How to Improve your Marriage Without Therapy

Improve your Marriage Without Therapy (in 5 Steps)

This post covers the five things you can do at home today to improve your marriage, so you don’t have to come to couples therapy.

Ever think about starting couples therapy to learn how to stop the negative, hurtful, and painful interactions in your marriage? But you don’t follow through with this due to fear or anxiety? Or due to concerns about not having the money, time, or babysitters?

Given this might be true for you, today, I want to encourage and help you to improve your marriage by staying home, and not coming to couples therapy.

No Couples Therapy

Even though:

Today my focus is on how to improve your marriage without therapy.

So, today, instead of coming in for couples therapy, I encourage you to stay home and try these 5 simple things to improve your relationship…

…right now.

Encouraging you to stay home instead of coming to couples therapy might sound crazy coming from someone whose livelihood comes from the practice of couples therapy.

But this actually makes a lot of sense because, I believe that couples can do many simple, yet powerful and meaningful things at home to improve, help, and strengthen their relationship.

My Passion: Helping Couples Transform Pain, Grow, Thrive, and Deepen their Love

My truest passion is helping couples thrive within their intimate relationships by transforming their pain into amazing experiences of growth and love.

We all do better in life when we know, trust, and live from the truth that we are deeply loved.

And I want to help you move closer this.

I want to be able to help you even though you will not attend couples therapy.

Because your growth, happiness, and love can make the world a better place.

I want to give you five simple things to do today in the privacy of your home to strengthen your marriage.

Here are Five Simple Steps to Help You Strengthen Your Marriage.

The key is making these five things a daily practice.

Much like how you practice and incorporate into your daily life, your workout routine, or healthy eating habits, or your spiritual practice.

In order for these five things to be effective, you must practice them with consistency (and a smile on your face and an open heart).

Let’s Begin.

Number 1: The 5 to 1 Ratio

The 5:1 Ratio. John Gottman of the University of Washington has spent more than 30 years researching what makes couples successful and happy in their relationships.

One of his findings is the 5:1 Ratio.

According to Gottman’s research, happy couples maintain a consistent 5:1 ratio in their positive to negative interactions.

For every five positive interactions, there can only be one negative interaction shared daily between a couple in order to for them to create a relationship that thrives.

When we keep this 5:1 ratio in check, we are infusing our relationship with positive, loving energy that allows it to be strong enough and sturdy enough to face the challenges, difficulties, and the stressors of life.

When this ratio is out of balance, it is very corrosive to the relationship.

Blame, insults, ignoring, poorly managed emotions, silent treatments, and hostility result in more dissatisfaction, discouragement, and insecurity.

The crucial elements of trust and secure attachment become compromised and even sometimes are destroyed in a context where the negatives outweigh the positives.

So, today keep this in mind. For every one negative thing you express to your partner make sure there are at least 5 positive and loving exchanges.

And of course, expressing the negatives in respectful, kind, and calm tones go a long way too.

Just because you are angry or upset does not mean you have the right to insult, criticize, or blame.

There are calm and effective ways to communicate your difficult feelings that do not damage the relationship.

For every one negative thing you express to your partner, make sure there are at least 5 positive and loving exchanges.

Number 2: Question of Attunement

My mentors and teachers, Ellyn Bader, PhD. and Peter Pearson, PhD. at The Couples Institute, have created this Question of Attunement, that helps couples cultivate a practice of daily awareness, kindness, gratitude, connection, and love.

This is a simple, yet powerful, way for couples to feel recognized, appreciated, valued, and loved.

Every day, either in the morning or in the evening, set aside 10 minutes to ask each other the following…

“What can I do for you today (if asking in the morning) or tomorrow ( if asking in the evening) that will help you feel appreciated, valued, and loved by me?”

And then listen and follow through. Repeat daily.

Keep it simple when it’s your turn to identify the one thing your partner can do for you that day to insure success with cultivating positive connection and increased intimacy.

Examples of Keeping it Simple Are:

  • make eye contact with me during our conversations
  • put your phone away at meals
  • leave my favorite mug out on the counter for my coffee before you leave in the morning
  • leave a note of appreciation in my bag
  • inquire about my day
  • remember that I am stressed about______ and check in with me about it
  • reach out for my hand when we sit together
  • text in the middle of the day to let me know you are thinking of me
  • acknowledge my contributions to making our life happy
  • listen without trying to fix things
  • let me know you are happy to see me when I walk in the door at the end of the day

This is a powerful practice because it supports a relationship that requires awareness of other.

In practicing this, you commit to demonstrating your desire to positively influence your partner’s life.

It is in the simple, yet consistent and tangible ways, we express our love and gratitude that make the difference.

Keep it simple when it’s your turn to identify the one thing your partner can do for you that day to insure success with cultivating positive connection and increased intimacy.

Number 3: Stop Having Solo Conversations in Your Head

Couples often have very influential conversations in their own head without inviting their partner.

