Getting marriage counseling isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you’re willing to invest in your marriage with the goals of achieving growth and a change for the better. Counseling allows for the pursuit of relational growth in a supportive context and a healthy structure for conversation.
Counseling offers a couple the chance to learn about each other’s thought life, personal history, and emotional worlds. It can give you tools and strategies for relating to one another, allowing you to forge a deeper connection, and opening both of you up to how the Lord might bring healing and direction into your marriage.
Counseling that takes place in a vacuum isn’t enough, however. There has to be a commitment to carry out what you’ve learned and to acton your new perspectives. This process is often encouraged by the use of “homework,” which is meant to help couples create new, healthier habits to foster intimacy.
3 Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home
Here are three couples counseling techniques that can be used as “homework” to help couples stay consistent with what they’ve learned in counseling sessions:
1) Emotional check-ins
The bond between spouses grows stronger when each offers the other focused attention. When we feel that someone is intentionally focusing on us, honing in on our feelings and wanting to communicate with us, we recognize that attention as love.
For focused attention to happen regularly, a structured habit should be formedof setting aside a particular time to focus on your spouse’s inner world and emotional state. The goal is for each spouse to feel heard and understood, leading to emotional closeness. These intentional moments can be referred to as emotional check-ins, heart check-ins, or connection times.
Couples should schedule uninterrupted time to talk and listen to each other from their hearts. This should be at a specified time and place, with a time limit (20-30 minutes is a good amount to start with), and each, in turn, should have a chance to share their current emotions and any relational needs.
One spouse should communicate his or her emotional condition, and the role of the other spouse is simply to listen well, interrupting only to clarify or mirror back what they’ve heard. Sometimes, a word list of feelings can help in communicating one’s emotional state at this point.
When the first spouse is finished, the other spouse should reflect back what they’ve heard and ask, “Is there anything you need from me regarding those feelings?”
This gives the spouse who has shared a chance to express his or her felt needs in the relationship. This allows each to consider and be aware of their own needs, as well as empathizing with their spouse’s emotions and desires, allowing both to feel loved, understood, and emotionally close.
In many relationships, one of the main goals of therapy is to teach healthy emotional self-regulation, including practices that can be used for self-soothing. The time-out tool is one such practice that is learned in the therapeutic settingbut is established outside that setting.
Sometimes during emotional check-ins or in the course of everyday life, one or both spouses may become frustrated. This is the time couples need a tool to de-escalate the situation and be able to clearly see the source of the frustration.
The practice of time-out can be used to de-escalate and gain clarity in a conflict situation. A time-out requires an agreed-upon decision to seek physical distance for the purpose of cooling down, but it implies the reassurance that the marriage and the discussion are still priorities.
This reassurance should take the form of a promise to come back and finish the conversation at a specified time. Used the right way, this tool can be highly beneficial for both spouses.
The best time to use a time-out is right when you notice a conversation beginning to take a turn for the worse. This way, hurtful interactions can be minimizedor avoided altogether. Time-outs are meant to build trust between spouses. This happens in two ways.
The first way time-outs build trust is that each spouse takes ownership of his or her own frustration or anger, and seeks de-escalation in a healthy and non-destructive way. The second way is by a spouse keeping his or her word to return to the conversation at the promised time.
The goal of time-outs is to teach healthy emotional regulation, foster emotional intimacy, and reassure each spouse of their importance to the other. The more often a time-out is initiated, the more beneficial this tool can be to a marriage.
3) Praying together
For couples who want to forge a deeper spiritual bond, the practice of praying together for each other and about their marriage can be a powerful homework assignment.
Prayer and humility are inextricably intertwined since prayer is simply crying out to God for help. Throughout the Bible, God calls believers to prayer, yet due to our pride, feelings of inadequacy, and even spiritual opposition, we often have difficulty with this discipline, especially in the presence of our spouse. However, typically, couples who pray together do tend to stay together.
The above are three examples of assignments often given to Christian couples in counseling sessions. These assignments are, of course, voluntary, and their effectiveness depends on the willingness of each spouse to commit to them.
If you and your spouse are interested in improving your marriage with couples counseling, please contact a counselor today.
“Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Eye contact,” courtesy of Jeremy Wong, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bench,” courtesy of Elvert Barnes, FCC (CC BY 2.0); “Fervent prayer,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License