Updated: Nov 1
If prayer isn't something you are into, then the "Reflect" version is below.
Do you have a Couple Improvement Plan?
Atomic Habits by James Clear is a sensation of a book because it helps us all understand what kind of habits in life will help us reach our goals. We all understand that small habits help us to learn to exercise more, eat healthier, take regular breaks, network better at work, or improve our relationships!
Couple relationships are no different- we need small everyday habits. So the Hope Focused Couple Counseling Program harnesses the power of small habits to nudge couples towards healthier and happier relationships in small daily activities. The habits we select are based on the current research literature on what small activities seem to help most relationships. Let us know if it's helpful to you!
Four Components to Daily Habits
The first step is to daily list things you are grateful for relevant to your relationship. It can be a bullet list or you can journal. You can be grateful for aspects of your partner, things she/he has done, or the opportunity to have love in your life. You can be grateful to God, or to your partner, or to the Universe. Just be grateful every day.
The research on gratitude is extensive as a way of turning our life around. Gratitude helps people who are depressed, discouraged, feeling lost or disoriented. Gratitude is one of the most powerful small habits a person can use- and it can be done all on your own! Your partner doesn't even have to agree to it.
Bob Emmons, Ph.D., is a leading expert in gratitude with dozens of research studies on the effects of gratitude. He has found that self-guided daily gratitude journaling increases well-being in a variety of measures. It has also been found to be helpful to couples in relationships!
The next step is to connect with your partner in small and big ways each week. The weekly "big date" is important for relationship repair and maintenance. The point of the big date is to just spend time together enjoying each other's company. We often recommend couples find one of those discussion questions like the 36 questions, or something you find on Pinterest, to have a good set of questions to ask each other during your date.
The five-minute date is a daily check in on the details of each others' lives. How is work? What's going on with the kids? What do you hope will happen today? What is making you anxious or afraid?
Next write down a few things you do this week that involve caring for your self.
Self-care is discussed so much today it's almost easy to make fun of it. But it's nothing more than taking stock of your life, and engaging in life-giving activities that match your values and goals in life. What is important to you? Are you spending your life doing the things that match your values?
Self-care can include engaging in quiet solitude or worship that refreshes your soul. Or it can be exercise and invigorating activities. Creative activities like making a beautiful dinner or artwork can be self-care. Self-care can be social activities like hanging out with friends on the weekend or playing games with your kids. Self-care can involve giving to others of your time and resources through volunteerism.
Prayer or Reflect.
The final two boxes in this worksheet focus you on prayer and why you are engaging in couple therapy or enrichment. If you want to write out full prayers you might use the back of the worksheet or a personal prayer journal. If prayer isn't something you are into, then meditation and reflection may fit for your needs.
Engaging with the "why" or purposes in our life is a very important aspect of therapy. It gives us energy, purpose, and meaning. If you find yourself feeling lost about meaning and "why" you might try taking the Meaning in Life questionnaire and VIA Survey of Character Strengths at authentichappiness.org through the University of Pennsylvania (free).
Connecting with God is a way of finding meaning for most people. Taking time to pray and reflect on the greater purposes of living in your relationship is a good habit to engage in. You might note how much you plead with God (which is OK, I'm sure God loves to hear our requests!), and balancing it with gratitude, and listening prayers. Ignatian practice uses listening prayers, as well as most Protestants practice listening to the Holy Spirit.
Meditation and prayer is also common in all the major world religions, and even non-religious people reflect and meditate. Prayer has demonstrated to improve mental and physical well-being.
Take Notes? Sure!
At the bottom of this worksheet is a place to write anything you want to remember about your couple therapy this week. Couple therapy can move fast- if you don't stop and reflect now and then you might miss something, or forget things you are learning.
We recommend you keep these worksheets. They can be a nice reflection in the future when you want to repair or improve your relationship. How did you do it?