The East Hampton IndependentDrs. Paul and Evelyn Moschetta, husband-and-wife marriage counselors, can surely be described as the contemporary dream team of couples therapy. Happily married for 35 years (a second marriage for both). The Moschettas are contributing editors to the hugely popular syndicated column, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"
The couple, who spend their weekends and downtime at their home in East Hampton with their children, grandchildren, and horses, are the authors of the newly-released Simon and Schuster book, The Marriage Spirit: Finding the Passion and Joy of Soul-Centered Love. "The book is a blend of Western psychology and Eastern mystical teaching," said Paul. "Gradually over the past 30 years, we integrated the experience of our own individual spiritual search with our experience as family therapists."
And what's the essential message contained in the book? Envision your marriage as a sacred place, they both stress. Not necessarily in a religious sense, but in the understanding that there is a divine nature within all of us that needs to be fulfilled. And don't use the marriage as a dumping ground for all your daily problems.
A GREATER GOAL
"The plain fact is that most of us don't take our marriages seriously," Paul emphasized. "We get so caught up in all the other demands that our marriage and the quality of our togetherness falls to the bottom of our 'to-do' list."
Paul and Evelyn met over two decades ago at Yeshiva University in Manhattan while they were both working on their respective doctorates in social work. After a stint at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, the both embarked on a 24-year crusade to convince people to look beyond the emotional and sexual component of their marriage to a greater goal: spiritual fulfillment and the use of the relationship as a vehicle for personal transformation.
"Marriage thrives on unselfish love, the kind of love that comes only from your higher self. " Evelyn stressed.
"The mistake partners make is trying to love one another from their everyday selfish egos," added Paul. "It just doesn't work. Our egos are basically self-centered and disastrous for marriage. This mistake takes a tremendous toll on people's lives - financially, emotionally, and spiritually. But, " he continued, "it doesn't have to be this way!"
The Marriage Spirit steers couples away from their ego-centeredness, "me first!" agendas and encourages what the Moschettas call "soul-centered love". The principles outlined in the book are so powerful. Evelyn and Paul agree, that the seminar changed the direction of a young marriage that was quickly spiraling toward divorce.
"We had two people in their 30s who had been married only three years but they were already contemplating divorce, " Paul said. "The man's mother called us and said that she wanted to give the workshop as a gift to her son and daughter-in-law. The truth is, she didn't want to see them break up. They came to the workshop and they left after two days really happily committed to the relationship."
Almost all marriages start out with the best of intentions, Paul pointed out but "most people, when they get married, think that if they start off loving each other everything will automatically work out for the best. Unfortunately that's just not true. You hve to really, consciously, safeguard your relationship just like any precious thing in your life. When you have something that you regard as scared, you instinctively take very good care of it."
PUTTING ASIDE TIME
And, he says, a failure to connect on a spiritual level can lead some couples into what the Moschettas term a "room-mate" marriage that "dulls the passion and blurs the vision."
In The Marriage Spirit, the Moschettas offer some specific ways in which a husband and wife can reconnect. "You have to spend time alone and get away without the kids, even if it's just going to a hotel overnight," said Evelyn.
"It's important to celebrate being a couple. During the week, plan on creating a 'safe haven' somewhere in your home where you have total privacy and you're able to tell each other what is positive, what is working between you. This is not a time for complaining, not a time for bringing up anything negative. It's really focusing in on what is working, on what's good in your lives. So that we have some balance in our lives. Most people talk to each other only about what's not going right, and that's not healthy for the marriage.
With offices in Huntington and Manhattan, Paul and Evelyn's full-time clinical practice is unique in that they work with couples as a team. And they're the first to admit that it's not always easy to break habits that discourage spiritual growth. "What happens most often is that one partner comes in on the first session as the expert on what the other person should do to change, " joked Paul.
LUCKY IN LOVE
Do the Moschettas ever feel any pressure to make their own marriage work as an example to others whom they counsel? Gratefully, they say no.
"We're really blessed and I'm so thankful for that," said Evelyn. "If anything, when we sit and talk with couples who are unhappy, we realize just how lucky we are. Also, we love being able to serve as a model for these marriages that are in trouble."
"Because when the look over at us, they realize that if we can do it, so can they."