Naomi Berger, marriage and family therapist of The Couples Place (1900 Glades Road, Boca Raton, 561/988-0375) works with couples to address and resolve differences in relationships. The calm, soothing therapist shared some wise words with Boca Raton magazine on how to make relationships work, and last.

“When you meet a person for the first time, all you know about them is how they look. What happens is, for no reason that you’re aware of, you see people and the way they look turns you on and you get all tingly and happy. You think, ‘Oh this person is so nice and cute’ and you want to be with them and this is based on no information what-so-ever.

What really happens is our brain, our conscious, fills in the gap with all the information that we really don’t have. We look at this person who is our type and fill up all the information that we want them to be.

When we start dating we see what the truth is. So when a person acts “out of character”, to what we already decided when we first started dating, because we were so excited and happy, we either don’t say it, ignore it, pretend it is no big deal or it will change, or think ‘I will change it’.

Statistics show all the reasons people get divorced existed when they dated. They are not new things. You are the same person that you were before, but your partner didn’t see it, or ignored it, or minimized it, or dismissed it, and pretended it was okay when it wasn’t okay. And then when the romantic phase subsides, suddenly all those things come up and suddenly you can’t ignore them anymore and that’s when people start fighting.

You want to pay attention when you have a disagreement, because as long as we are getting along, everybody is happy. When a conflict comes up it is the beginning of the indication that we are two different people. A relationship is always with two different people, not two people who are alike.

We always focus on what’s the same: we like the same movies, we like the same music, we like the same whatever. That’s why we are so happy. But the truth is we are not the same. We are different and the difference is really what makes the relationship-- acknowledging, respecting and loving what’s different about my partner, not what’s the same about my partner.

There is no way to be with other people without sooner or later having a disagreement, because we are different, not because we are wrong. I like it cold, you like it warm. You are in the mood for pizza, I would like to have steak. It doesn’t matter. There is always something different. I want it now, you want it an hour from now. It’s part of the reality of being in a relationship, being with anybody!

The only way to get to know anybody is to deal with conflict.

If you are going to end a relationship because somebody disagrees with you, then you will be alone again. The idea is to learn to resolve problems or conflict...That’s how you develop knowledge about your partner. That’s how you develop respect and involvement. You get involved with your partner by dealing with them being different than you.

When arguing, the first thing to understand is there is validity in everybody’s position. It’s not about agreeing, it’s about understanding how you see it and respect.

One thing I like to say to couples is, ‘If you want to be right, sleep with a pillow’. You can either be right or be in a relationship, you cannot have both. Right or wrong is a competition, who’s better, who’s worse. In a competition only one person can get the gold, but they stand alone on the platform. You don’t share that. In a relationship, you cannot be the winner. If you’re the winner, you’re alone.

Instead of being right or wrong, or agreeing and not agreeing, it’s about understanding. Most times in arguments, the person doesn’t necessarily want to win, they are really looking for understanding. Hear me. Get me. That’s really what we want.

The best solution in an argument is not my way or your way, it’s the relationship way, which is the third way.

It’s really learning to deal with the differences and getting to understand each other deeply when we really start feeling loved and cared for and special. That’s what I do in my therapy. I teach people to get there.”

On The "Honeymoon" Phase:

"That Seventh Heaven Feeling: That romantic, exciting, everything-is-wonderful, new kind of feeling can last up to 2 years in a relationship, but it is different for everyone. For some people the feeling last three months. For others it is six months."

On Emotional Health: 

“The better you feel about yourself, the more genuinely honest you are in your intentions with everybody. If you don’t put up a facade, the better relationships you are going to have, the more likely you are to meet and be attracted to the right people.

We attract people on the same emotional level of health, as we are. If we are emotionally not unhealthy, then we are attracting other people on a similar level. They might behave different or look different, but underneath it all the dysfunction is the same. The healthier you are, chances are that you attract healthier people. If you’re feeling like you’re struggling with self-esteem, lack of confidence, depressions, anxieties, the more likely you are to attract people with the same issues.

Talking to a therapist can help you work through these issues for a better relationship with yourself and another person.” 

On Body Language: 

“Body language is very important because communication happens on all levels. Communication is not just the noise we make from our mouth. It’s eye contact. Leaning forward, which is one of the ways we indicate we are engaged. Body language is part of the communication messages. It all has to go together. What you’re saying and your voice and your eyes and your body should all be in harmony to convey honesty. Otherwise you are saying one thing, but your behavior and body says something else. It has to go together.”