Ellen Mansoor Collier
Drs. Evelyn and Paul Moschetta could pose as the poster couple for successful marriages. Partners in both life and work, the "love doctors" - a therapy team for 30 years and still in love after 30 years of marriage - are proof positive that couples can overcome adversity and live "happily ever after." Besides doing a booming marriage-counseling business in both Manhattan and Long Island, the Moschettas recently coauthored "The Marriage Spirit" (Simon & Schuster), a self help guide blending Western psychology and Eastern philosophy "to inspire people to find the best in themselves and their relationship."
Themselves veterans of divorce, the Moschettas know all about bad-as well as good-relationships. "Couples often allow their marriage to fall to the bottom of their 'to do' list," notes Paul. "Instead of soulmates, they become roommates."
And while the Moschettas may not yet be a household name, chances are that even a cave-dweller has heard of "Can This Marriage Be Saved?", the popular "Ladies Home Journal" column, in which the therapists dispense words of wisdom to troubled partners. If you've ever wondered if the stories are true, the Moschettas can vouch, "We're not making this up." Many of the featured couples have come straight from their case files (with the couples' permission, and pseudonyms for privacy, of course). The real-life problems they tackle range from the difficult ("We Can't Have a Baby") to the outrageous ("I Had an Affair with the Teenage Boy Next Door").
Are their clients embarrassed by the column? "Not at all," reassures Evelyn. "Most couples are proud of their progress."
Still the Moschettas are the first to admit that not all marriages can be saved. For example, they offer little hope for marriages in which one or both partners have severe neuroses or mental illness, or for relationships that are physically or emotionally abusive. However, they do believe that most marriages deserve a second chance-with the benefit of marital counseling, naturally.
"Most people take better care of their cars than their marriages," Paul believes. "They usually get a wake-up call-like an affair-before they'll seek therapy."
"An affair is typically just a symptom of a deeper conflict," adds Evelyn. "We help get to the root of the problem and untangle all the knots."
Each week, the doctors counsel couples, gathering plenty of material for future books and columns. The biggest complaint? Growing apart.
To avoid routine or taking your partner for granted, "Go out on dates with your mates," advises Evelyn. "If you're divorced, you'll find time to date, won't you? Create your 'safe haven' time: Read poetry, give massages, discuss your dreams. When being together is an enriching, replenishing experience, then you'd much rather be with your partner than watching TV."
"When most couples come in for marital counseling, they act like lawyers arguing a case," observes Paul. "Each one is an expert on what the other person is doing wrong, but they're reluctant to acknowledge their own mistakes. We take a more spiritual approach, meaning each person must take responsibility for him or herself and stop pointing a finger."
Realizing that not all couples in need can afford a marital therapist, the Moschettas wrote "The Marriage Spirit" . Exploring timely topics not often found in self-help books, the guide encourages spirituality in marriage and soul-centered (not self-centered) love.
"Most people want a marriage in which they feel fully known, deeply loved, and profoundly valued," Evelyn believes. "Only a heart-to-heart marriage can deliver this kind of soul-centered, unselfish love. In fact, the biggest obstacle to lasting love is the ego's fascination with 'me, my, and mine."
Too many couples, they say, fall into an unhealthy pattern comprising the three "B" words-"bickering, blaming, and boredom." To combat this destructive cycle, they advise, "Envision your marriage as a sacred place-a place you value, respect and cherish-and it becomes a powerful vehicle for self-transformation."
Paul explains, "Spiritual intimacy means consciously using your marriage to rise above your ego and to express your best self. Psychology helps you analyze the past and understand why you're the way you are today. Spirituality helps you live in the present and decide how you want to be. It asks: Are you awake? Are you living your life unconsciously, on automatic, or are you awake to the possibility of each moment? If your life isn't going the way you want it, take responsibility for changing it."