04/23/2015 06:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Game of Life


If we want to play piano, we go to a piano teacher. When we want to play better tennis, we get a tennis coach. To be better at life, why not see a life coach?

Jamie Greene spent 25 years as a marriage and family therapist before becoming a life coach. "Therapy involves a lot of processing," he said. "It's not unusual for someone to be in therapy for years, often obsessing about things that happened perhaps decades before. Coaching focuses on the solution. It's important to know a client's background and history, but coaching is specific to the challenge rather than transforming someone's personality."

Greene credits Oprah and Dr. Phil with making people more comfortable talking about life's trials without being perceived as weak. For the most part, Greene says challenges are the same for people as they were 30 years ago. He has, however, noticed a shift with women who are breaking through glass ceilings. It's been at a price. "Women have taken on masculine qualities to achieve success in the workplace at the expense of their femininity," says Greene. "It doesn't have to be that way. You can be feminine and still keep your edge."

Many smart, savvy and powerful women are so concerned about outshining their husbands, he says, that they are minimizing themselves and their accomplishments so as not to usurp their men. "The biggest issue facing women today is trying to find their voice," says Greene.

Men are struggling to find themselves too. A common issue is they don't know what it is to be a man because they haven't had good role models. They never learned good fathering or worked with corrupt or abusive colleagues.

"Men are trying to find their purpose, beyond just being a dad or being at work," said Greene. They are looking for brotherhood and connection. He finds that's true for men and women alike. "Most people are seeking community and connection," he said.

And then when we do meet someone with whom to share our lives, that's often when the hard work truly begins. All relationships need attention. "Anger and passion are closely related, so if someone is not prepared to get real with their partner, passion is probably being stifled."

"It's OK to argue with your partner. It's healthy, as long as it's fair fighting. I tell couples it should be them against the world, not them against each other. Re-frame the way you communicate to something more helpful. No judgment, sarcasm, blaming or belittling."

Not all relationships can be saved, though, and sometimes Greene will call what he describes as "time of death" when there's a clash of values that no amount of coaching or therapy can resolve, or when two people are just not suited. The key is to separate in a mature manner, an especially vital task when children are involved. Turns out Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are onto something with their conscious uncoupling.

"I call it seamless parenting. There needs to be a complete consistency in the way they parent, even if they live in separate households. Divorce doesn't mess up children, it's the way the parents hold and deal with it that messes them up. Kids are very resourceful. Of course it's difficult and there's an adjustment, but if the parents behave like grownups, the kids will be OK."

This means not being the Disneyland Dad or withholding from the children to punish the ex-spouse. If couples can't treat their former partner with respect and honor the relationship they had, they will carry anger and bitterness into the next relationship.

"Failed relationships shouldn't be considered mistakes," said Greene. "We can grow from these experiences."