In my experience, many couples are daunted by the prospect of couples therapy or marriage counseling. The anger, resentment and frustration they’ve accumulated feels like a mountain that’s impossible to get over, or around.
In these cases, I like to take the approach of a trainer. Imagine that you, as a couple, have decided to run a marathon to raise money for charity. You’ve committed to the cause together, given yourselves plenty of time to prepare and hired me to get you in shape for it.
You wouldn’t expect me to wake you up at 4 a.m. on your first day and send you out on a 26.2-mile run, would you? Of course not. That would be counter-productive – making you feel defeated by emphasizing how out of shape you are, and possibly even injuring you.
The same is true for the way I approach couples therapy and marriage counseling. We have to begin with an assessment of your current situation: where you are and what you’re capable of right now. From there, you chart a course to your goal.
Then, the fun part begins – or if not fun, at least rewarding. Just as a runner can see him- or herself growing slimmer, stronger and faster over months of stretching, crunches and short runs, so too can you observe your relationship getting in shape if you keep doing your exercises.
So, what is a relationship workout like? It starts with small tasks that get harder as you become better at doing them. Homework can be as simple as making lists of things you notice about each other that you like, or setting aside five minutes to hold hands and watch the sun set. It depends on you, your couple’s particular makeup and the goals you have set together.
The point is that I don’t expect you to run a marathon with me in your first session, and neither should you. By starting with surmountable hills and gradually increasing what you take on, that mountain that looks impossibly big now will seem smaller every day.