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The Marriage Counseling Workbook: 8 Steps to a Strong and Lasting Relationship

written by Emily Cook, PhD, LCMFT
on Tuesday, 16th April ,2019

Although my book was published almost exactly one year ago, I’ve been surprisingly reluctant to publicize it since. The overlap of writing the book with my postpartum months after the birth of my second child amazes me. Ethan was born in June, I finished writing in December, and the book was in print by the following March. I used to tell people, “Well, I’m already up after nursing so I might as well write another chapter!” Now I wonder, “How did I find the energy to pour these words from my heart and on to the page?”

I think the answer is “Love.” (Actually, this is a pretty good answer to most questions one might pose.) I drew on the reserves of love from my marriage, of love that I have for my children and my family and my friends, of love that I have for my clients. And I drew on the hope of love – lasting, strong love between partners in a committed relationship—for the people who might come across this book and use it to repair and enrich their marriage.

The book is written in my voice, as though we were having a conversation together in the therapy room. It’s full of my best metaphors, discussion prompts, and skill building exercises so that couples can help themselves with good help. In Part 1, couples explore the conflicts facing their marriage now and the ways partners’ pasts influences the present troubles. In Part 2, partners journey through eight content areas important for marriage health and receive step-by-step support to make positive changes: communication skills, financial decision making, intimacy and sex, balancing “I” and “We,” trust and forgiveness, family of origin, household equality, and a shared vision for a committed future. I’m deeply proud of this workbook.

Want a taste? Here are excerpts of two exercises, one from the first chapter that assesses current destructive relationship patterns and another from chapter four (Reunite as “We”) that offers a playful way to express gratitude:

Assessing for Sabotage, pg 17-18

Certain types of feelings or behaviors can be poisonous to your marriage. The good news is that there are healing cures that will counteract the damage done by the poisons and help restore health to your marriage.

Poisons: criticism, defensiveness, holding a grudge, impatience, and resentment

Cures: benefit of the doubt, empathy, kindness, playfulness, and validation

Exercise: Think about a time when you might be tempted to use a poison with your partner and, instead, choose one of the cures. In which situations are you usually tempted? In those moments, what do you imagine your partner is feeling? If you use a cure instead, what changes do you anticipate in how you think and feel towards your partner? How do you imagine your partner will respond to the cure?

Expressing Gratitude, pg 136-137

One really positive way to pay attention to your partner is to express gratitude. Being able to express gratitude means that you’re focusing on the good qualities in your partner – helpfulness, generosity, teamwork – ant that you’re willing to share appreciation.

Exercise: leave sticky notes of gratitude

Split a pack of sticky notes in half; half a pack for each of you. Leave short messages to each other on the sticky notes, thanking each other for something. The first step is to actually notice the good, helpful, loving things your partner is doing. The second step is to express gratitude for those things. Leave the notes in fun places, like tucked into a briefcase or stuck to the bathroom mirror. Collect the notes your partner leaves for you. How does it feel to look for and appreciate positive behaviors? How does it feel to be thanked for your efforts at a loving partnership?

Learn more about The Marriage Counseling Workbook and how you can use it to strengthen your marriage by visiting my website: https://www.emilycooktherapy.com/the-marriage-counseling-workbook/

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