We have heard about marital counselling or couples counselling. We are aware it requires expertise and is a planned process. But what are the goals for marriage counselling? What do you achieve by seeing a counsellor?
In recent years, the scope of marital therapy has steadily been on the rise. The institution of marriage is seen as a life-altering stepping-stone and requires to be dealt with meticulously. Not only does marriage change your interactions and surroundings, but it also changes you as a person to a great extent. This whole process of accommodating someone else’s emotions while preserving your own comes with its own hurdles.
What do you talk about in marriage counselling? You could talk about dealing with these hurdles in your marriage. The guidance of an experienced therapist could make your marriage more fulfilling. The marriage counselling guidelines could show you the right track for your marriage.
That’s why many couples opt for therapeutic alternatives to correctly cope with marital challenges. Relationship counselling works wonders in that case.
With the insights of Senior Consultant Psychologist Dr Prashant Bhimani, we have compiled a few necessary goals for marriage counselling. We have talked about the purpose of marriage counselling and how to achieve it.
How Do You Set Goals For Couples Therapy?
Counselling itself is an emotional process and should not be taken casually. The specific goals for marriage counselling should be carefully laid out in order to begin your journey to a better understanding of your partner and achieve a healthy marriage. These goals are practised and preached by venerable psychologists to help couples navigate through their troubles.
Our interview with a couples counsellor revealed different couples deal with different issues. Marital counsellors tailor specific goals to specific issues. But some goals apply to all. There are certain things all couples want to achieve through therapy which mainly includes better communication, attaining problem-solving skills or better ways to deal with arguments.
John and Julie Gottman developed the Gottman Method of marital counselling by doing scientific research on 3000 couples over 40 years.
Their approach highlights the importance of assessment and skill development in managing conflict, overcoming barriers, increasing understanding, repairing past hurts, and improving connections in relationships.
So to set up goals for couples therapy you look at the specific issues couples are facing and address those. In these article we have delved into the broad scope of marital therapy, in the sense a generic set of goals that would apply to most couples.
What Are The Goals For Marriage Counselling?
In this article, Dr Prashant Bhimani talks about 15 specific goals that can be set for couples in therapy. The aim of counselling is to ensure these goals are achieved at the end of the entire session.
1. How to practice problem-solving skills
The whole point of starting couples therapy is to learn problem-solving skills. Problems arise in marriages when we are not able to understand another person’s point of view, accept that those differences are only natural and find a reasonable solution to work around it.
Thus, according to Dr Bhimani, couples need to primarily focus more on adaptability and acceptance with open arms. “We expect people to be a certain way but everyone is actually very different. Love and compatibility in marriages require acceptance and correction.”
2. How to deal with the differences
It can be assumed that every problem can be worked out by skilled and effective communication.
“Agree to disagree”, is an aphorism that Dr. Bhimani often stresses on during his counselling sessions. He suggests activities like going for a walk or for a long drive can gradually placate situations.
Even listening to and paying attention to each other’s musical tastes is an effective solution to the growing disconnection. Spending time with and talking more to your children can also often dissipate anger because it puts the bigger picture into perspective.
3. Lessons in anger management
The whole point of couples therapy is understanding how to manage your anger better. Anger is a potentially dangerous device that can arise from a variety of issues.
According to Dr Bhimani, when your partner is visibly angry and aggravated, one should try to tone down their own level of anger to avoid incensing an already heated atmosphere.
When one person is angry, it is the responsibility of the other person to remain calm and simply suggest that they, “Talk tomorrow”. The whole idea is to avoid a pointless heated argument and talk it out when both people are calmer.
Related Reading: How Do I Stop Abusing My Wife?
4. Understanding issues starting in childhood
Starting couples therapy can be enlightening as many childhood problems may come to the fore. Childhood upbringing manifests itself in a variety of our interactions as adults.
When an impressionable young child observes frequent parental quarrels, they might retain that information and perform similarly in their own married life.
The person might grow up to be more belligerent, display voluminous insecurities and perhaps even develop ticks such as nail-biting.
