What Happens in Couples Counseling: Questions and Directions
When a couple enters into couples counseling, they are usually at some sort of an impasse. This can be anything from not communicating very well to living with outside pressures from their children, parents, friends, work, and finances. It may also be that one or both partners are looking at other men or women on Facebook or dating sites, or they may have begun an emotional and/or physical affair. In such situations and difficult times, one or both of the individuals may have shut down their level of trust. They are no longer offering themselves to growing the relationship. There are also times when one partner finds it difficult to understand their feelings and is unable to share them with the other partner. Then there are situations in which the couple just needs a third party to facilitate certain understandings or struggles that they may observe in the relationship. In couples counseling, we begin to peel back the multiple layers and issues that have begun to create a much more complex relationship than the couple originally expected.
Beginning in Couples Counseling
As we begin to work on the relationship together as a team, i.e., counselor and couple, we work to make our time together a safe space in which all those involved can speak and be heard. We hope that over time this also begins to develop and be maintained within the couple’s relationship outside of the counseling work. To balance speaking, being heard, and having space means that we work to find and maintain fair and clear communication. Once we have begun to establish the group work of balanced communication within the couple’s relationship, we can move onto and into what each member of the couple wants in the relationship. This is a good start, for it allows a clear verbalization of each partner’s needs and desires in the sessions that we spend together.
Finding Your Love Language
Romance at the BeachAnother way that to help couples facilitate better communication and relational understanding is to identify their primary love languages. Within the first month or two of counseling, we usually recommend that they read Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. A key realization in this is that each member of the couple discovers that their partner does not feel loved in the same ways that they themselves feel loved. Sometimes couples struggle with this. One partner may always be trying to love the other in ways in which they might feel loved, yet they are totally missing the point of their partner’s need and/or desire to be loved. Once someone realizes that although they feel loved through praise, affirmation, or physical touch, their partner really feels loved when you spend time with them and do things for them, they start to build an awareness that their love for each other needs to be a little more intentional and thought out.
This intentional and thought out part of the relationship then becomes the couple’s work in the following weeks. One of the intentional acts that we work on with couples early in our sessions is to commit to spending some time together on a date, or doing something together in the next week. Along with the assignment of spending time together, they are asked each visit to report on their dates or their activities together. I find that in the busy lives that many of us live, with kids, soccer, television (shows and/or sports), careers, etc., we can often hardly find time to commit to being with the partner we have chosen to spend a significant part of our life with. Truly committing to the relationship, and being more intentional and clear about the relationship, goes a long way to helping couples build a more rewarding and livable life together.
Christian Couples Counseling to Strengthen Your Relationship
These are just a few of the steps that we take in working with couples in Christian counseling. There are certainly more things to look at or take into account in building healthy strong relationships, especially for those who profess and model a faith in God. We therefore also look at how faith shows up in your life as a couple and as individuals. Many people who profess a faith in God also have struggles in their relationships. A couple who comes in to work on their relationship is a strong couple, for it is always best to seek guidance and help as you build your most precious and important relationships in life.
All images from pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License: “Sweethearts” courtesy of Takazart; “Romantic Walk,” courtesy of AdinaVoicu; “Romance at the Beach,” courtesy of lambhappiness; “Romantic Meeting,” courtesy of 2554813.