What to do Before You Start Couples Counseling
When working with couples, I want to feel confident that the folks walk away finding practical help. Not only gaining insight and understanding into themselves, but also their “other”. My hope is to help them find the keys to unlocking intimacy and oneness in their most important relationships. Over the years, I have noticed some common themes amongst couples. The two that really stand out are alcohol consumption and neglecting time to check in with each other. Before you walk into our office at Married Life, I wanted to offer two suggestions that might save you some time, money, and energy.
Stop or cut back on your consumption of alcohol.
I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard couples retell of conflict, hurt, misunderstanding, embarrassment, anger, and frustration that involved a night out and a few cocktails. And it doesn’t matter the amount of alcohol one has consumed. The effects of alcohol consumption will vary for every individual, of course, but I want you to be aware that any amount consumed means you are now “under the influence” of a substance that alters your ability to make decisions and stay engaged with your partner. Alcohol is a depressant, breaks down our inhibitions, and decreases our rational thought.
There is a lot happening to your brain and body when you consume alcohol. Specifically to the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, the very parts of your brain that control anger suppression, planning ahead, processing consequences, rationally receiving information and feelings, and your ability to empathize. Alcohol will impair your memory and cause you to be less restrained. So while you might feel better and less stressed temporarily, it’s short lived as you try to engage with your significant other and find it surprisingly more difficult to do so.
Dry January Anyone?
What better time to cut back or eliminate alcohol than dry January?! Many folks cut out their favorite wines, cocktails and craft beers for the next 31 days to detox their bodies and feel better physically. Have you considered cutting out your favorite bevies for the sake of your marriage? I challenge you to give it a try and see if you don’t find yourself engaging in meaningful conversations with more clarity and understanding. For more insight on the benefits of Dry January, read What are the Benefits of Dry January and for some great mocktail ideas, check out A Guide to the Best Non-Alcoholic Beverages.
Weekly Relationship Check-In
The second suggestion I’d ask you to consider before calling us, is to meet with your spouse or significant other for a weekly check in. I’m often amazed at how we (can expect so much out of a relationship we give so little time and attention. Your relationship is like a living organism that needs to be fed daily, weekly, and consistently. Much like your car or your body, your relationship needs timely tune-ups or well checks. If you didn’t regularly water your house plant, would you be surprised to see it wilted and shriveling up? Could your body continue to work hard and function without daily food, water, and sleep? Would you be shocked when your car stopped running because the gas tank was empty? Why, then, do we think our most significant relationship can continue to function without regular care, assessment of needs and communication? Sure, we can have an occasional body ache or pain that if given time goes away.
There are things in our relationships that we can let go of and understand “it’s not a big deal”. We also know that our bodies are communicating to us there is a problem when the pain persists and we’d better pay attention. When the red warning lights of my car pop up on the dashboard, I notice, pay attention, and call the mechanic. In the same way, we need to give our relationship attention when we see communication breaking down, fights flare up or things aren’t working as they should.
The State of Your Union
Do yourself and your marriage a favor by planning regular times to talk about the state of your union. Plan to go to a coffee shop or take a long walk together. Be prepared to listen to your partner, seek to understand their needs, and respond with empathy and compassion. And if the relationship doesn’t respond appropriately, give us a call. Perhaps you’ve ignored the “red lights” for too long. Or maybe the infection has spread and you need a professional to help assess and come alongside you both with a game plan to find healing and solutions. We’d be happy to join you on the journey to finding relational wellness again.
If your marriage is struggling or you’re having difficulty with your partner, contact us at Married Life Coaching & Counseling.