Charlene Conley
1212 High Street
Auburn, CA 95603

(530) 889-1476


Lic # 12607

Charlene Conley, MSW, LCSW

A Special Note



Find source of power struggle, rechannel strategies.

When couples show up in my office for counseling, they are often angry and in shock, despair and sadness.

Some are relative newlyweds, and they can't understand how they have plummeted form the heights of love and glory into a swamp of hopelessness and conflict.  Others have been married for many years, and though they have been drudging along - in calm or in storm - and their days of wine and roses are a dim memory, they are nevertheless devastated by the shambles of their marriage, and the consequent lack of fulfillment in their lives.

Even if life at home is relatively peaceful, couples lament that they have "nothing in common anymore."  And so they lead a disappointed or angry co-existence, each with their own friends and interests, in a marriage of convenience, or an arrangement they endure "for the sake of the children."

They wonder if they will ever again feel love for their mates.  Can they ever breach the chasm of silence, or anger, that has grown between them?  Perhaps they should just cut their losses and find someone who loves and understands them, someone who offers one more chance at the love and security they long for.

Whatever form they take, shattered dreams are painful.  If you are reading this, you may also be struggling to find love and meaning in your marriage or relationship.  I assure you, as I assure the couples who come to me in such distress, there is hope.

In fact, the pain and conflict of marriage arise not out of lack of love for our partners, but from a misunderstanding of what marriage is about.  Moreover, your conflict can be the fuel for the fulfillment you seek.

When we fall in love, we believe we've found it.  Suddenly life is in technicolor.  We nibble each other's ear and tell each other everything; our limitations and rigidities melt away.

We're sexier, smarter, funnier, more giving.  We decide that we can't live without our beloved, for now we feel whole, we feel like ourselves.  For awhile we are able to relax.  Finally, we feel safe, and breathe a sigh of relief.  It looks like everything is going to turn out all right, after all.

But, inevitably - often when we marry or move in together - as night follows day, things just begin to go wrong.  In some cases, all hell breaks loose.  The veil of illusion falls away, and it seems that our partners are different than we thought they were.  It turns out they have qualities that we can't bear.  Even qualities we once admired grate on us.

Old hurts are reactivated as we realize that our partners cannot or will not love and care for us as they promised.  Our dreams are shattered.

Disillusionment turns to anger, fueled by fear that we won't survive without the love and safety that was within our grasp.  Since our partner is no longer willingly giving us what we need, we change tactics, trying to maneuver our partners into caring through anger, crying, withdrawal, shame, intimidation, criticism - whatever works.  We will make them love us.

Now we negotiate - for time, love, chores, gifts - measuring our success against an economic yardstick of profit and loss.  The power struggle has begun and may go on for many years until we split, or we settle into an uneasy truce, or until we seek help, desperate to feel alive and whole again, to have our dream back.

What we don't realize is that the power struggle is a normal developmental stage of the relationship, just as the romantic love phase is.  The power struggle is fed by our unconscious and until we know what is feeding the power struggle and how to work through it, we won't get the love that we so desperately seek.

The couples I work with in my practice usually come to therapy because of the pain of the power struggle.  In order to heal the relationship both partners must be committed to the relationship and to doing the work the power struggle is calling them to do.

The goal of the therapy is to become passionate friends with your partner, to develop what might be called "Reality Love," which is based not on childhood notions of attachment, but on knowledge, care, respect, and value of the other person.

In the safe setting of my office, and in the structured work you and your partner will do together, you will:

  1. uncover what the power struggle is really about

  2. tell each other exactly what would make you feel loved

  3. use that information to rechannel behavior into effective ways of love and caring for each other, as well as meeting your partners personal needs

  4. replace inappropriate behaviors and defense strategies

  5. give your partner what he or she wants

This type of therapy is called Imago Relationship Therapy and was developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD. and based on the best-selling book, Getting The Love You Want.  I trained with the Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy and am a certified Imago Relationship Therapist.  I have dedicated the last fifteen years of my career to helping couples get the love they want.