It is important to understand that it will not be easy to extricate this facet of one’s personality. However, to address it verbally and openly in therapy and to effectively channelise that energy becomes extremely important. To realize that this could pose a significant problem is the first and most important aim of couples therapy.
5. How to talk tactfully and listen well
The most primary goal of marriage counselling is honing conversational skills. Listening skills are imperative in any form of communication.
To foster a healthy relationship, one needs to be attentive, curious and eager to listen to one’s partner. A relationship becomes unhealthy when there is a breakdown of communication.
Moreover, one should also know how to word their arguments in order to convey their personal ethos but also accommodating your partner’s feelings. “We expect partners to understand each other but people should just speak up and express themselves in words as well,” opines Dr Bhimani.
The power of words is infinite and must be wielded carefully to have more fruitful conversations.
6. How to criticize constructively
Like discussed previously, words possess infinite power. Criticism will arise from our differences, it is not something we can or should simply do away with.
Constructive criticism is important to analyze and present what might be making the relationship go downhill and work towards that holistically.
Therefore, a calm environment, a focused attitude and open ears are all important in order to work out your problems and express what has been bothering you about your partner. “Let them fully understand your point of view and also allow them to express their feelings too. Your criticism is important, but their reaction to your criticism should also be taken into account.”
You might think the dress your partner is wearing is not suiting her but how you tell her that is the key.
7. How to do away with hurtful words
The scope of marital therapy includes discussing past conflicts and personal grievances. A lot of times, sometimes even for reasons that are completely unrelated, we tend to do or say things that we might not fully mean. We tend to rashly manifest internal conflicts in inappropriate ways.
While these situations are not completely avoidable owing to everyone’s mutual struggles, it is important to apologize sincerely at a later time and talk it out openly. Like Dr Bhimani advised earlier on, to ‘Talk tomorrow’, sometimes that is the easiest way to let things be.
When we give ourselves time to reflect and process our emotions on a personal level, our conversations and apologies can be much more intelligent and heartfelt later on since the tide of frustration has passed till then.
Related Reading: 12 Hurtful Things You Or Your Partner Should Never Say To Each Other
8. Understanding when the relationship went downhill
A relationship or marriage can have its downer moments multiple times during its course. It is nothing wildly fretful but it requires timely recognition in order to ensure that the phase passes quicker.
As humans, not everything we do will be perfect. There are times when our marriages might appear to fail but as long as one can correctly identify what is causing issues and prepare a path to navigate through the same, your marriage can become stronger than ever.
The point of couples therapy is only when both partners have acknowledged the existence of a problem.
Some cues for relationships becoming worn out according to Dr. Prashant Bhimani are, “Lack of communication, dryness in interactions, irritability, decline in sexual relations, not preferring to go out together, frequent clashes.”
9. How to do away with the negativity
“Breathing space”, is something Dr Bhimani often stresses during his marital counselling sessions. Unfortunately, it is something that as couples we repeatedly fail to acknowledge. Other people are allowed to have emotions that do not necessarily prescribe to our moods. A lack of this understanding can create a highly uncomfortable atmosphere for both partners.
People are wired individually. So when the going gets tough, individual reflection and individual space is key to creating a more positive space in your relationship. Moreover, a lot of negativity is simply created as a result of our own projection of feelings and insecurities.
For example, Dr Bhimani told us how even a regular WhatsApp message when not replied to by your partner, but you can see the blue ticks, can make you feel unhappy. The reality is usually very different from our assumptions and notions and we should allow ourselves the benefit of that doubt to avoid spewing negative thoughts. That should be one of the goals for marriage counselling.
10. How to say “Thank you”
Expressing your gratitude is a minor aspect of displaying your ardent respect for your partner. This is something that all genders should employ and practice more often. Dr Bhimani highlighted that rural areas do not see much of this though. People in smaller towns do not feel the need to say “Thank you” as much because the male-dominated families tend to take the females for granted.
