Couples counseling is far more effective for dealing with relationship difficulties than trying to figure it out on your own.  So, congratulations on making the choice to do couples counseling together!  It’s an important choice for both partners in the relationship, so take a moment to feel good about taking a positive step forward together.

Once the couples counseling process has started, it’s important to show up with the intent to welcome positive changes.  What exactly does that look like in the counseling setting?  Here are a few examples:

Own Your Issues

This sounds easy in theory, but in reality, many people don’t see their own issues as part of the problem.  They look outward at their partner in blame or defensiveness instead of inward at themselves.  Perhaps they grew up thinking their family’s way of dealing with everything is the right way, until their partner can’t handle the differences in communication styles, and a new way needs to be found together.  A new way of dealing with issues can only come from a place of both partners being willing to look at their own issues around how they manage conflict.

Take Time to Work on Issues Individually

After identifying some of your own issues, it is helpful to dedicate some counseling time to working on them alone.  Without your partner in the room, you may be able to wrestle with certain issues more deeply.  It may also help the therapist to see both partners individually to gain a deeper understanding of who they are separately as well.

Identify Your Triggers

Once there is greater awareness of your own issues, you may also feel more sensitive to your triggers.  Developing a quicker awareness of when you feel triggered is a good sign that therapy is working.  It means you’re gaining more awareness of the moments and conditions that make your mind and body want to react in defensiveness, fight, or flight.  The more you identify the moment of being triggered, the more you can change a pattern of reaction into something that serves you and your relationships in healthier ways.

State Your Trigger Moments Out Loud

The moment you feel triggered and are able to identify it, tell your partner.  If you can’t tell them in the immediate moment, tell them or send them a text message as soon as you realize what triggered you.  Let them know they need to give you space to unwind your natural defenses before anything productive can happen next.  Giving your partner a head’s up when this happens means helping them recognize moments or actions to avoid in the future as well.

Check Yourself When Things Feel Comfortable

Once you’ve learned how to identify triggers and share them with your partner, you may be feeling great!  You feel like you’ve both made a lot of progress, and therapy has worked!  Be cautious of the moment you feel like you’re “done” working on yourself.  This is often the moment couples start slipping into old behavior patterns.  The moment you’ve stopped noticing triggers is the moment you may find yourself reacting without considering the deeper issue.  Be vigilant with your self-improvement.  It’s a never-ending process that makes life easier as time goes on, but always has room for improvement as well.

If you haven’t found a couples counselor to work with yet, the therapists at The Relationship Suite have extensive experience to help you.  Please don’t hesitate to contact our couples counselors today.