About

ANOTHER Freakin’ Marriage Website?

​Modern Commitment is Elizabeth’s passionate expression of what she wishes couples had access to online. Her father, Bill Doherty, is a highly respected leader in the field. Together, they’re offering a two-generation, two-gender voice to the complex world of married life.

Simply put, a lot of what is written online about marriage sounds great… but is either impossible to implement or backfires because the advice makes too many assumptions about the reader and the marriage.

Our goal and challenge here at Modern Commitment: to never make assumptions.

And… our special twist?

To always assume that YOUR SPOUSE  (who is probably not reading this website) is a good person with positive motivations and intentions even when doing things that drive you crazy. Even when spouses actually are doing bad things (we call them “Triple A’s), we assume that they are good people–and we also assume that you want help in getting unstuck from a serious problem.

Another cornerstone idea of our approach is this:  you can’t change your spouse–you can only change yourself. We spend zero time teaching you how to get your spouse to behave better. Instead we offer ideas for you to get yourself unstuck even when you feel like you’re “the healthier spouse” who has done everything you can do. When one person changes like this, something shifts in the relationship–and it’s more likely to be positive than any direct attempt to change the other person.

In this truly relational approach, nothing we say should cause you more heartache and nothing we write is meant to force something on your spouse.

But we do believe our words can help your marriage…. and when you need more than words on a screen, we have specially-focused courses for you to consume. We also offer what is sometimes the very best solution: local marriage therapists with the experience, training and the firm conviction that any marriage with two motivated people can be improved. No matter how down in the dumps you both are right now, we can offer you hope. Our therapists understand the power of hope because they’ve walked with so many couples in crisis into a renewed, positive marriage. You will not shock or dismay them, no matter what your problems.

The Co-Founders of The Doherty Relationship Institute (and Modern Commitment)

We are Bill Doherty, Ph.D. and daughter Elizabeth D. Thomas, MS, LAMFT.  We are both licensed and practicing marriage therapists seeing couples in our local Saint Paul, Minnesota offices. Bill has been married to Elizabeth’s mother since 1971. Elizabeth has been married to her husband Mike (also a marriage therapist) since 2003 and has two children.

For deeper information, scroll way down where we’ll share more about each of us.

This website is dedicated to all couples struggling in their committed relationship. Your challenges may be small (squabbling over daily chores) or huge (whether to exit your marriage). We take your readership seriously. Much marriage advice is pretty simplistic. It sounds good but doesn’t really have legs to create the change you desire.

Getting unstuck can be hard, and every marriage has periods of darkness that can last days, weeks, months or even years. But we hold an unflagging belief that if both spouses are motivated and open to change, nearly every couple can find their way into a healthy, contented relationship.

With our growing cadre of experienced professional marriage therapists, we hope to guide you in relationally savvy ways based on the best knowledge in the field.

Everything we offer you is grounded in research evidence or what has worked in the therapy room with real couples. We are constantly asking ourselves whether what we want to share is the very best, most sophisticated, most helpful information, or whether there is just not enough data to support certain ideas that “seem” useful but have no basis in the research or clinical wisdom.  We skip the ones that sound nice but have never been tested.

And the ultimate challenge: would we actually do the things we suggest in our own marriages?

The premier research team on how marriages succeed and fail, John and Julie Gottman and their colleagues have unpacked the small and large ways that couples master the art of marriage or lose their way. Small ways such as positive words and gestures every day, and bigger ways such as reminding oneself about the meaning of life-long commitment.

Attachment Theory is a major way that therapists understand intimate relationships. Based on earlier work on infant-parent attachment, we’ve learned that marriage is also an attachment relationship—a place where we can feel secure but also a place where we can feel anxious or avoidant. Learning how to express vulnerable feelings to one’s mate is a key to maintaining a secure attachment bond. Sue Johnson, a prominent marriage therapist, has developed an attachment based approach to couples therapy, called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

Attribution Theory helps us understand the importance of what goes on inside our thinking when our spouse does something we don’t like. If we “attribute” their behavior to bad intentions (wanting to hurt us) or to their negative personality traits—as opposed to their having a hard day or misunderstanding our needs—we are apt to feel resentment and give ourselves permission to “return fire” ourselves. We can learn to practice generosity of thinking about our spouse when we’re upset with them. This helps us, them, and the marriage.

Differentiation Theory offers insight into how we can hold onto ourselves emotionally when we’re in a struggle with our spouse. It comes down to knowing what you are feeling and what you want, and being able to say those things without attacking or fleeing the conflict. And listening to your spouse too! It takes a “solid self” to be know who you are, not control the other or be controlled. In other words, being healthy person and relate intimately to another. David Schnarch has written about differentiation in the context of sexual relationships.

Latest Divorce Research. Until recently, professionals did not know much rom research on how people make decisions about divorcing or trying to save their marriages. That has changed in recent years through the research of Bill Doherty, Steve Harris, Alan Hawkins and others. The basic finding: most people go through a wide range of feelings and thoughts—from hopeless to hope and back—as they traverse the difficult terrain of deciding what to do with their troubled marriage. “Divorce ambivalence” remains for many people even after the legal process has begun. This research helped us create Discernment Counseling for couple struggling with this decision.

Innovative marriage research has been showing how taking small steps can make a big difference for couples. Things like letting yourself feel and express gratitude towards your spouse, and practicing healthy forgiveness. One line of research is showing that it can be helpful, after a marital conflict, to ask yourself what would a friend say about the conflict—some who wants the best for both of you. This gets us outset of our own biased thinking.

Elizabeth D. Thomas, MS, LAMFT is an entrepreneur, internet marketer, presenter, author, consultant, marriage and family therapist, and lifelong learner. She pursues the latest innovative ways to try to better psychotherapy profession, and the world in general, by preserving marriages that can be healthy and helping couples get unstuck from troublesome patterns

Her passion has pushed her to create multiple businesses umbrellaed under the Doherty Relationship institute, all of which have a specific mission to help couples in one way or another. Elizabeth learned early that the marketing world has no room for success with an ego and is always humbled by the ever-changing nuances involved and effort it takes to stay ahead of the trends while providing ethical, compassionate support to couples in an online platform.

Bill Doherty, Ph.D., is a Licensed Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, researcher, trainer, author, presenter, and is a rare expert in the field respected and admired by both sides of the ideological spectrum on marriage.  A long- time advocate for marriage (of whatever gender composition) as an important relationship for individuals,  families and society, he is now supporting his daughter Elizabeth’s passion to add her voice in the field. In working with Elizabeth to create a two- gender, two- generation, research-informed, and nuanced website, Bill is enjoying learning about how to actually engage couples in the public sphere  with all the knowledge the field has generated.

William J. Doherty is a professor in the Department of Family Social Science in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Citizen Professional Center and the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project. He has practiced as a therapist for over 40 years.