Dr. Meredith HansenI have always been passionate about love and relationships. From a young age, I seemed to understand the healing power of love, and like many little girls, dreamed of one day have a fairytale wedding and marriage.

Growing up, there was definitely a lot of love in my house. My parents loved my sisters and me deeply. As parents, they were available, present, involved, caring, and loving, but as adult love role models, they weren’t the best. While of course there were good times between them, there were also challenging times. My parents would fight from time to time and those fights were often heated. They would go round and round until one person withdrew and then it took like what felt like days, for them to repair. Those times were hard on me as a child. I felt anxious and unsettled when they argued and always waited for them to repair.   

Throughout the 30+ years of their marriage, my parents did try to work on their relationship. They went to counseling and marital groups, they would talk about their relationship often, and they even had a couple of trial separations. One could say that they put the effort in, but at the end of the day, they both decided to let go.

Whether that was the right or wrong thing to do is not for me to say or judge. It was their relationship and I can honestly say that they are both happier now. But going through the ups and downs of their marriage was hard on me. Growing up I just wanted them to be in love and get along.

As I grew older, I knew that I wanted the love in my life to be different. My parent’s marriage definitely made me realize that I wanted to have a good partnership when I decided to marry.

My first heartbreak was another significant experience that led me to where I am and what I do today. While I never wanted to be with this boyfriend forever – I never saw us getting married or anything like that, the end of our relationship truly crushed me. I was in my first semester of college and we had been together since high school – classic, I know. When the relationship officially ended, I felt like my world ended. The emotional and physical pain I went through was devastating, it was like there was an actual hole in my heart. I couldn’t focus in class, I hardly ate, I lost weight, and I would hide out in my dorm room listening to sad music just crying. It was awful! Thankfully I had amazing friends in college who would hear the music on in my room and drag me out. They worked hard to help me move me through my grief. It was an extremely painful time and as I came out of the sadness, I vowed to never be that vulnerable again. 

And I wasn’t, at least not for a little bit. Nothing serious really came into my life for a few years after that first breakup and I was okay with that. I dated a couple of guys at school, met some people abroad, but was always holding a little something back. My focus was on building my friendships and learning more about psychology and love.

Meredith Hansen on her wedding day with her husbandThen one fateful night, I met my now-husband. We were both out with friends (mutual friends) and we had fun getting to know one another for a bit that night. It wasn’t anything serious, just playful and as the night came to an end we both went our separate ways. A few months later his friend brought him to a party and we hit it off again. We went on a few dates after that, but then I left to study abroad for a semester. 

Once back at school for my final year, I ran into my now husband my first night in town. We started talking and after a few weeks, we were officially together. While things went well in those first couple of months, I didn’t allow myself to fully attach. I really liked him, but I was aware that I didn’t want to get hurt again. Eventually, he called me out. He told me that he was really into me and needed to know where I stood. I was surprised by this and realized that I had to let go and see what could happen. And the rest is sort of history. We’re of course married now, but we had a few twists and turns getting there over the years. Being so young when we met, a lot of life happened in the years leading up to our marriage. As a couple, we’ve been through a lot of life transitions and milestones together, so there is a lot of history.

Today we work on our marriage. We have had good times and a wonderful life, but we also face challenges and seek out support when times get tough. Before we were married we went to premarital counseling and we have been to couples counseling during different phases of our relationship.

Through the work we’ve done as a couple, we’ve learned the importance of changing how we argue. We both make an effort to resolve conflict faster and in a more loving manner, we apologize for our role in a fight, try to identify and express our emotions, and take a break when things become too heated. We are both committed to this marriage and to making our relationship last, not just for us, but for the benefit of our children.

Do it for the kids…

The final significant experience in my life that has led me here, came after graduate school. I was collecting my post-doc hours towards licensure working with foster children at Orangewood Children’s Home. It was an experience that has forever shaped the way I look at the family, adults, and the innocence of children. Going into a large foster home day in and day out will affect how you view the world. Innocent children being removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, and/or danger in the home is heartbreaking. Seeing toddlers put to sleep in strange beds by strange adults, spending time holding babies who just need someone to attach to, being called out on a crisis call for teenagers struggling with angst, hormones, and the fact they are in a foster home, can be too much.

In those years at Orangewood I got angry. I felt angry at the adults who allowed this to happen to the children. I got angry that our society doesn’t have better support systems to help families on the edge and I got angry at the generations before who began this pattern that has led to multiple generations being in and out of the foster system.

From that experience, I realized that my two passions, love/marriage and the well-being of children were connected. I realized that when the parents are healthy, the children will thrive. When mom and dad are in a stable relationship, the well-being of their children is protected. It’s when the family system breaks down that children suffer.

So while my initial goal to understand love and help build healthier relationships is still there, my true goals is to protect children. My approach is through the parents. I know that if I can help someone date healthier partners and establish healthier relationship patterns, their future children will benefit. I know that if I can help mom and dad repair their marriage and work together on resolving conflict, the children will be less anxious, perform better in school, and make better decisions. And I know when I can help a mom and dad who have decided to divorce do it in a way that protects and honors their children, their children will have a better chance at success in life and love.

So that is where my passion lies and where I have chosen to put my time. I have dedicated my professional career to honing my relationship counseling skills. I know and understand what it takes to have a good relationship and am aware of the challenges. I know what struggles dating individuals face in finding a compatible partner, and have a system for helping them get what they actually need. And I have spent a great deal of time learning and training in the development of children. I understand their needs and challenges and have been educated in specialized techniques that help children feel loved, seen, heard, and safe, which decreases challenging behaviors.

Today, my husband and I have three wonderful children and because of the love we have for them we try extra hard. We are not perfect, of course, we slip here and there, some days or weeks are better than others, but we are conscious of our relationship and the benefits it brings not only to our own lives but to the lives of the two innocent little men growing up in our home.