Joanne J. Wendt
Joanne J. Wendt, Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist in San Diego, California, specializes in treating relationship issues, depression, and anxiety. Her goal is to help her clients find peace and harmony as they discover the strength within them to achieve their highest possible potential while respecting their readiness to meet difficult challenges.
1. What do I know for sure?
I know for sure that the more I do know, the more I do not know. Life presents constant opportunities for learning new things. The knowledge gained poses more questions to be answered. The process never ends. My thirst for gaining knowledge motivates me to explore the myriad of educational areas in life. My work with couples, families and individuals has always presented me with many “whys” of behaviors exhibited. The more in-depth I explore into their lives, the more I realize what I don’t know and, thus, need to explore more.
2. What inspired you to become a relationship therapist?
What inspired me to become a relationship therapist was a desire to teach others how to live a meaningful, respectful and rewarding life regardless of one’s circumstances. Rather than looking at only the negatives in the situation, what positives can you find? What can you learn about yourself?
Relationships do not really happen by chance. Individuals unconsciously seek out partners who fulfill a role or a need from their own family-of-origin experience. Did you choose someone who carries the characteristics of one of your parents? It can be quite puzzling to figure this out. Troubled families have troubled leadership.
I like working with couples and anyone with relationship difficulties because I’m very passionate about helping families attain the level of joy, contentment and harmony that I have with my family and that starts with the relationship between the husband and wife, whether or not children are involved, or between unmarried partners trying to have a loving relationship. I’ve gone through a lot of pain in my life, but my feelings of joy far outweigh my feelings of pain. I have never felt alone. I want to lighten the darkened paths of those searching for harmony and happiness in their lives with the shining light that I acquired through the experiences that impacted and shaped my life, making me the person I am today.
3. What are some secrets of a successful marriage?
Successful marriages have many characteristics that include both partners having a sense of humor and being able to give to each other in a selfless manner. Rough times do naturally come and go in a marriage but if the couple works as a team rather than as opponents in battle, smooth sailing will most likely prevail. Couples need to find ways to let their partners know they are needed, loved, respected, listened to and appreciated. Happy coupes do not take each other for granted and find ways of making their relationship a priority. They show and tell their partners how much they love them and make sure they spend quality time doing things together they both enjoy as well as supporting each partner’s pursuit of individual interests.
Successful marriages, also, entail the utmost honesty and trust between the partners, keeping in mind that before they speak or do something, they ask themselves the question: “Will what I say or do contribute to the health of my relationship or harm it?” Happily married couples avoid judgments and criticism of their partners as these will sabotage any efforts of having a happy marriage. Instead, they use “I” messages and problem solving to deal with areas of conflict.
Successfully married couples consider their partner’s strengths rather than their weaknesses and think about why they chose to marry him/her. They will choose their battles wisely as they cannot always have everything their own way. A successful marriage involves a loving commitment where compromise and great negotiation skills can provide a win-win relationship for both partners full of hugs, kisses, snuggles, compliments and a feeling of peace and contentment which all promote a sense of happiness. They both provide a “soft pillow” to fall on for each other in times of need.
4. What do you spend most of your time coaching couples on?
The bulk of my work with couples is focused on helping them understand how men and women think and process things differently in their brains as well as high-lighting family-of-origin issues that are brought into the relationship by both partners. Men and women may perceive the same situation differently because of gender-based brain processing functions and, then react in ways that result in neither partner feeling listened to, understood and validated. In addition, couples in a relationship bring with them a set of assumption and expectations about how a relationship should work from the families in which they were raised.
When partners’ needs do not get met as expected, they can end up feeling ignored, angry, sad, hurt and/or unloved by the offending partner. What is usually happening during these times is that the partner does not have a clue to what their partner actually needs because he/she has a set of different assumptions and expectations based on their own gender and family-of-origin background. These various assumptions and expectations are rarely talked about between the partners so when needs are not met, power struggles can happen which polarize the couple. They, then, in turn, may end up with conflicts that they cannot solve, both feeling they are in the right and blaming their partner for their unhappiness.
My work with couples helps them to explore themselves and what they are bringing into their relationship. There could be issues of abuse, abandonment, loss, neglect, entitlement, alcoholism to name a few, brought into the relationship that sets up a particular set of expectations from the partner that the other partner is unaware of. It’s important to bring to light each partner’s own individual way of viewing his/her world in order to learn how they can come to support each other in a healthy and emotionally stable manner.
5. Favorite quote?
“Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” by Dr. Phillip McGraw is my favorite quote. Partners who continually try to prove themselves right at all costs pay a very heavy price, namely, their happiness. Giving in is not losing the battle. Giving in and allowing the other partner to be right is actually a higher calling. It’s the ability to rise above the negative emotional interaction for the sake of achieving harmony in the relationship. It’s truly an act of love. Relationships cannot move forward down a healthy path if unresolved power struggles prevail. Couples need to choose their battles very wisely. Some issues are definite “deal-breakers” while most others are a matter of adjusting to living with a partner with different notions about things. Acceptance and letting go, I believe, are two keys elements involved in having a happy and successful relationship.