I am often asked, “What is marriage counseling?” Many people are afraid of the unknown. They have never experienced counseling. They don’t know what to expect. Their minds are creative. They come up with all kind of ideas – from a session of reclining on a couch to an in-your-face intervention. With all those ideas, marriage counseling can seem unnerving.
For me, marriage counseling is like working on a house. A house may only need a new roof, or it may need some walls torn down and some plumbing. We don’t know until we examine it.
So, first I examine the marriage. I give each spouse written assessments to be completed prior to our first meeting. I look over the assessments. At the first meeting, I gather information from each spouse–their story. Simultaneously, I observe how the couple interacts. Afterwards, the information is analyzed.
I consolidate the data into a 6-7 page marriage assessment that is presented at the second session. The assessment consists of the following:
1.) Personal Data – length of marriage, ages, children, in-laws, etc.
2.) Presenting Complaints – each spouse’s areas of discouragement listed side by side
3.) Love Languages – each spouse’s top love languages listed
4.) Relationship Strengths
5.) Relationship Weaknesses
6.) Recommended Treatment Goals – including couples goals as well as individual goals.
The next few sessions focus on the outlined treatment goals. This may take anywhere from 8 to 20 sessions or longer depending on the particular couple. We will work on cumulative, marriage skills. These skills are necessary components of a healthy marriage. Homework will be given to couples to complete, such as planning time together and healthy conversation skills. Depending on the couple’s needs, I may see one or both partners individually to work on individual issues such as a trauma or depression.
I like to view marriage as a house. Marriage has four pillars: the intellectual pillar, the emotional pillar, the physical pillar, and the spiritual pillar. We work on each pillar, building and repairing where needed. For example, the physical pillar involves not only sexual intimacy, but also male and female differences, eye contact, and body language.
Conflict is good. It is an opportunity for the marriage to grow and thrive.
Conflict is good. It is an opportunity for the marriage to grow and thrive. I provide a safe environment for each spouse to share their feelings. We work through the conflict, repairing and building. This strengthens the marriage. I want each marriage to be a strong, solid house – ready for any storm.
Like a well-built house, marriage takes a lot of work, time and effort. Each spouse has to contribute to the construction and maintenance. As the counselor, I will show the couple what needs work and how to fix it. But it is the couple’s responsibility to do the work. When couples set aside pride and put forth the necessary work, their marriage strengthens and grows – as well as each partner’s happiness and joy. My goal is to encourage, assist, and motivate couples to invest in their marriage so that they will have an intimate, safe, loving, and rewarding relationship that they both desire to have.