There are a couple types of major issues I see. Often times couples carry problems from their childhoods or their past ways of relating to others into the present relationship. If the family of origin was dysfunctional individuals may carry that dysfunction into their present relationships. During the initial session I look to see if the present problems relate to past issues. If this is the case I may recommend some individual therapy along with the couple’s counseling or work in couple’s counseling on these dysfunctional patterns.
In the case that I do not see any issues from the past contributing to problems in the present I may recommend some simple communication exercises, or some other form of skills development to improve the relationship.
One of my favorite skills to offer to couples is the Marriage or Couple’s Meeting. This is a tool I use in my own marriage and I have noticed my daughter is using it in her relationship. This morning, when I called her she told me she had to call me back because she and her partner were about to have a meeting. The meeting is as it sounds, a weekly meeting for the couple. This can be a structured meeting, with the same outline every week or more loosey-goosey and free flowing meeting.
In my generation I have observed that most married couples have combined finances although one person may manage them. I am noticing, in the younger generation, that the couples are not combining their finances as often. I find this interesting and am not sure what the full reasoning is. In these cases, the couple keeps individual accounts and a household account, which they each put money into to run the home. In this situation, I like the idea of each person putting in a percentage of their income into the household account.
Suggested outline for the meeting:
- “I appreciate you because……….”
- Financial: accounts, bills, savings, etc.
- Calendar, plans, child activities, driving children , etc.
- Communication problems and communication positives (any skills taught in session practiced).
I have had couples tell me that these meetings have greatly improved the relationship and were happy to learn a basic skill to incorporate into the relationship. If you are using these meetings, continue! If you don’t have couple’s meetings implemented I suggest trying one this week!