Guest Blogger, T Martin Graverson, MA Therapist
Common Things Learned in Couples Counseling
I remember one of the first couples that I sat with as a therapist telling me that they thought that their marriage was over, but they would be willing to try couples counseling. As a new therapist, just getting my feet wet, I remember being somewhat terrified, excited, anxious, challenged, and a whole conglomeration of feelings. I also remember seeing a little bit of hope left in each spouse, which is so important in moving towards establishing a healthy marriage. Over the years I have worked with numerous couples with a variety of issues, coming from different backgrounds and cultures, and also bringing their individual “baggage” into their marriage. Because of the many differences that we often have with our spouses, we have a lot to learn about one another, and there is no better place to learn about your spouse than through couples counseling. Our differences lead us to have varying perspectives on issues, which can often lead to stress in a marriage. It is critical to not only understand your spouse on an intimate level, but understanding their perspectives can be crucial.
10 Things You'll Learn in Couples Counseling
- They are NOT perfect. You are probably thinking, “Well, obviously. That’s why they need to see a therapist.” The reality is, though, we can often have such high expectations for our spouses that we don’t give them the grace and patience that they deserve. Sometimes we believe that they should know everything about us, but that takes time and building emotional intimacy (being safely vulnerable) throughout your marriage. Taking time to understand your spouse and having an open mind about their perspective is key.
- Differences are not deficiencies. So often I hear “We are polar opposites” from couples, and the reality is; we all have differences and we are unique individuals. We have different personalities, genders, family backgrounds, cultures, birth order, just to name a few. So it isn’t about finding the perfect mate, it’s about working through your unique differences and understanding the unique relationship that only you and your spouse have created.
- How your spouse feels valued. Because of our differences, we often feel valued differently, whether it’s through gifts, words, actions, touch, or quality time. And sometimes our differences in how we feel valued can cause issues in a marriage. Gary Chapman, refers to this as our “love language”. If you are speaking different languages to one another, you will often feel unloved, confused, or just frustrated.
- Their conflict style. We all have different ways of dealing with conflict, but we don’t always take the time to pay attention to how our spouse deals with conflict, let alone how we deal with conflict ourselves. Couples counseling often allows a third party to observe and identify the ways in which each partner approaches to conflict and ways to work through conflict.
- Their communication style. Like conflict, we all have our own ways of communicating with people, both close to us and the more “surfacey” relationships. How we communicate to one another and how we approach our spouse with our needs and desires is critical in having a healthy marriage.
- Their stresses and how they tend to deal with them. Couples counseling will often address the stresses of each partner and ways in which you can best support your spouse with their stress. Counseling will also give you a chance to express your own stresses and ways in which you desire to be taken care of by your spouse.
- What your spouse’s priorities are (and why they are important to them). Sometimes we are blinded to what we are making a priority in our lives, but it is almost always recognized by our spouses. However, we can struggle with communicating, in a healthy way, what our partner’s priorities are and what we would like them to be. I will often see spouses who are making their work a priority over the marriage or their children the first priority in their life. Through couples counseling, each spouse can learn to understand one another’s desires and how to make them more of a priority.
- What your spouse needs from you. We don’t always communicate our needs to our spouse in the healthiest of ways, but couples counseling can offer you and your spouse a time and place to express yourself. When you are able to learn to listen well and be open towards understanding your spouse, rather than defending yourself or being critical of your spouse, you will be able to understand that your spouse, like you, has a desire to be loved, accepted, and valued in spite of their flaws, imperfections, and past mistakes.
- How to connect, and stay connected, to your spouse. Couples can sometimes struggle with finding ways to connect to their spouse and often don’t communicate how they feel most connected to their spouse. Couples counseling can often bridge the gap between couples and assist them in rekindling the fire that was once there in the marriage and keep the fire going.
- How to “soothe” your spouse. Everyone experiences emotions and we all cope with those emotions differently, but when you can learn how to keep your spouse calm in the midst of dealing with strong emotions, you will take your marriage to a new level. It is common for couples to escalate an argument in various ways, but when you learn how to “soothe” your partner and be the one to help them calm their emotions down, they will begin to feel safely vulnerable with you.
If you and your spouse are considering couples counseling, contact us today. At Crosswinds, we believe hope can be restored in even the darkest situations, and we bring that healing sensibility to our approach to marriage counseling.