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LDS relationship coach teaches skills for couples

Matt Townsend
Matt Townsend

Matt Townsend is a man on a mission, and that mission can be summarized in one simple phrase: No more tears.

Meaning no more children or adults crying because of troubled or dissolved marriages. Townsend, who resides in Draper, Utah, is a relationship coach and believes too many divorces occur needlessly because couples have not learned skills that can be taught and applied to save marriages. He is committed to teaching communication and relationship skills that will help couples create happy, lasting marriages.

Townsend is a child of divorce. His parents separated when he was 6 years old and divorced when he was 8, so he knows firsthand the pain children feel because of divorce.

At an early age, he carefully watched interactions between his friends' parents and began noting healthy communication and relationship patterns. He said he became "fascinated" with healthy relationships.

People began coming to him for relationship help while he was still growing up, and he always "wanted to create a company to teach people to talk and solve problems." Though his bachelor's degree was in communication with an emphasis in broadcast journalism, he "fell in love" with learning about interpersonal communications.

When he took psychology classes, he was turned off by the emphasis on what was wrong instead of what could be made right. He later earned a master's degree in communication, as well as a master's in human development. He plans to soon have his doctorate in human development.

About seven years ago, Townsend created the Townsend Relationship Center in Draper, where he "trains couples to be more healthy together." He feels that most couples just need skills, not therapy, in addition to skill training when problems seem intractable. In some cases, however, he will recommend therapy.

"We teach people to manage their emotional reactions to each other so they can communicate and create understanding and meaning together," he said.

In his work, he uses private sessions, group workshops, books, audio sets and DVD sets. He also uses telecoaching for those living far away.

"There's a huge need for couples' help," he said.

He also speaks at seminars and conferences all over the country. He has written a book, "Starved Stuff: Feeding the 7 Basic Needs of Healthy Relationships." It talks about fulfilling the needs each person has in a relationship, whether it is a marriage, family, friendship or business relationship.

Townsend has worked out an acronym to help people identify problems in their relationships.

S — Safety: safety in every area: physically, socially and financially.

T — Trust: trust in each others' character and competency.

A — Appreciation: getting love in the way each person best feels loved.

R — Respect: knowing the other person values one's opinion and viewpoint.

V — Validation: the practical application of respect, which is that whether the other person agrees with your viewpoint or not, you know they understand and respect it.

E — Encouragement: the origin of "cour" is heart. Feeling your spouse wants to help you achieve what is in your heart, your dreams and goals.

D — Dedication: knowing your spouse is more committed to you than to anyone or anything else in that moment. In a marriage, this means a long-term commitment to the spouse above all others.

"Starved people starve people," he said. "When our needs are not met, we (emotionally) starve those around us."

Townsend believes most relationships are starving to death. He sees people in his office bickering about things that are not the real issue. For example, he sees couples fight about money when safety is the deeper unmet need not being addressed.

Townsend also teaches relationship skills weekly on his KSL radio show, "The Matt Townsend Show," on Saturday mornings for one hour beginning at 11 a.m. He appears on the KSL TV's "Studio 5" two or three times a week, and sometimes he even co-hosts.

How does the gospel inform his work?

"When I coach or work with couples and they have the gospel, I've literally quadrupled my tool set," he said.

Townsend said many people think they can just do what their parents did and everything will work out and communication and relationship skills will come naturally. Yet, in his work, he sees they have to be taught.

"What I see is there's hope," he said. "My business is about change, and people can change. We don't have to be dysfunctional."

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