Note: This is a guest post on a fascinating topic by Naomi at Power of Two Marriage Blog.
It’s safe to say that no one dreams of a marriage full of constant bickering, passive aggressive anger, and a non-existent love life.
However, when it comes down to living intimately with one other person—making decisions, dealing with differences and quirks, raising children—this is the reality that many, if not most, couples face at some point in their relationship.
Couples counseling exists as a resource for all married folks—from those with minor problems to couples who are on the brink of divorce—to repair and renew their relationship. Numerous studies have proven that certain counseling approaches lead to dramatically better marriages.
At the same time, couples counseling remains, in general, taboo in America. Many people feel very uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a therapist. Part of this stems from a misunderstanding of what couples therapy is and what it can provide.
A key part of couples counseling is to help you and your spouse analyze habits of communication and action to figure out what is leading to the unpleasantness in your marriage. Most of the time these are things you don’t even realize you’re doing!
From there, you can learn skills (yes, skills) for how to communicate effectively and increase positivity. But wait, you say, nobody needs to teach me how to interact with my spouse!
Think about it this way: if you’re in any sort of sales or mergers position in a business, chances are you will be trained on how to negotiate, make decisions, and communicate effectively. Marriage is not just love, it’s also negotiating a partnership, and it requires similar skills!
Marriage counseling gives you a really useful tool kit for this purpose.
So, you see some problem areas in your relationship, and you’re ready to move forward with marriage skill-building. At the same time, the problem looms: what if my spouse refuses to do it with me?
This may be the #1 deterrent for couples who could benefit from marriage education.
The good news is: you can go it alone and still make a huge difference. Yes, it’s best when both individuals in a couple take on a project by learning and practicing.
At the same time, one spouse upgrading his or her skills will still raise the quality of interactions of both of them. Why is that?
The old saying, “a rising tide raises all boats,” is oh-so-true when it comes to your relationship. This is because the atmosphere of a marriage involves two people reacting and bouncing off each other, both setting the tone and pattern for interactions.
As one person learns to stop acting in anger and to give forth radically more positive energy – more affection, appreciation, playfulness, insight, and willingness to apologize for mistakes – both spouses feel better. In turn, feeling better builds patience for handling problems in a more respectful way.
Add in new communication skills for talking about sensitive issues, and solving problems becomes easier, leading to even more positive feelings. In this way, one person’s learning launches a positive cycle of feeling and doing better for both of you.
Try out changing little details of your behavior today, and see what an impact it has. For example, set a goal of giving your spouse 10 compliments today. Or, keep track of each time either of you use “but” when you argue, and then use “and” instead.
If you’re interested in learning more about marriage and relationship education and counseling, check out Power of Two Online (http://poweroftwomarriage.com). Po2 is a web-based interactive approach to help people improve their relationships. It’s full of fun activities, videos and games, and each user gets paired with a real live coach to guide them on their way. It’s a great opportunity to learn powerful skills on your own, or with your partner.
Have you had any experience with marriage counseling without your spouse? What do you think of the idea? Please share in the comments!
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.