Frank Singer of Red Bank, NJ, considers himself a savvy marriage expert. He and his late wife, Greta Singer, were married for 59 years until she died three years ago.
For about the last 20 years they were together, they also had their own marriage-counseling service, Singer Counseling Service, which they operated as a team in Red Bank, catering mostly to high-powered professionals — doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, said Singer, 88, who retired after his wife’s death.
When couples turned to the Singers for help, the circumstances and advice varied from case to case. But one thing that underpinned many of their marital difficulties was a tendency for at least one of the spouses to be a workaholic more married to the job than to his or her betrothen, Singer said.
“What they did not understand is what they have to do to change their lifestyle,” Singer said. “The major difficulty is somehow to make the actual husband and wife and the family at least as important as the job. That’s a major problem for workaholics.”
For their marriage counseling to be effective in a particular case, both partners in the client couple had to show a motivation to improve their marriage and a willingness to follow through on the advice and assignments the Singers gave them, he said.
Each case, on average, involved 12 once-a-week counseling sessions from start through completion. If counseling would seem ineffective, Singer said he and his wife would be able to tell within the first three sessions but they always left it to the client to make progress.
Clients would be expected to continue onto their next session only after they made the improvement or changes assigned to them in the prior session, Singer said.
About half of the couples that reached out for counseling didn’t stick with the program to completion, which typically meant that they failed to meet a specific intermediate goal the Singers set for them.
Singer, who estimated that he and his wife counseled 1,500 couples over the 20-year period they had their service together, was reluctant to prescribe general advice on making a strained marriage succeed.
“It depends on the couple. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. It depends very much on their interaction,” he said.
As for his own marriage, Singer — a father of three and grandfather of five — said it survived its own workaholic-related difficulties because for many years both he and his wife, who were social workers before going into business together, were workaholics themselves.
“Oh, yes, we were workaholics,” he said. “We knew exactly what it feels like, how you do it and how you get out of that kind of situation.” They sorted their own difficulties out on their own, and based on that success, they decided to start the marriage counseling service.
For more marriage counseling information and resources, visit the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.