What Is a Solution-Focused Marriage? How focusing on the good and learning how to build on the positive will turn a good marriage into a great one! BY ELLIOTT CONNIE
Rather than focus on the obstacles ahead, view the possibilities within your marriage.
“ Couples who use their skills within the relationship and allow their partner to use their skills as well create a high-functioning partnership.”
Solution-focused language and thinking are different from traditional ways of thinking about and discussing problems in a relationship. A solution-focused marriage is a marriage based on the positive aspects of your relationship, with conversations geared toward bringing out the very best in your spouse, not just reducing or addressing each others' flaws.
Problem Focus Creates More Problems
Many marriages today fall into a rut where problems and struggles become pervasive and dominate conversations and moods. The stressors and tasks from our jobs and the responsibilities of running a family and household become all we talk about. Spending time raising the children prevents most couples from spending time working on their relationship. We need strategies and interventions that can have an immediate positive impact on our marriage.
The "Destination" Is the Solution
The way we tackle marriage challenges is akin to taking a taxicab ride. You would never get into a taxi and respond to the question of, "Where would you like to go?" with "Not here." Then why do we focus on the opposite of the destination in marriages? It is as if we are seeking marital help and responding "Anything but this" to the question "How can I help you?" The focus needs to shift to the most desired destination, the most desired experience we are both seeking. It's that simple!
5 Factors that Make Couples Successful
When I work with couples, I place my attention on what makes couples successful. I am more interested in what makes some couples stay together happily than I am in what creates distress. I also consider what allows couples to sustain those positive changes made in therapy for a long period of time.
Based on my years of work with couples doing solution-focused marriage counseling, here are five key factors that create a successful, solution-focused marriage.
1. They have a goal for their relationship. They keep a vision for the future as part of their relationship and conversation. Whether it's planning a family during the early days or planning for retirement in middle age, successful couples talk frequently in hopeful ways about the future.
2. They take credit for successes. Couple success does not happen by accident. When good times and happiness occurs, it is because one or both members of the couple did something to trigger it. Successful couples have a habit of giving and taking credit for these good times.
3. They communicate about progress. Successful couples tend to talk about progress being made in the relationship. They compliment each another; they let their partner know they are proud of them and happy to be with them. These ideas are expressed overtly and not left unsaid.
4. They maintain the romance. I call this "continuing to date." Not just dating as an activity, but dating as a mindset. While we are in the dating phase of a relationship, each partner is quite interested in creating happiness for the other person, as well as noticing the best of their partner.
5. They function as a partnership. Each partner comes into the relationship with a set of skills, traits, and strengths that are different from what their partner possesses. Couples who use their skills within the relationship and allow their partner to use their skills as well create a high-functioning partnership. Ego and selfishness is put aside and the greater good of the relationship is prioritized.
Most books and programs about marriage are about identifying what is wrong and then learning what not to do about the problems. The solution-focused process is about identifying what is right and learning what to do to enhance or amplify those positive aspects. It is about identifying strategies and patterns that can transform a basically good relationship dynamic into a really great one.
Elliott Connie is a best-selling author, well-known couples therapist, and an internationally known speaker and teacher who trains clinicians in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy around the world. His newest book is "The Solution-Focused Marriage." Learn more at www.elliottspeaks.com and follow him on Google+.