Couples counseling works. In fact, partners attending couples therapy have experienced 70%–80% better outcomes than those who don't.
However, not all counseling techniques are created equal. Some methods may be more effective for certain individuals or specific issues. Here are 10 expert couples counseling techniques to help you maintain a healthy relationship.
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1. Practice Active Listening
Active listening requires you to pay full attention to your partner when they're speaking while trying to understand their perspective. This helps to build trust and intimacy in a relationship.
You can practice active listening by:
- Making sure you don't interrupt your partner while they're speaking
- Listening without judgment
- Facing your partner and maintaining good eye contact
- Paying attention to their non-verbal cues and body language
- Asking follow-up questions to demonstrate that you heard and understood them
2. Communicate Openly and Honestly
Good communication is essential in any relationship. Being open and honest with your partner is key to building trust, avoiding misunderstandings, and resolving conflicts more effectively.
Open communication can include:
- Asking open-ended questions so your partner can share what's on their mind
- Setting time aside to have productive conversations with your partner
- Telling your partner exactly what you need
3. Show Appreciation and Gratitude
Expressing gratitude for what your partner does for you and your relationship can help build a positive and supportive environment.
You can show appreciation and gratitude for your partner by complimenting them regularly. But avoid generic compliments such as, "You're the best," and instead mention specific things that you appreciate about them like, "Thank you for always offering to cook dinner when I have a bad day."
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4. Learn to Compromise
In any relationship, there'll be times when you'll need to compromise. So, when trying to find solutions that work for both parties, you must be willing to give and take.
Sometimes, the easiest way to gain a clear perspective or work towards a fair compromise is to put yourself in your partner's shoes.
5. Prioritize Your Relationship
Like anything else in life, a relationship takes work and effort. Make time for your partner and prioritize your relationship in order to keep it strong and healthy. This means spending quality time together and making a conscious effort to strengthen the bond with your partner.
6. Practice Forgiveness
Holding onto grudges and resentment can be toxic for a relationship. Learn to forgive, not just for your partner's sake but for your own well-being, too.
You can practice forgiveness in your relationship by:
- Accepting that you may never know why your partner hurt you
- Refraining from seeking revenge
- Being patient with yourself and your partner
7. Keep the Spark Alive
Relationships can become routine and lose their excitement and passion over time. Make an effort to keep the spark alive. You can do this by:
- Trying new things together
- Planning date nights
- Flirting with each other like you did when you first met
- Learning to recognize your partner's love language
- Writing your partner a letter mentioning all the things you adore about them
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8. Manage Expectations
Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction in a relationship. You need to have open and honest conversations about expectations and manage them in a way that is realistic and beneficial for both parties.
Don't compare your partner to others, and understand what your partner is able to provide. Your partner won't be able to meet your needs 100% of the time. Remember, it goes both ways. You wouldn't want your partner to hold you to incredibly high or unrealistic expectations, either.
9. Build Trust
Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Building trust takes time and continuous effort, but it can be done by being honest, dependable, and consistent in your actions.
And if trust is ever broken, find ways to rebuild it. Always practice open communication and follow through on your commitments to your partner.
10. Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Owning up to your actions can help to build and maintain trust and respect in a relationship. Apologize when you're in the wrong and identify what you may need to do to make things right.
Don't Wait Until It's Too Late
Couples counseling offers both pros and cons. Still, it can be beneficial at any stage of a relationship, whether it is to work on improving and strengthening the relationship or to address existing issues.
Seek counseling as soon as problems arise or when communication becomes difficult, rather than waiting for problems to become more severe. Receiving guidance before major life changes can also help you navigate and adapt to the changes in a healthy way.