It happens with disappointing frequency.
I’m working with a couple.
- They’re crystal clear on what they want to gain from couples counselling.
- They’ve gone through the investigation phase of the counselling.
- They know where they’re getting stuck.
- And they know what tools they’ll be learning in order to help get them ‘unstuck’.
…They don’t do the work.
Well, one of the most common reasons I hear sounds something like this:
“We didn’t do the homework because it felt silly/forced/clunky/unnatural…”
And so on.
What they really mean is it felt uncomfortable to consciously follow a set of instructions to improve their relationship.
And they’re right…
…It does feel silly, forced, clunky and unnatural when you deliberately do things differently.
In my experience, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable and awkward when learning and deliberately putting into practice something new.
Fortunately, the process of learning is well documented and can be summed up like this (let’s use the example of learning to drive to make it personal).
Let’s take a quick look at…
…The Four Steps towards Mastery:
- Step 1: Unconscious Incompetence – You’re completely ignorant about what you don’t know.
- Step 2: Conscious Incompetence – Sitting behind the wheel of a car for the first time… Suddenly it dawns on you just how much there is you don’t know.
- Step 3: Conscious Competence – After a number of structured lessons with a professional, you start to get the hang of driving a car. You have to sweat bullets of concentration to do it… But you can do it.
- Step 4: Unconscious Competence – You pass your test and through repetition and practice you can drive safely without thinking about it.
If you can drive, then I’m sure you’ll agree the above 4 steps seem reasonable and acceptable.
But when it comes to learning and putting into practice new actions, conversations and questions to improve your relationship many couples find the idea unacceptable.
It’s as if somehow improving your marriage should be spontaneous, effortless or feel natural.
Well, I’ve got bad news for you.
Because when it comes to making your relationship better there will be times when it feels awkward, unnatural and uncomfortable.
You’re going to have to…
- Feel consciously incompetent
- Do some things differently
- Follow instructions step by step to have conversations that heal instead of harm
- Ask your partner for what you want instead of expecting them to know
And yes, it’s going to be hard work and yes it will feel silly, forced, clunky or unnatural…
But the more you practice the more natural it becomes.
And soon – if you stick at it – you’ll become consciously competent.
You’ll start to see and feel the improvements your new actions are creating and then you’re well on your way to the relationship you and your partner want.
So, to wrap up…
There are certain things in life you expect to have to learn how to do.
- Driving a car
- Tying your shoe laces
- Doing your job well
And so on.
But there are other aspects of life you don’t expect to have to learn, it’s supposed to either be there or it’s not.
- Feeling connected to your partner
- Being in love with and being loved by your spouse
- Feeling understood and happy in your relationship
But this is faulty thinking and it’s especially rampant when it comes to relationships.
A teacher of mine once told me:
“Reality minus your expectations equals happiness.”
And when you start relationship therapy make sure your expectations are realistic.
Make sure you accept it’s normal to feel awkward and silly when learning and putting into action new skills proven to help your relationship.
…Grit your teeth, go through the awkwardness and do the work.
And, quicker than you might expect, you’ll be doing the kind of things proven to nurture love and connection without having to think about them.
It’s a glorious feeling.
And if you’d like my help towards mastery when it comes to having more sparkle and fizz in your relationship…