Avoiding the high cost of counseling

Save Your Marriage without Counseling

by Michelle Croyle, M.A.

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You don't always need to shell out big bucks for marriage counseling to save your marriage. You can improve your marriage by learning and practicing some basic skills. Try the seven free tips that follow, and grow closer with your spouse.

  1. Pray - Whether or not you are typically spiritually oriented, praying for and/or with your spouse can draw your hearts closer together, help you to express your hopes and needs, and give you strength to fight another day. Cultivating a practice of expressing appreciation to God for what you do have in each other can be an awesome way to start off and help you to change your focus from the negative to the positive.
  2. Listen To Each Other - It may sound cliche, but good communication skills really are key to intimacy. Share your feelings with each other, and listen to identify your spouse's feelings underneath their words. Validating each other's feelings can enhance connection and understanding much more than raising your voices in fruitless attempts to be heard. Along with this, it can help to believe the best of each other rather than assuming the worst motives.
  3. Be Kind - Over time, many lose their manners in relating to the ones who mean the most to them. Remember that your spouse and family members are important! Simply adding a "please" or a "thank you" to your sentences can go a long way toward the respect that you feel toward and from others.
  4. Be Playful - The bumps of life and tight finances can have a way of making us serious and grumpy at times. Don't take that out on each other. Make time, even five or ten minutes every other day to do something fun, spontaneous, and enjoyable. Try tossing a balloon back and forth to each other while keeping it off the floor, blowing bubbles, or dancing to your favorite songs together. Fun builds intimacy much better than sourness.
  5. Dream Again - Remember your passions, share your hopes, try something new, and plan for a common goal. Intentionally share from the heart, and see where it takes you.
  6. Choose Your Words - It is easy to shame, blame, and criticize, but with practice, it can become just as easy to build-up, encourage, and praise. Look for the things your spouse is doing right, focus on the things that make your spouse special, and make a special effort to tell your spouse you appreciate him or her. Finally, ask for what you need and want; don't play games or expect your spouse to read your mind.
  7. Forgive - Own up to your mistakes by asking for forgiveness, and release your partner from owing you for those things that he or she has done wrong. Don't hold the past against each other, and don't beat yourself up for past mistakes. These serve no good purpose. Simply learn from your mistakes and move on.

Lastly, even if your spouse is unwilling, choosing to practice these tips on your own can still change the dynamics of your relationship, most likely for the better. However, if you need further relationship help, don't be afraid of the cost of seeking help. You aren't being frivolous by investing in the strength and happiness of your family.

Reviewed September 2017

Michelle Croyle, M.A. is a mental health therapist and marriage coach from Pittsburgh, PA. She and her husband of 18 years, Tim Croyle, provide pre-marriage and marriage coaching as Marriage Guy and Gal, LLC. For more free tips, visit their website at marriageguyandgal.blogspot.com.

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