10 Tips Couples Learn in Marriage Counseling

Marriage Counseling TipsMore and more couples are going to marriage counseling for one basic reason – it works. Of course, it does not work for all couples. While marriage counseling may seem like a miracle for one couple, it could actually may another couple’s situation even worse. Whether your marriage is in the beginning stages or in crisis, the following are a few things that couples learn in marriage counseling.

Take An Inventory Of Your Relationship

  1. Take stock of what is good about your marriage. How would you do things differently if you won the lottery? Would you think about your relationship differently? Sit down and write this out on a piece of paper. While you’re at it, write a gratitude list of the 10 things you are most grateful for in your life.
  2. Learn to compromise and tolerate disappointment. Most happy couples struggle to accept significant differences about finances, in-laws, household chores, and retirement planning. Don’t just acknowledging the differences between the two of you – work diligently at accepting them.
  3. Identify and resolve your frustrations. There are many sources of frustrations in a marriage – from career to parenting. Frustrations can be triggered by the past, the present or worrying about the future. It’s natural to get frustrated but it’s important to avoid venting your frustrations on your partner. That’s what a good therapist is for. Bottom line – do whatever you need to do to alleviate your frustration before it turns into a long-standing resentment.

Take Action Steps

  1. Praise your partner for doing good things. Make a conscious effort to look for positive behaviors in your partner and compliment them. Sit down and write on a piece of paper your 3 favorite characteristics of your partner. Take time to tell him or her what you like best about them.
  2. Surprise your partner with thoughtful gestures. You know better than anyone else what your partner’s likes and dislikes are. Use this knowledge to please him or her in some unexpected way. Do throughtful things that your partner can discover in your absence.
  3. Make a point of asking your partner what you can do for them. Don’t just assume that your partner will tell you what all their needs are. Often, people are afraid to voice their needs for far that they will sound needy. If you ask your partner to tell you what they want it will signal that you want to make them happy.

Deal Swiftly With Conflict

  1. Manage tense moments before they grow into something bigger. Before getting defensive and with anger, stop yourself and count to ten. Believe or not, this actually works. Then, say what you need to say calmly, without anger.
  2. Take a time out and apologize if needed. When an issue escalates, ask for a time out and specify when you want to resume talking. When you return to the discussion, make a point of saying that you want to compromise. If you sense that you have been offensive in any way, apologize. If needs, admit you are wrong, say you’re sorry, and discuss ways of avoid the same issue in the future.

Focus on the Positive

  1. Make the time to have fun. It’s important to build new memories and to create time together for both of you to enjoy. Most couples have busy lives that they fill up with tasks and errands. Make it a priority to take time to spend with your partner and create regular opportunities for fun, laughter, and positive experiences.
  2. Make a point to be kind. Probably the best way to defuse an argument is with kindness. When having a disagreement, use uplifting words such as patience, helpfulness, courage, or kindness. Determine what communicates love to your partner and do more of that. Be observant and thoughtful with little things, such as offering to do a specific chore that your partner dislikes. By consistently taking actions that open your partner’s heart you will both end up will benefiting.

Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.

References

Birditt, K.S., Brown, E., Orbuch, T.L., and McIlvane, J.M. (2010). Marital conflict behaviors and implications for divorce over 16 years. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72 (5): 1188-1204.

Hardoy, I., & Schøne, P. (2008). Subsidizing “stayers”? Effects of a Norwegian child care reform on marital stability. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 571-584.

Kreider, R. M. (2005). Number, timing, and duration of marriages and divorces: 2001. Current Population Reports. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

 Lavner, J.A. & Bradbury, T.N. (2012). Why do even satisfied newlyweds eventually go on to divorce? Journal of Family Psychology, 26 (1): 1-10.

Rauer, A. J., Karney, B. R., Garvan, C. W., & Hou, W. (2008). Relationship risks in context: A cumulative risk approach to understanding relationship satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 1122-1135.

Tsapelas, I., Aron, A., and Orbuch, T. (2009). Marital boredom now predicts less satisfaction 9 years later. Psychological Science, 20 (5): 543-545.