I have been working with couples since 2000 and have seen Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millennials. I work with couples as they struggle with affairs and divorce as well as with premarital clients as they prepare for marriage. When I look back over my years of work I don’t see any one big tool, trick, action or event that helps couples to succeed. There has not been any one intervention that I provided that dramatically increased a couple’s chance of success.
Instead, what I see that really makes a difference for couples is when they take the time to focus on the small moments in their relationship. It is the seemingly insignificant inside jokes that are truly the glue in many marriages. I don’t mean to say that kindness, curiosity, generosity and humor don’t play a major role in our happiness in a relationship – these are what I think of as the hallmarks of great marriages.
While these are important there seems to be something else that helps couples through the many years of day-in day-out family life. It is during these years of raising kids, building careers and mowing yards that many couples find they drift apart. I think that it is very normal to have years where you feel connected to the family but disconnected from your spouse. The phrase I usually hear is “I love you, but I am not IN love with you.
It is during these times that it is imperative that you focus on the small stuff. You intentionally invite the inside jokes. You purchase the pasta with the funny name so you can both roll your eyes and have a giggle. You put on the music that makes him do the funny walk. I have seen in my own marriage how important these small hand holds can be when life gets slippery.
So, the best advice I can give you if you feel yourself in surrounded by apathy, boredom or if you are just having a tough time connecting: bring out the small stuff. You might be amazed by how it leads to more humor, curiosity and generosity. Please contact me if you want to learn more about the hallmarks of a great couple.
Ashley Seeger, LCSW specializes in individual and relationship counseling. She has been providing therapy for both couples and individuals at her sunny Boulder office and has over 17 years of experience. She is an expert on communication skills and empathy. Ashley studied extensively with the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, focusing on Self Psychology and its application with couples.
In addition to therapy, Ashley also provides Critical Incident Stress Debriefings (CISD’s) for companies or agencies who have experienced a trauma. She gives seminars on “Communication Skills,” “Balancing Careers and Marriages” as well as “Stress Management” and “Dealing with Difficult People.” Ashley is currently writing a book on empathy and communication skills that walks couples through the empowering exercises she utilizes in her therapy.
For more information on Ashley and her practice or to read her blog, please visit her at www.CouplesCounselingBoulder.com.