How to success on your marriage

images-37Linda: So this couple walks into amarriage counselor’s office and the wife is crying about feeling neglected. Really wailing, she tells the marriage counselor that they don’t sit down to meals much anymore. They don’t go anywhere and have any fun. She feels like a maid around the house. Sex? It’s been years! And not only is intimacy a thing of the past, they don’t even talk any more! Sobbing, she tells the therapist: “I can’t go on this way.”

The marriage counselor gets up out of his chair and goes over to the woman. He gently takes both of her hands into his and slowly lifts her up out of her chair, maintaining eye contact with her all the while. He pulls her gently to him and enfolds her in his arms to give her a sensual hug. Then he plants a big kiss right on her lips for several seconds. When he disengages the embrace, she sits back down in a daze, but with a smile on her face. Then he turns to the husband and says: “Did you see that? That’s what your wife needs three times a week.” The husband pauses for a moment and then says: “I can do it on Wednesday and Friday, but it would be hard for me to bring her over here on Monday, because that’s my busiest day.”

Of course no reputable marriage counselor would interact with a client in such an inappropriate way. But the story is illustrative of the mistaken idea that a marriage counselor can do our work for us. The sooner we rid ourselves of the idea that our relationship can improve with efforts on anyone else’s part but our own, the better we are positioned to make the necessary changes.

It is a popular misconception that marriage counselors have some kind of magical powers that can fix relationships. There are so many gifted couple counselors, but the most talented are only able to give the couples they work with guidance and steer them in the right direction. For couples’ counseling to be effective, the questions and topics explored during the counseling sessions must illuminate the work that each individual must do to become eligible for a great relationship. And once those requirements are identified, each member of the couple is challenged to do the work between the sessions that will change the old habituated patterns into more productive ones.

The marriage counselor may be an excellent guide, knowing the territory of conflictmanagement skills, handling fear and anxieties, uncovering conditioned patterns resulting from unsuccessful modeling in childhood, how to establish open honest communication, learn from and forgive past transgressions, and how to build the fondness and affection system of the marriage. But what will determine the outcome is the how the couple implements what they learn in their sessions. It is the daily practice of the new skills that gives rise to the shift in the relationship. It is in the cultivation of the character traits such as courage, resilience, patience, integrity, creativity, and compassion that forms a more fertile environment for the relationship to grow.