Family Ties Counseling Center was founded by us, Johanna and Jeremy Manalis. We are both therapists who are also husband and wife. We are self-admitted therapy nerds—our daughter, Kaisa was able to name feelings way before she knew her alphabet or her numbers. And we sometimes wonder what our babysitters must think when they see all our geeky therapy books scattered around the house.
Before the busy days of juggling family with running our own business, before the days of leaning heavily upon coffee and Netflix, and even before the days when we knew each other, we led very independent lives. Even though we enjoyed the freedom of that independence, we also had a hopeful vision of raising a family with a life partner.
During our courtship, we talked and shared our vision, and for the first time ever, the idea of settling down and having kids actually sounded appealing and possible. Soon, we were engaged to be married—and ready to kickstart our shared vision into action. Underneath it all though we were freaked out and nearly ran off to South America for a year instead of starting our family.
We were married in the majestic high desert of Northern New Mexico by a beloved professor from the graduate program where we first met. She constantly reminded us that our wedding ceremony was a ritual not a performance. This advice helped us use our wedding vows to form our vision.
Our first year was not all roses and sunshine, which is how our culture often likes to portray newlyweds. We fought long and hard that initial year. We were also taken by surprise because we both falsely thought that since we were marriage therapists, we surely knew how to be married. We quickly learned that therapists also need therapy; unabashedly engaging in therapy became an essential tool for our family to get through these difficult times.
Then came the birth of our first daughter Kaisa, where there were some scary complications with both mother and child. That left us each rattled to our cores. The pregnancy of our second daughter Aila hit us with a whole other set difficulties.
These kinds of challenges could have easily broken and buried us as a couple and as a family. But they didn’t. They did the opposite: they taught us that if we take a risk to be vulnerable and lean into each other emotionally, we not only can survive, but thrive.
We created Family Ties Counseling Center because we were inspired to help other couples and families learn how to thrive together through using their unique challenges as opportunities for growth and change.
So, we are saying that we have the perfect marriage and family, right? No way, that doesn’t exist. Do we still have struggles? Sometimes we do. But we are way more skillful in responding to them. We have each learned how to talk in such a way that invites the other person to listen. We know and understand our sensitive issues and do our best to treat them with care. We have learned what deeply nourishes the other and we each try to regularly give that to each other. Overall, we have discovered a rhythm of relating to each other that leaves us filled and satisfied.