Couples therapy and marriage counseling help a lot of people, but despite its many potential benefits it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are various alternatives you can turn to if you and your partner don't feel comfortable speaking to a stranger about your issues. Below are five things you can try to strengthen your relationship before checking out counseling.
1. Go on a couples retreat.
Whether you define that as a getaway for two, a group vacation, or an actual trip designed for struggling couples is completely up to you. According to research, traveling with your significant other often results in an "afterglow" up to a month after your trip. But some couples are more likely to argue if left alone, in which case, bringing along some fellow couples to ease any tension might be a better choice. Whatever you choose, a change of scenery is sure to help.
2. DIY therapy at home.
It's possible to fix your problems yourself without the help of a professional. However, it does require the will and effort from both of you. See what relationship self-help books have to say and be proactive about making any changes that apply to you. Relationship courses are also offered online, but the main thing is to practice effective communication and make it a habit. If that means you have to schedule some time regularly for you two to talk things out, then so be it. Keep in mind that consistency is key. If you really want to see improvement, be enthusiastic and open to suggestions to show how much you want to make things work.
3. Don't forget about date nights.
You hear this all the time, but it's true! Regular date nights should be a given, but life, kids, and busy schedules can make that difficult. Even if it's just opening a bottle of wine on the couch and talking, any form of quality time together will help. And despite daily responsibilities, it's still important to try to make dates a priority and reclaim "our" time. You don't need to plan an elaborate evening with rose petals and a hotel room (though you do get bonus points for that). All it takes is a little effort — so no excuses.
4. Find something you both enjoy.
Exercise and artistic expression, for example, are fantastic forms of therapy for the self. So, why not kill two birds with one stone by discovering a hobby, interest, or outlet that excites both of you? Sharing experiences will help the two of you connect on a different level. But if a specific activity like running is sacred to you, it's also OK to want to keep it for yourself. Find something else that would be a fun and constructive way to spend time together.
5. Go on group dates.
Be selective about who you choose. That one couple who ignores everyone around them because they're stuck to each other like glue might not be the best choice. You'll want to go out with friends you have fun with and that you're comfortable discussing your issues with, and even better, couples you know (or don't know) that are experiencing similar problems of their own. Consider it a group therapy with friends. You'll feel better knowing that you're not the only ones with relationship roadblocks. And be sure to disclose what you're trying to achieve with these group dates before your friends sign on. You won't want them wondering why you're talking about your problems at game night.