In my counseling work, I notice that couples who make great strides in improving their relationships share a few characteristics.
1. Show up and be willing to do the work
Yes! Improving your relationship is going to require work. Sitting in an office with a relationship counselor is about 30% of the work. 60% of the work takes place between sessions. Real change means learning new skills, doing home assignments and practicing.
2. Ask yourself “How can I be A better partner?”
Most couples come in focused on wanting their partner to change. It’s helpful to be able to talk about what is not working and the change you want to see. However, chronic blaming, finger pointing, criticism and judgment doesn’t help illuminate the real issues. It simply keeps both people stuck. I help each person self-reflect so that you can see your part in the situation and discover a positive path forward together, but I cannot do the heavy lifting for you. It’s up to you to take an unflinching look at your own attitudes and behavior and make a commitment to change. And then follow through like the health and well-being of your relationship depends on those changes, because it really does.
3. Be willing to grow and change.
Part of my job is to help you learn new tools for managing your emotions, along with honest and respectful communication. Becoming skilled in understanding your own, as well as your partner’s feelings and needs, is an essential part of improving a relationship. Learning to express yourself honestly and respectfully is a process that takes place over time. Listening to your partner openly, even when you don’t agree also is a skill that produces great growth. You can count on feeling uncomfortable for a while. When you stick with it, individual growth and a deeper connection with your partner is a natural result.
Mastering the skills it takes to create a great intimate relationship requires every bit as much, or even more, dedication as mastering an instrument or any other high-level skill. It’s going to take an investment of resources, effort and time. The rewards of healing and the aliveness that couples create together makes all that effort worthwhile.