When you are experiencing tension with your partner, it’s natural to start wondering whether you need marriage counselling. You may have forgotten how to really listen to your partner or you may feel that they never listen to you. Seeing a relationship therapist is definitely worth exploring, but there are some techniques you can apply right now to the way you relate to your partner that can help turn things around – it’s like DIY marriage counselling.
One of the most significant things I see as a couples’ counsellor is a lack of genuine listening between couples – I know they care about one another or they wouldn’t take the time to see me, but they are not conveying that caring message to each other, at a time when that message needs to be heard most. True listening is more than just hearing your partner’s words – it’s a process of receiving, accepting, processing, empathising and responding.
One major block to truly listening to your partner is feeling hurt and thinking about what you want to say to defend yourself. You may criticise your partner, or cross-complain (this is when one partner raises an issue and the other raises a counter issue – eg. I am angry that you didn’t tell me you were going out, which is countered with You keep spending all of the money). Address one issue at a time.