“I’ll bet your practice is really busy with all these couples stuck in the house with each other.” – It’s one of the most frequent comments I hear as a relationship therapist these days. It’s basically the same with most intimacy and marriage counselors.
Being a relationship therapist, I do have a front-row seat to what is going on for many couples. Since the shutdown, one thing has become clear. This pandemic has had a polarizing effect on the couples I am seeing.
A Relationship Therapist and Locked Down Couples
Many have said: “This has given us a new perspective—a new sense of what is truly important. The things we were so upset about just don’t seem that significant now.”
Others report to their marriage and relationship therapist: “Everything that was causing problems before has intensified. Being around each other day after day is bad… and is getting worse.”
Now, one thing everyone can agree upon is that this situation has swept through our lives like a tidal wave, right? Finances, jobs, concerns, and anxieties about our health and the health of those we love, schedules, plans for the future – particularly, our relationships – have been intensely impacted.
Grief and fear overwhelm many people and make them wonder what will happen next—”will I, or my loved ones, survive?” And if we do, what will the future look like?
As a relationship therapist, I want to speak to only one aspect of all of this. What can you do to ensure that your relationship (or any relationships to come) is stronger, more satisfying, and more secure now more than ever?
Book a FREE 15-minute consultation with me and we can explore the intimate details of your relationship. Together, we can get to the bottom of how to nurture your relationships despite the external pressures.
So, where do you begin to make your relationship stronger with couples counseling?
First, sit down with someone with whom you have an important relationship (whether you consider that relationship good or bad). Talk about what result each of you would like to see from this couples counseling experience. Do not wait for this to be over before you examine its effect. You can read about how to improve spousal communication here.
Now is the perfect time for both of you (partner, spouse, child, parent, friend) to commit to the practice of:
forgiveness, patience, tolerance, empathy, open communication, and acts of kindness-
and a willingness to abandon:
judgment, criticism, defensiveness, disrespect, and blame.
No, of course, this isn’t easy. It will require more than a single non-specific commitment to something that “sounds good.” This initial commitment is just the first step in many conversations and great effort — small successes, failed attempts, restarts, and victories.
Secondly, be specific. Name and record at least one thing each of you feels you can do about each of those positive practices listed above.
“When I get frustrated with ______________I will try to discuss it from a place of patience and kindness.”
“When you are upset about _______________ I am going to listen more and not make suggestions unless you ask for them.”
“Even though I don’t enjoy _______________ I am going to remember that it’s important to you and try to be less critical or negative.”
Structure and discipline are essential for positive relationship changes.
Unless you are very specific, you will not see much success even when you undergo couples counseling. Structure and discipline are the most important if you want to see change.
For years I said: “I want to get into better shape. I’m going to exercise more and eat healthier.” That sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it? It’s sure to work! Except – do what exercises, when, and how often? Eat more of what and less of what? Without those specifics, it’s not a plan — it’s just wishful thinking.
Don’t most of us know what we need to do in a general way to improve ourselves and our relationships? “I need to be more organized. I should be more patient. I need to stop procrastinating. I need to drink less. I need to listen more. I should spend more time with my partner.”
Until we have an articulated plan that can provide us with a specific structured direction and the discipline to act towards that direction, nothing will change.
Couples therapy and counseling can help strengthen your relationship amidst this pandemic.
This time is difficult. Everyone knows that it is tempting to give in to lethargy, grief, despair, boredom, and anxiety. We might even forget to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, or worse, abandon the very things that can provide us with strength and relief in the process.
Make this the time you focus on healing the relationships you have at hand. Decide for peace and satisfaction by growing closer. Make your relationships stronger, more satisfying, and more secure by eliminating the things that create distance.
Don’t remember this entire experience as something terrible, trying, and miserable. Instead, remember it as the time you grew closer, you found new ways to express love to each other and was the beginning of a stronger and more fulfilling relationship between you and those you love.