When a marriage is struggling it is always important to engage in relationship counseling exercises that help the couple work through the roughest of issues. From infidelity to dishonesty, relationships can be severely marred by ineffective communication, unmet needs, and the numerous demands that pull on the family. The marriage counseling exercises we suggest below can help if you are willing to look at yourself honestly in the mirror and commit to lasting change on behalf of you and your partner. Do not go the route of turf wars and cold wars. The time and love you have invested in the relationship should not be thrown to the curb without an attempt at restoration.
Active listening is a process by which partners learn to honor the words shared by their loved one and respond in a way that voices affirmation and trust. Using person-first language like “I feel,” a partner is able to communicate concerns, joys, and struggles without demeaning the other with inappropriate, over-the-top accusations and innuendo. The partner on the other end of the communication affirms the exchange by responding, “I hear you saying.” This form of communication allows the partners to maintain a connection while working through some of the more difficult issues in the marital union. Based on sound scientific research and robust field testing, active listening allows all to be heard and a variety of approaches to be explored.
Couples that are able to talk but accomplish little through their exchanges should consider goal setting. Goal setting is a procedure by which the partners set – in advance – their hopes for the conversation. Goals may include things like the expression of concerns, plans for the future, and thoughts about further interventions. If the couple is unable to stay on task in the course of conversation, the goals allow for a shifting back toward those things that are vital for a healthier bond. Goal setting is a very insightful communication tool as it provides for a written record of each partner’s innermost desires.
Role playing and compromising language
An openness to compromise language is essential to the continued health and vitality of the bond. Unilateral demands and decisions will deepen the marital angst and create an unsavory turf war between the partners. Finding a “neutral” party to mediate between partners can also help enhance communication. A third person can facilitate role playing which opens the lines of communication. Role playing helps couples consider outcomes based on a perceived list of issues. Typically, a facilitator acts as a stand in for one of the partners so that the other can learn about the type of exchanges that bring trust and ease of exchange.
Personality surveys like the Myers-Briggs survey and the like, provide partners with tremendous insight about their way of approaching and living within the world. After sharing their personality survey results with their partners, individuals may gain a deeper appreciation of how their mate deals with conflict, distance, fatigue, social situations and the like. A word of caution about personality surveys. It is very important for the survey to be interpreted by a psychological professional. A great survey with no clinical feedback is a worthless survey.
Dispute resolution is a tremendous intermediate measure when the marital trouble becomes untenable wherein the partners work with a mediator to deal with some of the issues associated with the angst and anger. Issues that are often considered for resolution include child custody, the division of debts and assets, alimony, child support, and the like. Often, dispute resolution is conducted in the presence of the parties’ attorneys. In many judiciaries, dispute resolution is mandated under law.
Sometimes couples do not have the language and the language skills to have a healthy conversation about the partnership and the issues. If verbal communication is no longer safe nor effective, it may be very important for the couple to engage in effective and safe nonverbal communication. Emails, handwritten notes, and the like allow partners to express information while honoring physical space. If nonverbal exchanges are favored by struggling couples, it is very important to review potential communications prior to sending them to insure that the exchange is healthy and constructive.
Couple counseling exercises and methods abound if partners take the time to explore the various offerings. Communication can flourish again if tools are used to bolster communication. If you are unsure where to turn for assistance, do not hesitate to enlist the support of trusted friends, ministers, and mental health professionals.