Many couples finally make it into a counselor’s office when they are unable to resolve their issues. Some make it there in time, and others are too late. But no matter when they enter the process, the outcome depends on the effort that they put forth.
What do couples get out of counseling? Let’s listen to the experience of five couples.
Gordon and Sally: We found that the best thing that we did was to talk more. This included being more open with one another; having good, solid discussions; and really listening to what one another had to say. Learning some easy exercises, like mirroring, helped us get on the same page and we were able have deeper and more focused conversations.
The Morettis: We learned to get time to ourselves. Often the only time we were able to have was between shifts or when the kids were in bed. By specifically making time to be alone, we have grown to know each other better than we did. Date night became a part of our week, no matter how much we had going on.
Hai and Suxiang: Getting to know each other was interesting. We actually thought we knew each other before we started our sessions. We were in for a surprise when we started doing the “getting to know you” exercises we were given from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman. We modified the exercise and picked twenty questions at random from the sixty, just to see how much we knew about each other. What we found was that through the years we had changed. We learned new things about us, as well as some of the old things we never got to share. All in all, we found this positive because it added a new and exciting dimension to our connection.
Darleen and Kim: Positive thinking has indeed been around for a while, but not for us. I know that you hear it all the time and it has become pretty cliché: “look on the bright side,” or “think positive,” or “think of the good old times.” What we found is that there is truth in these little everyday bits of wisdom. What brought us in to couples counseling was an unpleasant situation, but we got past it because we realized that dwelling on the past does no good, and in fact can actually cause more harm. So another cliché came to mind: “put the past behind you.” We learned that it was okay to remember some of the historical rough times in order to gain an understanding of how it became unhealthy. What wasn’t okay was to that it was unhealthy to be burdened with doubt, resentment, or hatred over something you have no control to change or rectify. Look past the dark and you will see the light.
Keisha and Dwayne: Reenacting a time that we both remembered as being a happy one was helpful. For us it was lying in the back of the truck looking at the stars on a moonlit night. The truck is long gone. We had to get creative with this one, so we used our backyard, got a blanket and looked at the stars. Yours may be different, but it is definitely worth the effort. Of course, the hardest part about this was making the time to do it.
For these couples, making their relationship work was by no means easy. The one element that was universal was that all of the couples found it took effort, willingness, and follow through, not only when they were in counseling but also after. They also found that some basic communication skills and better delivery of their messages to each other were helpful in how they listened and showed concern about what the other was feeling. And not to forget love! Love is what got them together and hopefully what will keep them together.
As far as I know they are still together. And happily!