Even the best relationships have room for improvement.
Strengthening the foundation of your relationship with your partner during the good times will help you get through the rough times with love, kindness, and compassion.
One key way to build a strong relationship is through couples counseling.
Couples Counseling Isn’t Just for Bad Times
Most couples only make an appointment for couples counseling when things are at their worst. Therapy is certainly critical at such times. What many people don’t realize, however, is how helpful it can be to see a counselor when there aren’t major problems that are surfacing in their relationship.
Couples counseling during the good times includes these benefits:
Building your communication skills with one another
Recalling all the positive, common memories of your relationship and what brought you together in the first place
Building rapport and a supportive relationship with your therapist, so you can seek them out when you have challenging times
Addressing common relationship “hot spots” before they become bigger problems, so you will know how to address them if and when they come up for you and your partner
3 Key Ways to Build a Strong Relationship
While you are in couples counseling, you and your partner will learn many strategies to build a strong relationship. Three key therapy tools include:
1. Avoiding the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Relationship expert and author, Dr. John Gottman, found through his research and work with couples that he can almost always predict whether a couple is going to “make it.” Couples who have a communication style exhibiting what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt) are unlikely to recover from the negative impact on their relationship. If you want to build a strong relationship, you must be vigilant against these communication problems. Working with a trained therapist in couples counseling you can learn how to eliminate these four from your interactions, establishing a better way to express your needs and communicate without hurting your relationship.
2. Learning Love Languages
Author Gary Chapman teaches that there are five basic ways that we express love.
One key path to a good relationship is to learn to express love in your partner’s preferred language. Some people like receiving gifts, while others would favor words of affirmation. There are some who want quality time. Others need physical touch. Still, others express love through acts of service. Through therapy, you and your partner can learn your own love languages and how to speak each other’s language.
3. Crossing the Bridge
This is a technique developed by relationship experts Hedy and Yumi Schleifer.
Partners sit close together, facing one another. One partner is the host, inviting the other partner (the “visitor”) to cross the bridge and visit his / her land. The visitor is encouraged to leave all baggage on their side of the bridge and to come to visit with love and kindness. The host shows the visitor around the world, explaining their point of view from an “I statement” place. The partner serves as a loving witness to the host’s experience, stating through body language and presence, “I see you and accept you.”
Building a Strong Relationship in Small Steps
What have we learned so far? The best thing you can do for your relationship is to give couples counseling a try. You don’t need to wait until there is “trouble in paradise” before you make that first appointment. Therapists can offer you a diverse range of tools for building a strong relationship foundation. Learning and practicing important communication techniques like avoiding the four horsemen, speaking in love languages, and crossing the bridge go a long way toward making each conversation you have with your partner better than the last.
Summer Hough, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to help rebuild connections and strengthen relationships. To book an appointment with Summer, give her a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 110, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.