools regularly. We practice being present with ourselves and each other. We work constantly on managing our own anxieties and tolerating each other’s.

We remember to be aware of the emotional story underneath the current drama we are having with each other, and we make a point of expressing true appreciation for each other often. These tools are relevant, applicable and useful for all couples in committed relationships. Heterosexual and same-sex couples can equally benefit from their use. While we acknowledge that there are some differences between hetero and same-sex couples’ issues, and we honor those differences, it’s the dynamics of relationship that are identical. Our work brings us both hetero and same-sex couples, and our experience has shown us that these tools are for everyone. The urge to pair up is human. Recent brain research indicates that being in a fulfilling committed relationship can keep one healthier in both body and mind. Staying in a committed relationship is the challenge of a lifetime. In America, statistics give you a roughly fifty-fifty shot at a lasting relationship. We have all seen lots of terrible marriages and even worse divorces. And yet people keep on getting married! We keep on going for it. Why? Because the possibility of an Exceptional Marriage is one of humankind’s deepest longings. It is a very real possibility, and it’s also a lot of work, but that’s the price for ‘the ride of your life.’ The vital concepts we present here are from the Exceptional Marriage approach, created by our dear friends, colleagues and mentors Brian and Marcia Gleason, LCSWs. They originated the Exceptional Marriage (EM) approach and have been teaching it to couples for the last decade both in the US and internationally. They are the authors of the books Going All the Way, The Heart and Soul of the Exceptional Marriage, and Exceptional Relationships; Transformation Through Embodied Couples Work. Their thoughts and words are the heart and soul of this workbook, and we gratefully include herein many quotes from Going All the Way. Our greatest hope is that you find within this workbook the essential elements for launching your own Exceptional Marriage; a relationship that supports your individual growth as human beings and also allows you the most profound and meaningful connection that two people can share in this life. Liz and Barry Carl Exceptional Marriage Mentors Note: Throughout this book we use the terms marriage and committed relationship interchangeably. We do the same with the words mate, partner, and spouse.

CONTENTS Acknowledgements Preface to the 2nd Edition Introduction

LAUNCHING THE EXCEPTIONAL MARRIAGE TOOLS TOOL 1: Revealing One’s Self: An Act of Kindness ......................... 12

Understanding, Listening To and Using your Body Signals

Checking In with Yourself

Checking It Out with Your Mate

An Act of Kindness: Revealing One’s Self

TOOL 2: Handling Survival Mode....................................................... 20

Recognizing and Moving Beyond Survival Mode

Breathing and Grounding

Showing Up for Your Partner

Intimacy vs Autonomy

TOOL 3: Emotional Layering Awareness............................................ 30

Recognizing and Releasing Blame

Using Absolutes Can Kill Communication

No First Cause

Moving From Defended to Vulnerable

Expressing Primary Restorative Feelings

TOOL 4: Generating Compassion........................................................ 40

The 80/20 Principle

Danger! Expectations!

The Universal Fear of Abandonment

Apology and Forgiveness

Gratitude and Appreciation

LET’S TALK ABOUT (EXCEPTIONAL) SEX...................................................... 51 The FOUR STAGES LEADING TO THE EXCEPTIONAL MARRIAGE.................. 59 Last Thoughts......................................................................................... 63 Meet Liz and barry Carl......................................................................... 65

How to Use this Workbook At the end of each Tool Chapter, there are a series of exercises designed to help you and your partner become familiar with the Tool and how to apply it in your relationship. We strongly recommend that you go through each exercise, as we feel that it isn’t sufficient to simply read and digest the material. Until you begin to work with and apply the Tools, they are merely theory. The results you desire will only begin to show up when you turn theory into action. We also encourage you to return to the exercises when you feel the need to center yourselves or when you find yourselves at a seeming emotional impasse. To this end, we recommend that you be thoughtful about WHEN to share your work with your partner. Throughout the workbook, you will note the triangle sign with the exclamation point inside. The purpose of this symbol is to alert you to approach the sharing of the related exercise with care and consciousness because you are dealing with issues that require


patience, compassion, and the ability to be present. If you do not feel that you can access those qualities in the moment, or if you sense that the energy field that you share with your partner is filled with tension and anxiety, it may not be the best time to attempt to work on vulnerable issues or deeper personal material. In those moments, the wisest choice may be to defer sharing until a time when you both feel more relaxed and receptive to each other. Use the Tool 1 technique -Checking In With Yourself – as preparation for sharing exercises. Ask yourself whether you are feeling open to sharing. If your answer to that question is yes, go on to ask yourself if you can you also be grounded and focused enough to listen and have compassion for your partner. You must also ask yourself if you are grounded enough in the moment to not react with hostility if your mate isn’t ready to talk when you are. If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, we recommend that you then ask your partner something like, “Are you open to my sharing one of the Power Tools exercises with you? Is this a good time or can we find another time?”

