The road to establishing a healthy and meaningful marriage is difficult.
It seems that there is an ocean full of issues. How is this stranger, who calls themselves a counselor, going to stop the waves from battering our sinking lifeboat that we call our relationship?
Like repairing a boat at sea. Counseling will be difficult.
There will be confrontation and accountability.
There will be conflict.
There will be miscommunication.
There will be frustration, anger, and pain.
If you can navigate your way through those difficult waves, patch up the boat where you can, and practice these 3 tips, you will be on your way to getting the most out of couples counseling.
1. Watch What Your Counselor Does.
Many couples go into counseling missing this key piece of the puzzle.
They are ready to set their partner on fire.
Many couples have a difficult time just allowing their partner to say their piece, and in their heads are planning how they will respond.
During these times where your counselor may be focusing on your partner, take notice of what your counselor is saying and doing.
Listen to the way that they talk.
What is their tone like?
What are some of the questions that my counselor asks that I can use for myself later.
A good counselor will be demonstrate valuable skills such as reflecting, validating and asking questions that deepen the relationship.
Imitating these skills can improve your relationship greatly.
2. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Have you ever tried to learn a new dance?
Or can you remember back when you were little and were trying to ride a bike?
I imagine when those were new skills that you were developing it was weird, awkward, and you messed up a few times?
This is a normal and common response to practicing new habits.
You will feel similar experiences in counseling.
But, just because it feels awkward or not natural does not mean that you are doing it wrong. It may mean you are in the exact place that you need to be and you need to practice a bit more.
You can use outside of the session the tools and skills that your counselor will demonstrate and teach (see tip #1).
Practicing skills like reflecting and validating may seem strange and awkward at first, but the more you practice the more natural it will feel.
The more you practice outside of therapy, the more you will find benefits from therapy itself.
3. Be Forgiving.
Like I said in #2, practicing new steps in a dance can be awkward.
The first time you learn to ride a bike you inevitably fall a few times.
As you already know, your partner will fall.
They won't meet your expectations, let alone their own expectations.
One of the biggest things you can give your partner in those moments is grace and forgiveness.
If you can offer your partner this in moments where they feel guilt or shame it can be a powerful moment of bonding that re-establishes the idea that the two of you are on the same team.
Counseling acts as a catalyst for change in a marriage.
You can come as you are, but you can't stay as you are.
Have some grace when charting into the unknown territory of becoming a new and different husband or wife.
Again, marriage can be a difficult endeavor to face. Just because you go to counseling does not necessarily mean that your relationship is automatically fixed.
It takes attention and effort in the right places.
If you turn your attention and effort into these three tips, you will make the most out of your time in couples counseling.
Jesse is a Licensed Associate Counselor in Northwest Arkansas. When Jesse was growing up, he had people with deep character pour into his life, motivating him to be the change that he wanted to see in the world. Jesse wants to pass that on to others by providing encouragement, support, and smiles to the individuals he works with through counseling, volunteering, networking, and writing. Jesse believes every person has the ability to become the best versions of themselves given they take intentional action towards their goals, give it time, and allow themselves to experience grace along the way.