How we ended up with black belts in the "Marital Arts":

A few years ago, Sonja and Stephen Francis found themselves sitting in a puddle of blueberry milkshake, sobbing their hearts out.

Sonja had just dumped the milkshake over Stephen's head, right after he had punched a hole in the closet door, before which she had kicked him, which was preceded by lots of mutual screaming. They were sobbing, because they knew their year old marriage was over; a fairytale romance begun two and a half years earlier was ending in a nonstop barrage of marital conflict.

Today, however, the pair are not only happily (and quietly) married, they are on a mission: to bring the same tools that saved their marriage to other couples, sparing them the grief and confusion they endured.

"We just came to a mutual decision, sitting on the floor that day," says Stephen "We were just not going to go out without fighting for our love". Sonja echoes the sentiment "I married Stephen because I knew 'If this doesn't work, nothing will' -- it was just so blissful when we first got together. We weren't willing to just walk away from what had been such an amazing relationship".

The pair set out to learn how to love one another. Along the way, they came to believe that most people, themselves included, run their romantic lives based on unconscious programming learned in early childhood. "We learn our first language by the age of seven" Stephen remarks "...and we learn an unspoken language of love at the same time." Sonja continues "Our results in life come from actions taken and not taken. Those actions come from what we believe about life, men, women, marriage, etc. And those beliefs are largely programmed in by the time you are about 8 or 9 years old. It's kind of a scary thought: You are at the mercy of beliefs that may not be serving you real well. Our journey was really one of confronting things we believed that were just making it impossible to really love and trust one another."

The couple began to attend couples counseling. That led to books and tapes, which led to seminar after seminar, in a ceaseless search for tools and wisdom that would put them on a path to deeper and deeper love and intimacy. "My folks had a very unhappy marriage, with infidelity and rage; Stephen's parents are still together, but their marriage began in the '60s and it does not have much relevance for a 21st Century world. We had to find our own path" says Sonja now.

They knew it was beginning to work when other people at seminars began to approach them, asking "What's the secret?" or "Are you guys doing a relationship seminar for your honeymoon?" After a while, they began to dream of helping others: "We realized that most everyone is in the same boat -- the two main things needed to be a functioning adult are relationship skills and money skills; I don't remember a single day in school devoted to either. We set out to remedy that." says Stephen.

With no formal training in counseling, the two could not see a way to help others, until they realized that it was precisely their experience and near-failure that could help them connect to others: "If we can do it, you can do it" is their motto. "We never get dogmatic about what we teach; we have no pet theory to defend and no dogmatic axe to grind. Everything we teach has been road-tested in our own marriage -- it worked for us, so it can work for you."

They started putting on free 2-hour seminars, mostly in New York City, though they hope soon to have a global reach through teleseminars which they will host on their website,

"We are determined to deliver this program to those who need it," says Stephen "and this is a way of having our work reach people during uneasy economic times. People are scared right now and fear often leads to marital strife. At our weekend, we teach people to interrupt those unconscious belief systems that are running their lives and then go on to the specific skills needed to communicate lovingly with one another. The need is just so urgent, people aren't doing well out there."

One thing they swear by: simplicity. "A 17-point dialogue system may look great on paper, but it won't work when the heat is on. All that stuff goes out the window. We try to keep it so simple, your dog could understand it. And frankly, if most people could watch tape of themselves fighting, they wouldn't find that comparison insulting".

Sonja and Stephen laugh. They spend a lot of time these days laughing. Once in a while, they even have a blueberry milkshake together -- but these days, they stick to drinking it through two straws.

If you would like more information about their seminars, or to schedule a coaching session with either Sonja or Stephen, please call them at 646-233-1045 or email

Author's Bio: 

Stephen Francis was born in Oxford, England and moved to the US as a young man to pursue a career in the performing arts. After many years as an award-winning actor and director, he discovered the world of personal development. Having trained and mentored with some of the most brilliant leaders in this field, he now devotes his life to sharing the same tools and wisdom that continue to transform his relationships and enrich his life. In addition to Love Life Now, the seminar venture he runs with his wife Sonja, Stephen has led trainings for corporate clients, including JP Morgan Chase Investment Bank and UBS Investment Bank.