How To Use This Workbook


The Four Stages Leading to the Exceptional Marriage “The committed relationship must be open to change and discovery in order to thrive.” – Brian and Marcia Gleason

In the EM (Exceptional Marriage) Model, couples that commit to a long term relationship travel through four distinct developmental phases. They are called: The Eros Stage, The Control Stage, and The Transition Stage, all leading to an Exceptional Marriage. 1. THE EROS STAGE • “Everything is right with the world” infatuation • Drama and fanfare around the new found love • One feels insatiably consumed with their partner • Dopamine and Norepinephrine are rushing into the bloodstream • Eros incites unchained romantic love – often combined with high lust • Eros pushes us to act beyond our “comfort zone” insecurities • We recognize the other’s Higher Self and are a mirror of that for them

“Everything is right with the world” infatuation

The Eros Stage is a very unique time in any relationship. Its chief characteristic is the experience of falling in love. Partners in the Eros Stage feel more alive, full of wonder and curiosity about each other and passionate toward

life. The neuro-hormone DOPAMINE and the neurotransmitter NOREPINEPHRINE infuse the brain with a sense of expansiveness and partners in the Eros Stage tend to move beyond the boundaries of their emotional comfort zones. It appears that the Eros Stage is Mother Nature’s trick to get people together. There is a two-dimensional quality to the Eros phase, since partners see each other in the rosy glow of new love and are often blind to each other’s faults.


Launching the Exceptional Marriage

2. THE SECURITY STAGE The chemicals that fuel the Eros stage begin to diminish and a different existence emerges that features the hormone Ocytocin (the “cuddle” chemical) which is associated with contentment. Couples bond and often slip into patterns of safety and harmony, qualities that become more important than the possibility of enchantment. • Partners begin to see each other more three-dimensionally. • Secure attachment is primary (but not the ultimate purpose of long-term commitment). • Unconscious patterns develop. Sometimes the primary feelings of anger, hurt, fear or sadness are repressed in order to maintain the stability of the relationship. • Couples in the Security Stage may become conflict-avoidant and play the Blame Game. • Many marriages remain in the Security Stage for the entire length of the relationship. • Control Stage couples settle into familiar control patterns of emotional avoidance with one another. Control Patterns Over time relationships develop blocks that are analogous to the emotional blocks in the individual. We call these blocks Control Patterns. As the first heady rush of romance inevitably ebbs, it is gradually filled in with old and new habits, patterns, habitual ways of relating to one another, and numerous erroneous mutual assumptions. Most couples then settle into a

Control Patterns tend to create Patterns tend to create “dead zones” in a marriage – areas that, by mutual unspoken consent, “dead zones” are avoided or ignored in a misguided attempt to create feelings of comfort and safety. in a marriage When a couple ignores uncomfortable feelings and circumstances that need to be addressed, controlled, semi-secure life together, or what we might call an Acceptable Marriage. Control

these “dead zones” gradually drain the life, honesty, immediacy, freshness, excitement, and spiritual possibility from a relationship. This phase can last for the entire life of the relationship and can lead to bitterness, dissatisfaction, withdrawal, acting out, and possible dissolution of the partnership. The Security/Control Stage shifts when one or both partners begin to desire more life in their relationship, which usually precipitates a crisis that marks the onset of the Transition Stage. 3. TRANSITION STAGE • Integrity of relationship is challenged either by outer circumstances or a call for change from within the relationship • An often powerful, frightening, yet promising time for couples • Transition Stage energy is rife with discomfort and experienced as a crisis

The Four Stages Leading to the Exceptional Marriage


• This stage can be a catalyst for new beginnings • When we are able to challenge our own and each other’s myths, passion is rekindled • Admitting that we can and have hurt each other has the paradoxical effect of making us aware of how much our partners matter to us. The Transition Stage requires change of some kind. Sometimes partners choose to end their relationship, but the most positive outcome of the Transition Stage is the Exceptional Marriage. 4. THE EXCEPTIONAL MARRIAGE Little glimpses of it appear every time the couple gets through a tough spot and triumphs. Ultimately, the couple understands and lives by the characteristics of: • Unpredictability. Regularly appreciate our partner for the complex being he/she is. • Commitment. Recognition that we are more complete as individuals within the embrace of our relationship. • Mature Need. When couples are able to see each other in truth (not idealizing nor demonizing), they are then open to feeling mature need which understands and appreciates how much our partner enriches our life.

