Linda Carroll On Skills That Make Love Last

photo by Le Studio NYC

by Kajsa Nickels

Psychotherapist Linda Carroll was drawn into the dynamics of couples’ counseling three decades ago when she saw how in her own marriage, petty disagreements could turn into full-blown arguments with the potential for deep wounds. She and her husband Tim worked on their issues by attending workshops across the country, including Imago therapy and PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills), which were so effective that she developed a curriculum called Love Skills by combining those tools, her experience as a married person and counselor, personal training from consciousness pioneers and resources from ancient mythology and spiritual/religious traditions.

She has co-taught the course with her husband for more than 25 years. Her first book, Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Everlasting Love, has been translated into several languages and details stages in romantic relationships. Her new book, Love Skills: The Key to Unlocking Lasting, Wholehearted Love, is a guide to developing a relationship toolkit.

What is the Love Cycles model?

It is based on the fact that feelings of love are seasonal. Like the seasons of the year, they are a natural progression of a relationship. If you understand the seasons, you can pass through them. All relationships are teachers. If we allow them to teach us, we become free to love deeper and better.

What is the most difficult Love Cycles stage, and why?

Each stage has its own unique challenges. For example, the first stage, the Merge, has a magic to it due to the chemical cocktail that floods your body when in the presence of your significant other. But this stage can be treacherous in that you can mistake your feelings for evidence that this is the “right” person for you. In the Power Struggle stage, feelings will have worn off and power struggles will start to show up. The third stage is Disillusionment. Differences between both of you really start to show up at this time. The fourth stage is the Decision stage. At this point, many couples find themselves wanting out. The key to making it through this stage is to remember that this, too, shall pass and to commit to working it out. It’s important to realize that life is not about getting an A+ at all times. Sometimes, we need to accept that a C- is okay; and if you do need to leave a relationship, it is possible to do it in a wholehearted way at best—at the least, to minimize damage. The fifth stage I call Wholehearted Love, a stage reached only through mindfulness and unconditional love. Because love has changing seasons, a couple will not stop at the fifth stage forever, but getting back to this state will become easier and easier as time goes on.

What was your impetus for writing Love Skills?

I have been teaching the program for 25 years and drew from my almost 40 years as a couples therapist, many trainings all over the country and own life experiences in my relationship with my husband to compile the program. Most couples lack the skills to manage the troubles of life. There is a skill to every aspect of a relationship, especially in communication: listening, speaking, knowing when to speak and when to be silent.

Who is most likely to benefit?

The relationship you have with yourself is a core part of the Love Cycles model. If you do not have a good relationship with yourself, you cannot have a solid and meaningful relationship with another person. This is a couples’ book, although it can also be gone through by a single person if the partner is not interested in it. What I tell people is that you can only work on your part. If the other person doesn’t want to buy in or isn’t wholeheartedly on board—or at least partially willing—there is nothing that you can do about it. You need to be able to be okay and confident in yourself. You cannot change another person, but you can always change yourself.

What is one of the most important pieces of advice you have for couples?

I hope that couples come to realize that feelings of love are like clouds, always changing. A good relationship requires a skill set, which we practice whatever the feelings are. We are not born knowing how to love skillfully, but this skill set can be learned by anyone and will make you able to listen better and appreciate each other more.

Kajsa Nickels is a freelance author who resides in northeastern Pennsylvania. Connect at FidelEterna45@gmail.com.