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Relationship Counseling Tips

Read these 6 Relationship Counseling Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Relationship tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Marriage and Family Therapy

At times it makes more sense to have a combination of intervention that provides both marriage and family therapy. This is often the preferred means of relationship help when there are “blended family” difficulties present. Blended families consists of a biological parent, a stepparent and the children of one or both parents. Today, more than 7 million children under the age of 18 live in blended families ( U.S. Census, 2002). When blended families form, the usual problems of families may become more complex. Before seeking relationship counseling, you can try the following:

1. Openly discuss and come to agreement on living arrangements. Many couples prefer to move into a new home rather than dealing with one party not feeling at home and the other feeling invaded. Children do best with either remaining in the family home or moving into new space with adequate room for them.

2. Financial matters need to be dealt with upfront and honestly. A plan to either share or keep money separate will need to be agreed upon.

3. Decide how to deal with parenting issues and discipline. The adults need to discuss their roles in parenting their respective children and any changes in household rules.

4. Don't forget your marriage. You are not starting with the luxury of only each other to focus upon. You already have children, ex-spouses, and complex lives. Set aside time and activities to do alone. If you have guilt about doing this, remember this will benefit your children by making your relationship and home more stable.

5. Relationships between stepparents and stepchildren need careful handling. These relationship generally involve more conflict than those of biological families. Be careful not to jump into the role of disciplinarian before you have a foundation of care and trust established. However, don't rush the mushy gushy stuff either. Be open and available to the children and pay attention to their signals about what they are ready for.


Time for Marriage Counseling

Many relationship problems can be eased with the help of a marriage therapist. Of course it is not necessary to run to couples counseling every time an argument occurs. How do you know when it is time for relationship help? Here are some indicators to help you make the decision:

You always get stuck in the same spot on key issues or things never get resolved

Discussions generally turn into arguments

Arguments seem to hurt more than they help or contain yelling, blaming each other, name calling, put downs

You feel like giving up, like things are too broke to fix or that too many things have added up to ever make things right again

The two of you have never learned good communication skills

One or both of you avoid conflict and nothing is ever discussed

You no longer feel like you know one another

You're angry or irritated at your partner a good part of the time

You feel like you're on an emotional roller coaster

You feel completely unaffected by or disconnected from your spouse

You're considering having an affair or one of you has had an affair

Your home and relationship are no longer emotionally comforting


Pre-Marital Couples Counseling

Couples counseling may be chosen as preventive maintenance to open communication, identify differences, and lay possible areas of conflict out on the table ahead of time. In fact, some couples choose to seek relationship help prior to getting married. This is often initiated following a recommendation by their minister, rabbi or priest. As a matter of routine, some faiths mandate relationship counseling as preparation for all couples before getting married.

Premarital counseling is usually short-term in nature, six sessions of less. A marriage educator, counselor or clergy person is utilized to help the couple build practical skills. Goals of the process may include: identifying and communicating expectations of the marriage, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship, developing a plan for growth, and learning communication and conflict resolution skills.


Common Relationship Problems

All couples experience relationship problems from time to time. The most common areas of difficulty fall into the following categories:

Communication problems

Financial stress


Differences in priorities

Emotional incompatibility

Sexual incompatibility

Physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Whether communication problems or incompatibilities seem to be causing relationship problems, marriage counseling can provide needed relationship help. Relationship counselors teach you how to productively deal with problems as they occur. Furthermore, couple's counseling facilitates respect for each other's feelings and perspectives while avoiding judgment and blame.


Asking For Relationship Help

You know you have significant relationship problems, but you'd rather chop off one of your limbs before going to marriage counseling? If marital therapy is not your thing, try these alternative strategies for relationship help:

Talk to your pastor, rabbi or priest. When you are stuck, it is helpful to get outside input. Talking to a clergy person alone can give you support and another perspective. And, having a mediator facilitate communication between you and your partner can lead to more productive conversations.

Schedule a set time once per week to hold important discussions. Most people are very busy with work, children and other responsibilities. Commonly, this provides the perfect avoidance strategy to side step dealing directly with conflict. If each of you has decent communication skills, forcing the conversations to occur could propel your relationship into a much better place. However, if there is a tendency to fight unfairly (i.e. yelling, blaming each other, name calling, or other ugliness) do not hold conversations without a facilitator. Continuing destructive communication will only make matters worse, not better.

Start dating again. I mean your spouse! Set aside time to spend together that doesn't involve child or household responsibilities. This includes NO talking about kids, the house, what needs to paid or things you've been arguing about. The point is enjoyable reconnection as two adult people with identities separate from parenting and shared responsibilities. After children couples tend to identify less and less to each other as lovers, friends, partners. They become distracted from each other's individual identities and center their connection around others (i.e. the children). While this is okay part of the time, it needs to be balanced with remembering the person you married.

If your relationship problems do not improve, kick your own butt and get past your aversion to couple's counseling. Being a little uncomfortable now can save you the big discomfort of a divorce.


Choosing a Marriage Therapist

Choosing a marriage therapist can be a little confusing. How do you know who to trust with something so important…something so private? Start with asking friends, family, colleagues, your doctor, or clergy person for a recommendation. Then, try two or three sessions with these points in mind.

  1. It is not helpful if the marriage counselor passively observes you and your spouse fighting just like you do at home. After a short period of studying your patterns, he/she should interrupt and offer suggestions for better communication.
  2. A good marriage therapist does not pick sides or focus on one partner as the sole cause of the marital problems. The point is to help unite you and your partner as a team to resolve key issues.
  3. Relationship counselors are advocates of healthy marriage. Despite times you may want to give up, your counselor should be the last one suggesting you go for divorce. (abusive marriages are an exception to this rule)
  4. It is not the marriage counselors job to tell you whether you should stay married or get divorced. This is your choice as a couple
It is important that you are comfortable with whomever you choose. If your instincts are screaming to notify you that the person is not being helpful, keep shopping.

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Guru Spotlight
Barbara Gibson