Marriage Counseling

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: My wife has been trying to get me to go to marriage counseling, and frankly, I am not comfortable because I don’t know what to expect. Also, I don’t want to get beat up. I fear the counselor will side with my wife and then it will be two to one. I’m interested in a description of what it might be like to go to marriage counseling.

Answer: Your anxiety is normal. Many men have expressed to me how they put off counseling for the very reasons you noted above. However, most find that they become comfortable quite quickly. Further, they generally find it quite interesting, and they look forward to coming back after their first session. They find the anxiety is in thinking about going to see a counselor they don’t know, rather than the actual counseling.

Also, I am quite sure the counselor will treat you with respect. It’s sometimes more anxiety producing when it is your spouse that makes the arrangements than if you were to make the appointment. The spouse not making the appointment often feels one down in the triad. However, counselors are trained not to take sides and an ethical counselor will be careful to remain neutral. That does not mean the counselor will not point out behaviors, such as defensiveness, criticism, and stonewalling that need correcting.

Each counselor is different and has different training. Some of the techniques I use are as follows:

•Reflective Listening. The goal of this technique is to develop listening skills and the ability to summarize what the other person has just said. In doing so, you convey understanding.

•LUV Talk. This technique is similar to Reflective Listening, but the speaker expresses Feelings and Needs. LUV stands for Listen, Understand, and Validate. The listener summarizes and reflects understanding like in Reflective Listening.

•Love Languages. You will take a test, either a hard copy, or online, to determine your love language. It is hypothesized that there are five Love Languages—Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Touch, and Words of Affirmation. You will be given instruction in how to speak your spouse’s language.

•Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues have identified four behaviors that are very destructive to any relationship. These four behaviors are Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism, and Contempt. Techniques will be provided for overcoming the Four Horsemen, such as Turning Toward and a Soft Start-up.

This is just a brief summary of what you might expect to find when you enter marriage counseling. I hope this is helpful.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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