So you find yourself at a crossroads in your dating relationship. You are conflicted about whether to continue forward, or call it quits. Are you seeking God for that answer? Do you find yourself mentally making lists of pros and cons throughout the day? Consider calling a Christian counselor to help in the process of making this life-altering choice.Perhaps you are struggling to discern what is idealistic fantasy and what is realistic to expect from another person in a committed relationship. One thing is for sure – your partner is a uniquely different person than you, who wants to be understood and fulfilled as much as you do. Sometimes it is challenging to start these potentially difficult conversations.
In my counseling office, I often encounter couples and individuals asking such questions as: Do our differences complement one another, or are we just too fundamentally different? Why do we always escalate and defensively block each other out when we talk about this particular topic? Are the differences in our backgrounds going to be an issue? Does it matter if he is an introvert and she is an extrovert?
When providing counseling for couples who are dating, I use an assessment called Symbis (see footnote). It is an excellent tool created to understand both your strengths and weaknesses as a couple, what are your particular challenges as a couple, and how to overcome obstacles and succeed in the midst of those challenges.
I rely heavily upon the principles of John and Julie Gottman when offering counseling for couples, married or not. In our first session, we will talk through what drew you to each other in the first place – what is at the basis of your friendship?
What are your top five priorities in your foundation? For one, it may be trust, honesty, adventure, fun, and quality time. For another it may be sex, adventure, commitment, trust, and quality time. However you name what you need in your relationship, you can learn to honor the other’s needs as well as help the other understand what you need.Along with this foundation of friendship, we will discuss frequent topics that stir up conflict and disagreement. We will learn skills for healthy communication. Most likely we will role play those discussions within the safety of the counseling office and in the presence of a counselor who will “referee” those discussions.
The counselor will facilitate by looking out for defensiveness, stone-walling, contempt, or criticism. If these are present in the discussion, the counselor will redirect by asking questions, such as, “How can you simply listen and offer validation?” Validation does not necessarily mean that you agree with the other. It is simply stating, “I understand how you could see it that way.”
One concept we will talk about is differentiation. This essentially means how to be fulfilled individuals while in relationship with another. In essence, differentiation addresses how to pursue your own goals and stand up for your own beliefs, your personal likes and dislikes, in the midst of relationship – while at the same time honoring the other’s goals, likes, and dislikes.
So whether you are married or not, consider pursuing Christian counseling for couples today. You can receive guidance, wisdom, and practical exercises to utilize both in the counseling office and at home.
This wisdom and practice can benefit you in any relationship, not just with your significant other. You can experience more healthy and fulfilling relationships with family, friends, and even co-workers by applying principles you will learn and practice within the counseling office.
“Couple’s PDA,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Couple,” courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0 License; “Bench,” courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0 License; “In love,” courtesy of Valerie Everett, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0 License
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