The internet is full of marriage therapy and relationship counseling advice. It’s impossible to know what is a waste of your time and what might actually help your marriage.
Having worked with relationship counselling, provided marriage therapy, and now helping couples as a relationship coach, I can tell you that most of the advice out there, even the researched methods, produce little longer-term improvement.
Most marriage therapy or relationship counseling completely lacks a focus on sex counselling.
Sex is a big part of intimacy, connection, and pair bonding in a relationship, and yet it’s avoided by more relationship counsellors. Secondly, most marriage therapy is based on the medical model – they try to fix what is broken instead of finding and enhancing what is right or could be amazing.
Our minds and human relationships are not the same as fixing a broken bone.
So, I have put together 5 tips here of the most effective relationship tools I have found to help couples while working as a relationship coach.
Tip 1 – Love Language
A bestselling book by the name “The 5 love languages” made big headlines a few years ago. It outlined a way to understand how your partner learned to feel loved and valued as a child, and based on that, you can make them feel the same way today. Often when we don’t know our partner’s love language, we spend a lot of energy and time to make them feel special that might not have much of an impact.
This can become frustrating for both parties.
Using this simple idea and the questions to discover your partners love languages, you can ensure your love bucket stays full. It’s when its runs dry that you are in trouble!
So, the first tip I give in my relationship counseling is how to identify your partner’s love language.
Tip 2 – Key Moments
A revelation I had as a relationship coach is that not all moments are created equal.
I call these ‘key moments’. Some have a much bigger impact on your relationship.
Get them right, and your relationship will seem to flow easily, but get them wrong, and there will be an underlying resentment that causes mistrust and everything to be difficult.
These key moments are when our partners need our support the most, and if we show up in these moments, they will often define the relationship.
You might have a logical reason for not being there, but that will not matter. Emotionally there is no grey area here. You are either there or you’re not. If you want to learn how to find your partners key moments and how to act to ensure your relationship flows, then check out my number on advice as a relationship coach.
Tip 3 – Attachment Styles
Tip 3 I got from ‘Emotional Focused Therapy’, one of the most successful relationship counseling methods.
There are 4 main attachment styles. Knowing your partner’s attachment style and how to make them feel safe is the number one way to reduce conflict in a relationship.
But what if you could also identify their triggers and know how to stop them from escalating? Would be cool, right? And, you could turn the triggers into intimacy and connection.
Well, it’s possible when you know what your partner’s attachment style and triggers are. I have done a lot of online marriage counseling with couples, and this is the tip that seems to break the cycle of conflict for most couples.
Tip 4 – Our Own Needs and Boundaries
In marriage therapy, I learned the importance of getting in touch with our needs and boundaries and expressing them clearly.
Why is that so important?
If you can’t express your needs, clearly you will not get what you want and slowly you will build up resentment and feel dissatisfied. This is likely to result in a disconnected relationship or a break-up.
And boundaries – why do we need those?
Boundaries are the same. We have often learned that we have to be “good”, meaning make others feel good and often at the expense of our own boundaries. I call it the “pleaser syndrome”. It means neglecting our own boundaries to makes others feel good.
This, however, creates resentment and disconnect.
There is no connection when we do things out of obligation and allow our boundaries to be violated.
So, setting clear boundaries has 3 benefits:
(I) It prevents resentment
(II) It creates a space to connect rather than disconnect
(III) It allows for more freedom. What?! You might think.
Yes, when you know you can trust your own boundaries and that your partner respects your boundaries, you can play around more.
I so often hear women say they don’t want to engage in foreplay because then they feel an obligation to have sex and they don’t always want that.
Well, if you know you can express your boundary and it will be respected, then suddenly you can explore foreplay and see if you get turned on without any obligation. Can you see how boundaries can create more freedom to explore? Now, this is a big one in my marriage therapy when I work with couples.
Tip 5 – Intimacy and Vulnerability
What is this mystery we call intimacy, and why do we experience it with some people and not others?
Yes, there are many ways to experience intimacy such as shared interest, values, sex, and so on; however, we can also share interests, values, and have sex without experiencing any intimacy.
So, what is this secret formula for intimacy?
One of our most fundamental needs, and what makes us feel connected to our parents is when we feel accepted. As adults, this fundamental need is the same; however, because of the wounds and shame we experienced growing up, we now have many vulnerabilities that we hide away.
Intimacy is when we expose those vulnerabilities and are met with acceptance.
This can happen by us expressing something vulnerable. It can be sharing a sexual fantasy. It can be using dirty talk for the first time. It can be anything that feels vulnerable and where we fear judgment but are instead met with acceptance. It’s my number one Reddit relationships advice.
For more information, you can check out the links in this article that will give you more in-depth descriptions of all of this.
May your relationships flourish!