Tough Questions to Ask When Considering Couples Counseling
Asking good questions–of yourself and your partner–helps you uncover causes beneath causes.
In a strong disagreement, do you really believe your partner is entitled to their opinion?
Under duress, do you have the courage and tenacity to seek your partner’s reality and the courage to express your reality when the stakes are high?
Why is it important to let your partner know what you think, feel and are concerned about? (Because they really can’t appreciate what they don’t understand.)
What is the price your partner will have to pay to improve their response to you? How much do you care about the price they will have to pay? (Everything has a price and we always pay it.)
Can you legitimately expect your partner to treat you better than you treat him/her?
If you want your partner to change, do you think about what you can do to make it easier?
When a problem shows up, it’s natural to think “What should I do about it?”
A much more productive question is. “How do I aspire to be in this situation?”
The Importance of Communication
The three most important qualities for effective communication are respect, openness and persistence.
Good communication is much more difficult than most people want to believe. Effective negotiation is even harder.
A couple’s vision emerges from a process of reflection and inquiry. It requires both people to speak from the heart about what really matters to each.
We are all responsible for how we express ourselves, no matter how others treat us.
Communication is the number one presenting problem in couples counseling.
Effective communication means you need to pay attention to:
• Managing unruly emotions, such as anger that is too intense
• How you are communicating – whining, blaming, vague, etc.
• What you want from your partner during the discussion
• What the problem symbolizes to you
• The outcome you want from the discussion
• Your partner’s major concerns
• How you can help your partner become more responsive to you
• The beliefs and attitudes you have about the problem.
No wonder good communication is so hard.
Some Final Thoughts.
You can’t create a flourishing relationship by only fixing what’s wrong. But it’s a start.
Grace under pressure does not spring full-grown even with the best of intentions – practice, practice and more practice. Practice the right things and you will get there.
Love is destroyed when self-interest dominates.
If you don’t know what you feel in important areas of your relationship, it is like playing high stakes poker when you see only half your cards. You will make a lot of dumb plays.
The possibility exists that we choose partners we need but don’t necessarily want.
To get to the bottom of a problem often means you first accept how complex it is.
Trust is the foundational building block of a flourishing relationship.
You create trust by doing what you say you will do.
It’s impossible to be in a highly inter-dependent relationship without ever being judgmental or being judged.
If you strive to always feel emotionally safe in your relationship and get it, you will pay the price by becoming dull.
If neither of you ever rocks boat, you will end up with a dull relationship
Knowledge is not power. Only knowledge that is applied is power.
Most of the ineffective things we do in relationships fall into just a few categories:
• Blame or attempt to dominate
• Resentful compliance
• Denial or confusion.
These are the normal emotional reactions to feeling a threat or high stress.
Improving your relationship means better management of these reactions.
Everything you do works for some part of you, even if other parts of you don’t like it.
Three motivations will govern any sustained effort you make. You will seek to:
1. Avoid pain or discomfort
2. Create more benefits
3. Be a better person.
It’s also true for your partner.
If you are asking your partner to change something, sometimes it’s a good idea to ask if the change is consistent with how they aspire to be in that situation.
Businesses and marriages fail for the same three reasons. A failure to:
• Learn from the past
• Adapt to changing conditions
• Predict probable future problems and take action.
Effective change requires insight plus action. Insight without action is passivity.
Action without insight is impulsive. Insight plus action leads to clarity and power.
If you want to create a win-win solution, you cannot hold a position that has caused your
partner to lose in the past.