Latest update: February 29th, 2012
The challenges that married couples face everyday can be quite complicated, not to mention filled with unique nuances. Issues of infidelity in one couple are different from issues of infidelity in another. Not all couples have the same definition for words like “neglect” or “trust.” One thing is for sure, you can’t place marital life in neat black and white categories.
But while issues put forward to marriage counselors are exclusive to the couple experiencing them, we can still distill principles that can be helpful in most, if not all cases. These principles can enrich a marriage and make it more resilient. At the very least, they can be areas for consideration and reflection.
The following are some basic marriage counseling advice. They may sound trite and cliché, but the more you apply them in your marriage, the more you’ll realize they actually make a lot of sense!
Communicate: If something is significant to you, say it — but say it responsibly. Getting your feelings and thoughts across to your partner is always better than bottling them up, and waiting for things to change. You don’t have to disclose everything, in fact, if you don’t feel comfortable about talking about a problem, then at least communicate that you don’t feel comfortable, and give your reasons why. There is nothing more stressful in a marriage than to have to second-guess what your partner needs.
More so, practice honesty as best as you can. Honesty in a relationship isn’t just about factual honesty. Rather, it is being authentic as to what is going on inside of you. If you are sad, then you are sad. If you’re upset, then you are upset. A healthy marriage allows the expression of these feelings without each partner feeling threatened.
Accept that stress is normal: It’s sad that many couples today file for divorce at the first sign of trouble. What is sadder still is that few of these couples know that stress in a marriage is not just normal and expected, but necessary if you want to grow in your relationship. The situation would be no different even if you change partners — as many people in second marriages probably know.
Change always bring stress, and throughout the different stages of marital life — from dating, to settling down, to raising a family — change will happen. As your family structure changes, so should you; adapting and learning new roles are parts of navigating the new seasons of married life. And while it’s sweet to tell your partner “promise me, you’ll never change,” the fact is that all people change. The needs, values and priorities of people in their 20s are different from those in their 40s; and you can’t expect your partner to always be as he or she was before.
What couples can do when stress happens is to understand where it’s coming from, and adapt accordingly. Marriages and families are like organizations; there are systems with rules and patterns of doing things. If a rule no longer works, it needs to be changed. If a pattern is unproductive, it needs to be broken. A couple who can adapt as they go through their marriage will be become better skilled to handle further, possibly greater, challenges.
Create chemistry. After a few years of marriage, many couples complain that they’ve lost that “spark,” and sadly find themselves no longer attracted to one another sexually, emotionally and even intellectually. They go to therapy expecting their counselor to hand them a magic pill that can bring it back. But while it’s true that chemistry is an unexplainable, naturally occurring phenomenon, it also needs work and deliberate effort to produce.
About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, Marriage and Family Therapy, is an expert in marriage counseling, pre-marital education, and helping teens in crisis with offices in Flatbush, Cedarhurst, and Crown Heights. He is a certified PAIRS instructor, and trained as a Level 1, Emotionally Focused Therapist at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and is a member of AASECT. He is the author of At Risk – Never Beyond Reach and First Aid For Jewish Marriages. To watch his free videos on marriage and parenting and for appointments visit: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723
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