The purpose of this blog post is to help our growing client population build couples therapy momentum and achieve steady progress after their Couples Therapy Intensive.
Sustaining momentum after your retreat is all about consolidating your gains by laying down new interactive patterns. The effectiveness of your Intensive experience often hinges on implementing specific concrete behavioral changes that you co-created during your Couples Therapy Intensive as committed intimate partners.
Couples therapy momentum also depends on your willingness to actively engage in these new ways of thinking and experiencing, and applying the tools and skills that you acquired during your intensive experience. However, your individual and collective ability and willingness to tolerate some initial discomfort will be a key factor in your success.
Couples Therapy Momentum Doesn’t Require You to Be Perfect
Achieving couples therapy momentum is the reason you came to us in the first place. We have a fancy word about what gets in the way. That word is homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the tendency for a system to seek a balanced equilibrium.
In other words, if you want to be different, your biggest obstacle will be your natural inclination to, at first, resist changing, thus contradicting and confounding your best intentions.
I tell my couples on the last day of my intensives when you get home…you will tend to slip into old patterns. Expect it. It’s normal.
But the minute one of you says “we’re doin’ it again,” and your partner agrees, you have just frustrated your natural tendency towards homeostasis!
For many couples, slowing down and starting over can be tough at first. You must repair, repair, and repair. But then it gets easier. Here are some important ideas to build couples therapy momentum once you get home.
Concrete Steps to Sustain your Couples Therapy Momentum
Practice Discussing Your Emotions. Avoid criticizing, blaming, or withdrawing from your partner. These critical skills were covered in painstaking detail during your Couples Therapy Intensive. Apply what you learned. Ask for feedback from your partner. Talk to you partner as if they were someone you love. Remember you are in this together.
Set Specific Relationship Goals for Yourself. Understanding your triggers and enduring vulnerabilities can have a huge impact on the momentum of change that you both enjoy. Have more relationship goals for yourself than for your partner. And be curious instead of furious when one of your enduring vulnerabilities gets triggered.
Focus on Your Own Growing Edge. Accept help from your partner when they try to give you meaningful feedback. Couples therapy momentum depends on your resilience and flexibility when you are being asked to be different.
Catch Your Partner Doing Something Right. Praise is not just for children… or the Lord. It really helps your spouse as well. When you see them trying to be different…tell them. “I appreciate you for how careful and sensitive you’re trying to be with this concern you have.” Gratitude is incredibly powerful.
Tell Your Partner About A Sparkling Moment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with a client who says something like ” Daniel, I want to tell you how much I appreciated that conversation Steve and I had last Sunday. I really felt heard.” I usually ask “did you tell Steve in that moment that you were happy to be feeling so hopeful and positive?” They usually say “Oops! no, I didn’t.”
Remember the Three P’s… Be Positive, Proactive and Patient. Please don’t squander these sparkling moments. If you notice something is magically different…tell your partner. Say something like “I really appreciate how you are talking to me right now.” Or “Thank you for being such a good listener.” Resist the impulse to frame the change you are experiencing in negative language. “Thank you for not being rude to me like you usually are” is condemning your partner with faint praise. If you like what you see, be positive and proactive with your praise.
Authentic praise is magic. Praise heals. Praise goes deep into the brain. Praise persuades and motivates.
Be Consistent About Having Generative Conversations. I’ve discussed the importance of Generative Conversations in several earlier posts. A Generative Conversation is when one of you asks questions, and the other gets to answer in paragraphs with minimal interruption.
Yeah, it’s not the way you ordinarily talk…and that’s the point. Generative conversations are the bedrock of couples therapy momentum.
Maybe it’s Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning over coffee, or some evening during the week after the kids have gone to bed. The important thing is to choose a time and a place that you can both agree on and stick to it.
Establish a Positive Agenda for These Generative Conversations. Start off with praise and positivity. What went well this week? Apply those shiny new skills you learned from your Intensive. If you had a rough patch during the week, conduct a fight autopsy.How well did you work together as a team? How did you empathize with each other? What could you have done better? What can you say about your partner during the past week? What appreciation can you express? What praise can you authentically bestow? What apologies do you need to make? Did either of you complain about an issue with sensitivity instead of criticizing?
Establish Concrete Measurable Goals. Generative Conversations are a great time to establish goals as intimate partners. Maybe you realize that you need to spend more time together, or maybe you want to talk about some alone time you need or time with family or friends. Let each other know what you will be needing in the near future.
Stop Perspiring and Start Aspiring. Have a vision for the kind of partner you want to be…and the kind of partner you want to have. Sweat the small stuff, but with mindfulness and goodwill. You build couples therapy momentum day by day…interaction by interaction.
It’s easy to be considerate and loving to your partner when the vistas are magnificent, the sun is shining and breezes are gentle. But when it gets bone-chilling cold, you’re hungry and tired, and your partner is whining and sniveling about how you got them into this mess, that’s when you get tested. Your leadership and your character get tested. You can join the finger pointing or become how you aspire to become. Dr. Pete Pearson.
Are You Aspiring For Lasting Change in Your Marriage?
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.