A breakdown in intimacy is one of the most difficult challenges therapists, coaches, and clergy face when working with couples. Intimacy embodies the feeling that two spouses know one another more deeply and completely than anyone else. When there is an intimacy deficit in the relationship, the ripple effect impacts communication and raises the couple’s chances of conflict.
In order for intimacy to exist, there are two major goals couples must meet consistently over time. When you counsel engaged and married couples, you’ll want to keep these goals in mind. Want to know more? Read on.
Good communication is one of the most important factors a couple must have for a happy, long-lasting marriage. When you work with engaged and married couples, it’s important to evaluate their communication style–in addition to communication breakdowns–in order to help them learn to better communicate and understand each other.
A relationship assessment, such as SYMBIS, can help you and your couples gain insights into their individual communication styles, in addition to how they communicate as a couple. Work together with your couples to navigate the communication barriers, breakdowns, and successes they experience. By helping them gain deeper understanding and more effective communication, you’re helping to set them up for long-term success.
Communication goes beyond everyday chores and logistics. Truly communicating means that each spouse feels emotionally safe, able to share information, and free to be vulnerable when needed. Real communication is essential to true intimacy, so work with your couples to explore this aspect of their relationship.
Conflict Management Skills
The ability to handle conflict in a constructive, healthy way is another essential element of a lasting relationship. In addition to communication, it’s important that your couples work on their conflict management skills as early as possible. If you can, tackle those issues during pre-marriage counseling sessions. Leverage a relationship assessment to help them gain deeper insights into their conflict management styles, too.
In many troubled relationships, the inability to constructively handle conflict is at the heart of ongoing issues. Dive deep into these recurring problems, working together with your couples to determine where the breakdowns are occurring, and encouraging them to cultivate empathy and greater understanding toward one another. When a couple is able to handle conflict well, their marriage will be far more intimate.
Coach your couples on listening skills and emotional safety. In addition, spend plenty of time teaching them how to fight well and effectively–because, although fights will inevitably happen in marriage, it’s possible to fight in such a way that the spouses can reach a resolution. We’ve developed a model of the “perfect” fight that we like to call The Good Fight. We encourage couples and therapists alike to study our model to learn both how to have, and teach, an effective fight that allows spouses to address the issue at hand without becoming destructive or doing damage to the relationship.
Help Couples Learn to Deepen Their Intimacy
If you’re ready to incorporate an additional layer of support into your couples’ coaching or counseling practice, check out Helping Couples, our new companion guide co-written with Dr. David H. Olson, creator of PREPARE/ENRICH. This is a handbook to help you navigate your couples’ assessment results, helping them to deepen their relationship, improve communication, and reduce conflict. Click here to order your copy today.