"If you desire change in your life you must not only set goals and strategies, you must be conscious of all the self-imposed obstacles that have stopped you in the past and develop strategies to circumvent those obstacles,” says life coach and relationship expert Martha Wright. “Our desire to change must be stronger than our fear and discomfort.”

Wright brings her seminar “Relationships That Work” to the Arts Council of Princeton on Thursday, February 3.

Wright says, “Our lives are a reflection of our choices but many of our choices are unconsciously driven by old beliefs and illusions. In her seminar she will teach where our relationship picures originate, how to give up blame and controlling behvior, and how to let go of relationship patterns that don’t promote healthy partnerships. It is designed for people who are single, as well as those in relationships — and even teens.”

Seminar participants will learn tthe difference between feelings and reactions, where relationship “pictures” come from, and how to let go of them and live in the present. Wright says a relationship picture is an image in your mind of what a relationship looks like — mostly it comes from either childhood images of parents’ marriage or a reaction to childhood images, e.g. “I’m never going to divorce, fight, work, give up my career,” etc. or TV families (did Ward Cleaver really come home at 4 p.m. every day?). Wright says some people seek an image or “picture” rather than create an authentic relationship in the present.

Other topics include:

— how people can connect through dysfunction and how to end that cycle;

— how to stop nagging/controlling (two of Wright’s favorite topics, she says);

— how to take responsibility for your own needs and feelings.

Wright was born and raised in New York City. Her father, Sidney Stires, had his own investment firm, Stires and Col, and her mother, Judy, was a stay-at-home mom. They were happily married, says Wright, for 50 years until her mother’s death a few years ago. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 1979 and in 1982 founded Learning Systems, a Burlington, VT-based seminar company that designed and delivered training to individuals and groups on topics as varied as financial literacy and personal growth.

In 1993 she left Vermont and moved to Princeton, becoming a corporate consultant, conducting training at companies such as Honda, Nike, Cummins, Westinghouse, PetSmart, Bank of America, and Ingersoll Rand. In 2010, she started her life coaching business.

Asked if she applies her advice to her own relationships, Wright, 53, says the answer is a definite yes. Her husband, Glenn Wright, works for Thomson Reuters in New York, and between them they have four children: her own adopted son, Jose, 30; Glenn’s son, Keaton, 23; and Georgia, 15, and Sidney (a boy), 13. In her blog, the Wright Life, available on Princeton Online, Wright says, “I have documented my own personal quests. One was to stop nagging my husband. This is an ongoing work in progress. I am constantly evolving myself as I try to take my own advice, to face my fears, to challenge myself to grow, and to get ongoing support form friends and mentors.

On her blog, she talks openly about a period in which she and her husband went through extensive marriage counseling. She covers everything from self-forgiveness to secrets. She writes: “Secrets keep you little and hidden. They tether you to old lies and old beliefs. In your marriage, tell your partner everything. Marriage is the most self-testing and challenging relationship out there. Small secrets keep one partner in the role of parent and the other in the role of child. Bigger secrets just create separation and loneliness.”

Wright believes her strength as a coach is in “helping people who are stuck in indecision and fear to clarify their personal vision and then identify actions that will lead them towards their vision.” She gives an example of one client, a woman who was deciding whether or not to end her marriage. “I helped her sort through all of her reasons to stay and reasons to go, and then helped her identify which reasons most resonated with her own vision of ‘relationship.’ She eventually chose to stay with her husband. Most people make decisions based on their feelings in the moment. I try to get them to focus on their long-term goals, to make choices that will lead them to their goals, and to develop strategies to overcome the obstacles that have stopped them in the past. Once those goals are set, I become their biggest advocate and cheerleader as they move forward.”

Relationships That Work, Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. Thursday, February 3, 7 to 9 p.m. Princeton-based relationship expert Martha Wright gives a seminar about where our relationship pictures originate, how to give up blame and controlling behavior, and how to let go of relationship patterns that don’t promote healthy partnerships. For singles, people in relationships — even teens. $30 in advance, available online; $35 at the door (cash or checks only). 609-924-8777 or www.wrightlifecoach.com.

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