“With you, I am capable of so much more than without you.”

• Strength. Stems from growing maturity of each partner, the trust in the relationship’s integrity and resilience to be able to speak the truth. • Exceptional Sex. Sex grows into something more authentic, more real, more connected.

• Spirit. The quotient of aliveness that is experienced individually and together. For a more expanded and detailed explanation of the Four Stages of Marriage, read Going All the Way: The Heart and Soul of the Exceptional Marriage by Brian and Marcia Gleason.


Launching the Exceptional Marriage


“Going all the Way” Level 2 workshops After a couple has completed the EM Level I workshop and become acquainted with the Tools in this book and wishes to take the work to the next level, they are eligible to take the EM Level 2 Workshop, available in classes taught around the world and on-line. In the Level 2 Workshop, Certified Exceptional Marriage Mentors teach couples how to work using The Full Self Expression Process. FSE is used by Mentors in both group settings and in private sessions with couples. The Full Self Expression process enables a couple to dive deeper into the vital core of their relationship. The process follows the arc of feeling, beginning with the most closed, defended feelings and ending with the most open, expansive ones. The steps in the Full Self Expression Process are: •

Acknowledging Blame and Judgement

Owning Childhood Needs and Demands

Exploring Destructive “Lower Self” Anger

Resistance to Primary Feelings and Needs

Expressing Self-Affirming Anger

Dealing with the Fear of Abandonment and Rejection

Allowing expression of Hurt, Sadness and Grief

Expressing Remorse and Empathy

Opening to Mature Need and Longing

Delivering Gratitude, Appreciation and Pure Love

With training, guidance and practice, couples develop the ability to move through their confusing and hurtful interactions using the Full Self Expression Process, which is the centerpiece of the Exceptional Marriage approach. It is a powerful tool that brings partners back to themselves and to each other and restores vitality and life to relationship through the use of highly effective Embodied Couples techniques that work directly with the body. This process takes couples to a place in which both partners feel heard, seen and loved. Visit:

The Four Stages Leading to the Exceptional Marriage


Where can we go from here? After You have completed the EM Level I Workshop and become acquainted with the Tools in this book and wish to take the work to the next level, you and your spouse/partner are eligible to take the Exceptional Marriage Level II Workshop, available in classes taught around the world and on-line. In the Level II Workshop, Certified Exceptional Marriage Mentors teach couples how to work using the Full Self-Expression Process. Full Self Expression is used by Exceptional Marriage Mentors in both group settings and in private sessions with couples. This process enables you to dive deeper into the vital core of your relationship. The Full Self-Expression Process follows the arc of feeling, beginning with the most closed, defended feelings, and ending with the most open, expansive ones. The steps in the Full Self-Expression Process are Blame and Judgement Childhood needs and demands Detructive “Lower Self” anger Resistance to Primary feelings and need Self Affirming Anger Fear of Abandonment or rejection Hurt, Sadness or grief Remorse and empathy Mature need and longing Gratitude, appreciation and pure love With training, guidance, and practice, together you develop the ability to move through your confusing or hurtful interactions using the Full Self-Expression Process, which is the centerpiece of the Exceptional Marriage approach. It’s a powerful tool that brings partners back to themselves and to each other, and restores vitality and life to relationship. For more information on the Going All the Way Level 1 and Level 2 workshops, visit:

Last thoughts This workbook is an introduction to the range of possibilities for a couple desiring to be an Exceptional Couple and in an Exceptional Marriage. It is an adjunct to the Exceptional marriage Level I training and is also a reference for couples that are new to embodied therapy and the EM approach. We hope that the ideas contained in this book might plant seeds in your mind and maybe more importantly, in your body, that become manifest over time. May yours be a relationship that serves to help you both realize the highest and best in yourselves, and one that brings the gifts of your union to a world that needs all the help it can get. It is our deepest desire that your relationship be an Exceptional Marriage. – Liz and Barry Carl

