Ask Brittany: Improving Relationships Outside of Therapy

“My wife and I haven’t been connecting as well as we used to, and we aren’t even getting along very well anymore. I want our relationship to improve, but she’s not interested in counseling. What can we do outside of coming to see a therapist?”


Take a direct approach with your wife and tell her how you feel. Have a conversation with the goal of finding common ground — an agreement on what you both want to improve in the relationship. If she’s willing to do so, you can consider the following:
Read a book on communication and connection “book club” style with your spouse, and discuss how you can apply this to your relationship. I recommend Why Some Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman, PhD. It’s a great book to learn how to complain – without criticizing.

Implement a weekly 30-60 minute check-in with your spouse using the questions below. This time is a great way to bring up complaints and concerns before they become resentments.

  • What did we do well as a couple this week?What areas of our relationship do we need to work on?
  • How can we approach next week to make things even better?
  • Improve your connection by physically greeting your spouse when you reunite, and physically saying goodbye when you leave one another. Dr. Gottman recommends that couples share a six-second kiss every day. Why six seconds? Dr. Gottman says, “A six-second kiss is a kiss with potential.” Kissing releasing oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that bonds us to each another. It also releases dopamine and reduces cortisol, decreasing stress. Try implementing this for a few weeks and see how things change.

If this feels completely outside the scope of your marriage these days, revisit
the topic of seeing a couples therapist or, at the very least, see one on your own.

Written by Brittany Steffen, MS, LMFT
Brittany is a counselor at PRO Sports Club’s Counseling Center. If you have a question for her, write to her at Your question and her advice could appear in a future issue of PRO Pulse.

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