What I mean by this, is that often one or both partners will make assumptions about the other. Then, they project meaning onto their partner’s words or actions based on these assumptions. 

This happens without checking out the assumptions through curiosity and interest, and it leads to misunderstandings, hurt, and negative feelings that diminish positive connection.

In my therapy sessions, I catch partners doing this. One will start off saying, “ My partner thinks, or feels, or believes ____________.”

Immediately I interject and ask, “How do you know that your partner was thinking, feeling, or believing that? Did you ask them, or did you just assume?”

Many times, it is only an assumption; not necessarily a fact or reality.

We think we know our partner so well, that we no longer have to ask and check out our hypothesis.

Simply, and at home, you can stop the assumptions and projections.

Pause. Realize that your private conversation, taking place only in your own head, is leading to an important conclusion about what it is your partner feels, thinks and believes.

Remember that it would be extremely helpful and informative to check this out with the one who knows best what they think, feel or believe… your partner.

After this realization, pause again and then ask your partner what they are thinking, feeling or believing with genuine curiosity.

Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Be curious before assigning critical meaning to something.

In other words, invite your partner in to participate, inform and share what they are truly thinking, feeling or believing.

Stop having important conversations in your head.

Once you do, you will immediately stop fueling negative feelings, and instead, create a deeper understanding and more intimate connections together.

Remember that it would be extremely helpful and informative to check out your assumptions with the one who knows best what they think, feel or believe… your partner.

Number 4: Emotional Temperature

How many times do you get into a conversation with your partner about something important and it goes bad very fast?

Often, this is due to a lack of our own emotional awareness.

We are usually unaware that we are stressed, angry, hungry, tired, irritable, or anxious because we are very good at pushing these emotions down and carrying on.

We are taught to minimize, deny, or ignore difficult emotions.

So much of the time, they are brewing right under the surface and we barely notice until…

We attempt to have a conversation with our partner and our fuse is extremely short and we find ourselves reacting negatively, defensively, or critically.

To avoid these blow-ups or escalating arguments, an easy thing to do is to take your emotional temperature before beginning any important conversation together.

This involves a little reflection time, taking a deep breath and asking yourself:

“How am I feeling?”

“What is my current mood?”

“What feelings do I identify right now within me?”

“Where in my body do I feel these feelings?”

“Given my current mood, is this a good time for me to initiate an important conversation or to be present to participate in one?”

If you identify anger, irritability, fatigue, insecurity, anxiety, or any other difficult emotion, it is most likely best to postpone the conversation until you are in a better frame of mind.

This can be a simple statement of, “I really want to talk to you about this, but I realize I am not in a positive mood right now. Can we wait until later? (Or tomorrow? Or this weekend? etc.)

To avoid these blow-ups or escalating arguments, an easy thing to do is to take your emotional temperature before beginning any important conversation together.

In taking your emotional temperature, you are more likely to have conversations when you are in a positive frame of mind and then, of course, the conversations will go much better.

When you slow down and take the time to check in with your own emotions, you will develop the skill of being intentional with important conversations; you will be less impulsive; and you will learn to have conversations in ways that allow for compassion, empathy, curiosity, kindness, and patience in that moment.

Number 5: Be a Mirror of Each Other’s Goodness.

It is so easy to focus on the negatives. In fact, our human tendency is to do this.

And the longer we are with a partner, the easier it is to focus on the things they do that bother us.

This is why it is so important to keep in mind the innate goodness of our partner, what drew us to them in the beginning, and their best qualities. It’s important to hold up a mirror so they can see their goodness.

You can begin today by reviewing what it is about your partner that you love best. And then to remind your partner that you see these parts of them, believe in these parts and that your life is made better by these parts.

Hold up a mirror to them, show them what you see when you see their beautiful, kind, vulnerable, generous, and loving self.

Be the voice in your partner’s life that bears witness to their authentic, innate goodness.

Have courage and openly express your admiration, respect, gratitude, and appreciation for the best qualities in this human being you have chosen to be your partner.

Let them know that their best self matters and resonates deeply in your life.

Have courage and openly express your admiration, respect, gratitude, and appreciation for the best qualities in this human being you have chosen to be your partner.

Start Today to Improve your Marriage at Home

So, there you have it…

Five simple things to incorporate into your life, routine, starting today.

Five simple things to do today to improve your marriage.

Five simple things that will help you improve your relationship right now.

All in the privacy of your home.

You can try to do all five or you can choose one or two and start from there.

However, you approach this, remember that it usually only takes small acts of kindness to greatly shift the energy of a relationship from negative to positive. 

Practiced over time these five simple things build trust, secure attachments, and deeper connection. 

Peace in your Journey,
Jane

Practice #1 in Series 

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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couple and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience and a speciality in helping couples navigate the challenges of intimate relationships. Jane also has a sub-specialty of helping couples navigate the relational and sexual effects of breast cancer.

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