Last Thoughts


Meet Liz and Barry Liz and Barry Carl celebrate 29 years of marriage in 2013. They have worked as a team from the very beginning. They have performed together, coached actors and singers, directed, produced, taught and parented together. In 2005, they teamed up as Exceptional Marriage Mentors with the goal of being a couple helping couples. It has proven to be a wonderful creative endeavor that has also enriched their marriage. They have taught the Exceptional Marriage method in the U.S., Mexico and Holland. While there seem to be support networks for lots of other groups facing life’s challenges, there is not enough support for couples that are struggling in their process. Sensing this need, Liz and Barry founded the “Power Tools for Couples” Seminars and counseling services. 917-863-1950

Elizabeth S. Carl, LCSW, CCEP, EMM

has worked as a psychotherapist

since 1988 with individuals, couples and groups. She is also a supervisor and senior faculty member of the Institute of Core Energetics New York. She teaches body psychotherapy at Core Energetic Institutes in the US and Europe. For more information about Liz visit Contact Liz at: 917-972-8260

Barry Carl, CCEP is a Certified Core Energetic Practitioner, Exceptional Marriage Mentor (EMM), a 4th Degree Reiki Master and a body worker. He has also worked in the performing arts most of his life. He has a private practice in West Nyack, NY and Manhattan. Besides working with individuals and couples, Barry co-leads groups for couples with Liz, and co-leads Men’s Workshops and Process Groups. He is on the teaching faculty of Nyack Core. Contact Barry at: 917-863-1950 For more information about Core Energetics visit

Meet Liz And Barry


Liz and Barry Carl offer Ongoing Support Services for Committed Couples “Couples Helping Couples” IN PERSON AND ONLINE • Private relationship and marriage counseling sessions at our West Nyack, NY and Manhattan offices or with Skype • Private premarital counseling sessions in person or with Skype • Discernment Counseling: Short term counseling to help a couple decide the future of their relationship • Couples support and process groups • Private intensives and marathons for couples • Level I Exceptional Marriage workshops • Workshops on various couples themes such as sexuality, money issues, conflicting parenting styles and dealing with loss together • Counseling for heterosexual and same- sex couples

Order a copy of “Power Tools for Couples” workbook Power Tools for Couples—the 2nd Edition of the Launching the Exceptional Marriage Workbook—is a clear and accessible book of Tools that every couple in every stage of relationship can use. Explanations, anecdotes and exercises are included to help you and your partner gain the knowledge and practice of Being Present for each other and Handling Survival Mode when it inevitably appears in your relationship. The four Level 1 Tools also include techniques that develop awareness of the layers of emotion, experience and intention that couples crave to express but often feel so helpless to know how. Power Tools for Couples teaches effective methods to Generate Compassion into your relationship. These Power Tools are invaluable in building any romantic relationship. For couples who have been together for a while and either find themselves in crisis or flatness, Power Tools for Couples offers invaluable keys on how to stay together and live fully and joyfully together. To purchase, email Barry Carl at info@powertoolsforcouples. (GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE.)

Learn More About Exceptional Marriage Mentoring. Brian and Marcia Gleason’s evocative approach to relationships. The idea behind the Exceptional Marriage Mentoring (EMM) approach by Brian and Marcia Gleason, LCSWs, is that the long term relationship is essentially a wisdom path. The committed relationship offers each person a golden opportunity to evolve emotionally, spiritually and socially through the tempest of full emotional contact. The Gleasons, who have been in a committed relationship for over 35 years, have developed this rich, highly evocative approach to working with couples. They are living proof that love can deepen and passion can flourish in a long-term committed relationship. They offer these seminars and training programs. Exceptional Marriage Mentoring. Private sessions with Brian and Marcia. Exceptional Marriage Mentoring Intensives. Private extended sessions from three hours to a full day or weekend. “Going All the Way” Workshops Level I and Level 2. “The Full Self Expression Process.” Small groups of couples (up to eight) work together for a weekend EMM Training program Level 1 and Level 2. A training program for therapists and couples who want to offer EMM to other couples. Their book EXCEPTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS: Transformation Through Embodied Couples Work is used. The Gleasons have also authored Going All the Way: The Heart and Soul of the Exceptional Marriage, a book and audio CD for couples. To order either book, visit To order the audio CD visit

Power Tools for Couples 2nd edition - Preview  

Sample pages from Power Tools for Couples a relationship workbook by Liz Carl LCSW and Barry Carl CCEP, based on precepts from Exceptional M...

Power Tools for Couples 2nd edition - Preview  

Sample pages from Power Tools for Couples a relationship workbook by Liz Carl LCSW and Barry Carl CCEP, based on precepts from Exceptional M...