Our greatest passion at Fully Living is for healthy, vibrant couple relationships! It is a fact married people enjoy better health, longer lives, more satisfying sex, more wealth, and children who do better emotionally and academically. We work with you to build a stronger and happier relationship which gives you freedom from negative or escalating conflict, and leads you to manage differences and problems, and love and grow as a couple. Contact us today to let us help you start improving your relationship now.
What is Couples Counseling?
Having a couple come in weekly and talk about the problem of the week or the crisis of the week is rarely therapeutic. Instead, it should be an orderly process that is a foundation for long term success and an approach for not only improving the relationship, but also maintaining it. Couples therapy should highlight strengths and challenges in your relationship while also suggesting actionable, research based recommendations for therapy. I incorporate a number of different training and therapies with couples. However, my main focus is in the Gottman Method Couples Therapy. This therapy is based on over 40 years of research on couple relationships and focused on what makes relationships succeed or fail. It is designed to teach specific tools and its emphasis is in three general areas:
- To deepen friendship and love
- Productively manage conflict, and
- Create shared meaning together
Couples generally have two stories to tell, feel that if they could solve their problems they would be happy, need a sounding board for their pain, and are looking for hope and understanding. I assess the core issues in relationships and observe how a couple typically deals with those issues together. We build skills and teach tools for a better emotional connection, to build trust and commitment, repair negative events and incidents, and make life dreams come true.
What does Couples Therapy look like?
Therapy should be a careful and disciplined process that begins with assessment, goes into a working stage and ends with a maintenance, or follow-up, period.
Assessment Phase: We perform a systematic, careful assessment of your relationship before beginning treatment. This will generally be completed in a few sessions. We will talk about the history of your relationship, areas of concerns and goals for treatment. We will also discuss your personal goals and give you an opportunity to share your thoughts, feelings and perceptions. This phase also includes the on-line “Couple Checkup” assessment. This clinical tool is completely confidential, HIPAA compliant, and research-based to help couples build a personalized treatment plan with your therapist.
Working Stage: We work on the three general aspects or the therapy process- helping couples manage conflict, build friendship and love, and create shared meaning together-in specific exercises in session, in order to be integrated into the relationship outside of therapy.
Maintenance Period: A series of sessions at differing times such as monthly, every 6 months or yearly to “test out” relationship skills and prepare for termination. These types of sessions have been shown to decrease chances of relapse into previous, unhelpful patterns, and are used to fine-tune skills learned throughout the therapy process.
Common Problem Areas in Couple/Marriage Counseling:
Emotional distance and disengagement.
Communication and Conflict Management
Finances and Budgeting
Love and Affection
Romance and Passion
Building safety, trust and commitment
Work and Career
Children and Parenting
Roles and Responsibilities
Spiritual/Religious Values and Beliefs
Family and Friends
Divorce and Step Parenting
Sometimes in couples therapy it becomes necessary to work with one or both persons individually. This may take various forms. It may mean having one or more sessions where the time is split equally with both individuals and then 10-15 minutes together. Other times it is necessary to work for a number of sessions with an individual without the partner involved. In cases where a problem such as anxiety, depression, anger or co-dependence is manifested, or when an addiction to alcohol, substances or pornography is present, individual sessions are generally necessary for personal change and growth in order for the couple relationship to be able to develop in a healthy way.
We Deal With:
Love – a conscious, determined decision, not a feeling. It is a willingness to value and avoid devaluing your partner which builds trust and security and a basis for handling problems. Love says “I choose you.”
Intimacy – the feelings in a relationship that promote closeness, bondedness, and connectedness. This can come in many areas including emotional, social, sexual, intellectual or recreational. Without intimacy, people become isolated and alone. Love is fulfilled by closeness, sharing, communication, honesty, trust and support.
Commitment – creates a feeling of certainty and has a desire and vision toward a future together. Like love, commitment is a decision which gives us security by bringing a long-term perspective which allows couples to withstand the inevitable ups and downs in marital satisfaction. It says “I love you because of who you are, not because of what you do or how I feel.”
Meeting Needs – is inherent in the couple/marriage commitment. The relationship is deeper and more meaningful when our needs and desires are met. Some of the most common needs important in a relationship are admiration, affections, commitment, conversation, honesty, intimacy, respect, time together and support.
Hearing and Understanding – are inherent needs we all have. Being connected as a couple requires hearing our partner; listening to their feelings, needs, desires and struggles. This says “I need to hear you so you can hear me; I need to understand you, so you can understand me.”
Keys to a Better Relationship
- Choose to commit to change bad habits or behavior and self defeating and negative thoughts about ourselves or partner.
- Refrain from speaking words that criticize, de-value, label or tear down.
- Listen to understand.
- Initiate and spend more time together alone.
- Don’t avoid, isolate or withdraw; rather, talk through issues and find resolution.
- Admit when you are wrong. Forgive, and ask for forgiveness
- Realize effort and intentionality is necessary for a healthy relationship.
- Focus on what you need to change, not on what your partner needs to!
- Don’t hold on to resentments.
- Verbalize your feelings, experiences and needs.
- Pray together.
Many times we see couples acting independently and they have become isolated. They have stopped sharing not only their thoughts, hopes and dreams, but spend little time together and rarely say words to their partner showing they love and value them. Good questions to ask yourself regarding your actions, attitudes or words to your spouse are:
Will this draw us closer or drive us apart?
Will it build our relationship or tear it down?
Will it bring about a positive response or a negative response?
Does it express my love and loyalty to my partner or does it reveal my individualism?