How to Maintain Your Relationship after Couples Therapy
By David A. Morris, LCSW
“It’s as if she has reverted back to all of her old ways!” “You’d think by now he would listen.” “All that work for nothing in couples therapy!” “I just want to know I am respected!”
In relationship rebuilding, it’s very common to have setbacks or regression to the status quo. Couples often work very hard during therapy to save their marriage, rescue their relationship, and protect their commitments to each other. The status quo, or steady state of functioning, is where people naturally return if they are not purposeful. Leave an ice cube and boiling water in the same room and eventually their temperature will meet. This equilibrium can be helpful unless, for example, you want to refresh your lemonade or make hot chocolate. For relationships, status quo is not the goal because its return often indicates a backwards slide to problematic patterns of communication and behavior.
Watch Your Fear in a Relationship Slide
Observing a setback in your relationship can often trigger fear. Fear that all the changes you have worked so hard to achieve are gone. Fear that the conflict will come back. Fear that your trust is in a vulnerable state. Be conscious of the worry, find a way to communicate it early, and be wary of making decisions based on it. Remember that you learned in couple’s counseling about communicating and listening to emotions, complaining about behavior instead of attacking the person’s character, and building your admiration for each other. Use those skills to challenge your fears.
Here are some quick ideas to get you back to making positive changes in your relationships:
- Petty Makes Pretty – It is all the little things that matter. Big issues don’t seem to take relationships and marriages down. It’s the culmination of a million little things. Lesson? Work on the “petty” things each hour, each day. Rub their neck. Ask how they are doing. Do an errand. These little things can start to add up and fill the relationship’s emotional bank account.
- No Contingency Changes – A stalemate occurs when each partner waits for the other person to make a change. Don’t make your change contingent upon another; make it because you feel it is in the best interest of yourself and your relationship.
- Allow for Influence – Research indicates that healthy, positive relationships have a greater allowance for influence from each other. Steer clear of language like Should, Would, Must, Just, At Least. Increase words like Maybe, Consider, Yes, Hopefully, Sorry. If you are both allowing for influence, the relationship will grow a stronger base.
- Booster Shots – Come back for a few consistent therapy sessions. Consider one appointment every two to three months to build accountability. It helps to remind yourself of the progress you have already made!
If you are looking for relationship and couple’s counseling, consider the compassionate experts at New Directions Counseling. Call us at 724.934.3905