After Marriage Counseling: Use Your New Skills To Build A Love Nest
Someone asked a counselor, “Do you think every couple needs marriage counseling?” The answer was, “Every couple could benefit from marriage counseling, even if they have a great relationship.” If you are in marriage counseling, or have finished, congratulations. It was worth it, wasn’t it? You received some insights, tools, and new ways of relating that will help you have a healthier, more fulfilling relationship. But they won't do you any good unless you use your new relationship skills after marriage counseling to build a love nest that will last.
After marriage counseling, use your skill of communication
Do you ever watch a TV show or movie where chaos ensues because someone won’t simply talk and communicate the key information? That might make a good drama or funny sitcom, but it makes a terrible marriage. The foundation of any healthy relationship is communication. You have learned some communication skills in marriage counseling, but now you need to keep practicing those marriage counseling skills. Work on your active listening where you honestly share your thoughts and feelings and open a safe space for your partner to do the same without fear of judgment or criticism.
After marriage counseling, use your skill of intimacy
Nothing draws you and your partner close faster and stronger and deepens your love bond than emotional intimacy. You learned this in couple counseling, but now after marriage counseling, don't stop intentionally engaging your partner in ways that promote vulnerability and honest sharing of feelings. When you feel yourself get triggered and want to criticize or blame, stop and probe your feelings. What is driving that defense mechanism? Did something trigger your fear, your inadequacy, your sadness, your dread of rejection? Instead of lashing out, practice that skill you learned in marriage counseling of talking about that primary emotion that got scraped. And going forward, don’t just share those vulnerable emotions when they rise up, but share your dreams, your fears, your goals so that your partner can truly know you and you them on a deeper emotional level.
After marriage counseling, use your skill of investing time
Someone said, “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.” Too many couples profess that they’d die for one another, yet they don’t make time for one another. And it’s so easy to do that in our busy, busy world. With our job responsibilities, family, and other daily duties, time to just be together gets pushed aside. On the other side of marriage counseling, work hard at your new relationship skills by prioritizing quality time with just you two. Set a date night and guard it against all intruders. Put down the laptop, table, cell phone, Gameboy or what have you and give your full attention. Shared experiences help create connection and a stronger bond.
After marriage counseling, use your skill of mutual growth
You hear about couples that grow apart. Maybe that happened to you. During the dating relationship, you shared interests and did things that fostered mutual growth, growth together. But mutual growth can give way to individual growth where each partner pursues interests separate from their partner until they have both grown but in different directions. Now is the time to pursue hobbies, intellectual and spiritual development, and learning opportunities together. Don’t wait until your marriage is in trouble to attend a marriage retreat or a relationship building workshop. Use the skills you learned in marriage counseling and do things that grow you together instead of apart so that you keep your relationship interesting and vibrant.
After marriage counseling, use your skill of appreciation
Everyone needs to be more grateful than they are and express appreciation more than they do. But as Christians, we should be even more grateful and appreciative. Remember the story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus and they were all healed, yet only one returned to say “Thank you.” Don’t be like the nine; be like the one. And a great place to start building an attitude of gratitude is in your marriage. Make it a habit to acknowledge the little things that your spouse does for you and for your family. It’s amazing how powerful and bonding a simple, “You did a great job…thank you so much” is. It warms the heart and ingratiates your partner to you like few other things can do. In marriage counseling, you learned a skill where you regularly remind yourself of all the things your partner is and does that attracted you to him or her in your dating days and still attract you now. You’ll be so pleased at the positive atmosphere that simple gratitude will create.
After marriage counseling, use your skill of getting tune-ups.
Just like your car needs regular tune-ups to stay in good working order, so does your marriage. That’s why the counselor I mentioned at the beginning of this blog said that every couple needs marriage counseling. It's not just for a crisis, but it’s also great for tuning up your relationship. Whether you’d like to sharpen your relationship or fix your relationship, remember that we at Christian Counseling Associates are here to help you. Let us be your relationship resource.
If you are thinking about getting help for your marriage, I urge you to read more about marriage counseling, and then reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates for an appointment to get you started on the way to a healthy relationship.
A.J. Molina is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Christian Counseling Associates, Grapevine. He holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from LeTourneau University. He is also a Certified Life Coach with the Dale Carnegie Highest Achievement Award. He is a SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) Facilitator, as well as a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. He is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Psi Chi International Honor Society.