If a single person’s life is considered dynamic, it is all the more so for a married couple as two very different people establish a new life together under the same roof. Counseling is an important way to ensure that both positive personal and relational growth occurs as the challenges in a married couple’s life increase.
Couples undergoing counseling receive deeper insight into one another’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Practices and techniques are taught to allow the spouses to develop a stronger connection in order to overcome obstacles in their lives.
And most importantly, as the couple prayerfully seeks improvement together, God’s power and love may be experienced which will inspire, encourage, and heal.
However, counseling alone is not enough to sustain this positive growth. At home, the couple needs to implement what was learned. This is why counselors give assignments to help establish better habits and practices for a stronger and more fruitful married life.
Couples Counseling Practices to Take Home with You
Here are three exercises which are useful in reinforcing gains made in couples counseling:
1) Checking in Emotionally
Focused attention is something that most individuals appreciate and even crave, especially in today’s world where people are experiencing less face-to-face time compared to the past. When someone attentively listens to us, we feel that we are special to him or her.
This practice – which is known to others as an “emotional check-in”, a “connection time”, or a “heart check in” – is vital for spouses to know one another’s inner world. When their inner being is expressed and understood, the couple grows closer emotionally.
To achieve this, the couple is asked to commit to a specific time to share and listen to one another’s heart. A specific day, time, and place are set for them to share regularly. A time limit (20-30 minutes is an okay start) is decided upon for sharing their feelings and any resulting needs.
As one spouse shares, the other listens attentively, interrupting only to clarify things or to summarize what was understood at that time. When the first person is done sharing everything, the spouse who was listening reflects back the sentiments and emotions heard, and then asks, “Is there anything you need from me regarding those feelings?” This is then the time for the sharing spouse to express what should be addressed in the relationship.
After that, the first sharer becomes the listener and the process is repeated. Through this, not only is empathy for one’s spouse strengthened, each spouse also develops more awareness of their own emotions and needs. It really is a beneficial way for each spouse to feel loved and understood.
2) Using the Time-out Method
An additional important tool needed by couples is the “time-out.” It is natural that conflict may arise as burdens and frustrations are shared. Although a natural occurrence, couples need to ensure that it does not escalate to the point of causing a further rift in the relationship.
In the time-out, physical distance is asked for and granted so that emotions may cool down, thoughts may be gathered, and a fruitful conversation may be returned to. Without it, things may boil over into something very hurtful indeed – emotionally and possibly even physically.
Aside from allowing the heated discussion to simmer down, the time-out is also a trust-building practice. This is accomplished as the spouse acknowledges the anger and then takes a non-destructive step (the time-out) to de-escalate the situation. Trust is further built up as the conversation is resumed once things settle down. It means that both seek a resolution rather than an escape from the discussion.
3) Taking Time to Pray Together
Praying together for the marriage is another powerful practice. While it is always important to pray individually, when it is done together, each partner is given reassurance about just how important their relationship is to one another, helping to deepen the shared spiritual connection.
Prayer is an act of humility as we acknowledge our finiteness, seeking God’s wisdom and assistance. But though it is something we must do, it can be difficult at times because of our pride, our past experiences of unanswered prayers, or even spiritual opposition.
So as the couple takes time to fervently pray together for God’s help, it means that they have realized they cannot do things on their own and that they are truly seeking for the means to keep their bond strong.
It is why it has been generally observed that couples who pray together tend to stay together.
The above-mentioned are just some of the practices that may be assigned during counseling sessions. If you believe that this article pertains to you or to a couple that you know, it is recommended that you contact a professional Christian counselor to help you build a strong and prayerful marriage.
“To the ends of the earth,” courtesy of Brian Holland, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Stand by Me,” courtesy of Alex Iby, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Relax,” courtesy of Maxime Lelievre, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple reading the Bible,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License