However, relationships are starting to work more differently in urban areas. Women are being more respected and acknowledged, and expressing their thanks is a practice they implement and also appreciate.
Saying, ‘Thanks’ every now and then is a simple gesture but it’s very important in a relationship. One of the goals of marriage counselling is to learn to say “Thank you” more often.
11. How to bring back the intimacy
Couples counselling is incomplete without addressing intimate relations. Dry spells can be quite frustrating- whether they are of a romantic nature or purely sexual. Sexual relationships are especially of more value in young and middle ages.
To shed light on this, Dr Prashant Bhimani told us that men are normally more focussed on the physical aspect of relationships and women are more concerned with the emotional aspects. “There should be a balanced exchange” between the two as both are equally important.
Psychologists must guide couples to engage in some quality “We Time” rather than just “Me Time”. Another important thing stressed on during couples therapy is the practice of sexual communication.
“More interaction is required as many couples don’t talk during intercourse and also avoid foreplay. Foreplay and after play must exist,” says Dr Bhimani.
Related Reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries
12. Working on the friendship
“In previous times, friendship was not much required by nowadays, it has to be there,” said Dr. Prashant Bhimani. For him, marriage is more than just a division of responsibilities and exchange of emotions.
For it to be a wholehearted and holistic experience a camaraderie must exist between the couple.
A complementary existence will at times, require a playful and friendly attitude no matter how old you and your partner are. A little “Masti”, can never bring harm to any relationship in your life. Why not practice it with the one you love?
13. How to apologise and forgive
Strifes and arguments will always exist until the end of time. As human beings, it is only natural to disagree and to defend. But what adds value to the experience is the way a couple learns how to overcome and come around those differences back into a harmonious spot.
To marry and accept someone in your life, requires one to welcome all their differences and quirks too. Depending on the situation, whether it is your turn to bend the knee or to sulk, either way, you should do it with utmost love and care.
“If you don’t forgive, that means you are not accepting. You should also be ready to change yourself,” Dr. Bhimani told us.
14. How to understand different personalities and styles of functioning
Every single one of us has grown up differently and had individual experiences. Our uniqueness is what makes us attractive to other people. But often, too much uniqueness or difference can hamper everyday living. Understanding differences will be one of our primary goals for marriage counselling.
“Different personalities are natural. Understanding is more important,” said Dr Bhimani on the topic.
“Why should we even try to make the other person like us? We should give them the liberty to be themselves. That’s true understanding. We must also accept them and practice good co-ordination. That is what a couple should learn well in therapy.”
15. Developing a shared value system
Dr Bhimani enlightened us that each marriage has its own ‘Marital Character’. Moreover, a value system is something that is much more personally relevant and is also ever-changing. The character of each marriage is different. Some couples have open marriages while others are very strict about ideas such as loyalty.
As long as couples have had a thorough discussion on what kind of character they expect their marriage to have, things should be relatively smooth. Marital therapy can help couples reveal that character to themselves.
Thus, we can conclusively agree that the above factors can serve as a checklist to evaluate the fundamental aspects of your marriage. Even though every marriage has its own personality, journey and tribulations, there are a few common ways to make the experience more fulfilling to share with your life partner.
Some good marriage goals are developing problem solving and conflict resolution skills, doing constructive criticism and avoiding hurtful words, working on the friendship and intimacy, saying ‘thank you” and “sorry” often. Also understanding issues that could have a root in childhood are also vital.
The key to a successful marriage is building trust and understanding, sharing responsibilities and supporting each other. Communication channels should always be open and there should be emotional and physical intimacy.
You should ask your marriage counsellor how you can resolve the issues in your marriage and make it stronger. Ask your counsellor to give you marriage counselling guidelines and goals that you can achieve one step at a time.
The American Association Of Marriage And Family Therapy (AAMFT) says in its website marriage and family therapy is as effective, and in some cases more effective than standard and/or individual treatments. AAMFT reiterates 98% of clients of marriage and family therapists report therapy services as good or excellent.