What do you think of when you hear the word intervention in marriage counseling? A lot of different scenarios may come to mind, but intervention does not have to be complicated, or a big staged production involving a lot of people. Intervention is not an ultimatum or a threat. It’s not “If you don’t (fill in the blank), then we’re through.
If you do (fill in the blank) one more time, I’m leaving.” Intervention is simply setting boundaries for what you are no longer willing to tolerate, coupled with an action plan for what you are going to do when your boundaries are not respected. Listen to Dr. Hawkins explain why intervention is not an all or nothing proposition.
What Is An Intervention In Marriage Counseling
Marriage can be a beautiful journey filled with love, companionship, and growth. However, it can also bring its fair share of challenges, leaving couples wondering how to navigate the rough waters of conflict and disagreement. One essential tool in the toolbox of relationship repair is the concept of intervention in marriage counseling. In this article, we will delve into what intervention means in the context of marital issues and explore strategies for effectively implementing it.
Understanding the Need for Intervention
Before we dive into the details of intervention, it’s crucial to recognize the signs that indicate a need for it. Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute, sheds light on the importance of identifying when boundaries are consistently barraged and overwhelmed in a marriage. He emphasizes the significance of not tolerating intolerable behaviors repeatedly.
In many marriages, individuals find themselves in a pattern of tolerating behaviors that they find unacceptable. This pattern, often referred to as enabling, occurs when we reinforce negative behaviors through our passivity or inconsistent responses. Intervention is the antithesis of enabling; it is the act of taking a stand and declaring that certain behaviors are intolerable.
The Spectrum of Intervention
Intervention in marriage counseling is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It doesn’t mean you have to choose between accepting everything or resorting to extreme measures. Instead, it is about finding a middle ground, a balanced approach that addresses issues without resorting to chaos. Let’s explore three essential points to consider when implementing intervention in your marriage:
1. Reacting in Extremes
A common pitfall when dealing with relationship issues is reacting in extreme ways. It’s either doing nothing or blowing up, with little in between. The key to effective intervention is to respond thoughtfully rather than react chaotically. Dr. Hawkins suggests that we need to focus on responding rather than reacting. A thoughtful response can create clarity and definition in the relationship, whereas a chaotic reaction often escalates the conflict without resolving the underlying issues.
2. Incremental Strategies
Interventions should not be impulsive acts but rather carefully planned and executed strategies. To do this, it’s essential to anticipate areas of concern within the relationship. What behaviors or issues bother you? What are your boundaries, and how can they be communicated effectively? Developing incremental strategies means taking small, calculated steps to address the issues over time.
For instance, if you’re uncomfortable with your partner using vulgar language during arguments, you can communicate your boundary calmly. Let your partner know that if they use vulgar language, you will step away from the situation temporarily. The first time you implement this, your absence may be brief, but if the behavior continues, you can gradually increase the intensity of your response.
3. Consistency Convinces
Consistency is the linchpin of successful intervention. It’s not enough to set boundaries and respond to issues thoughtfully; you must do so consistently. When you consistently uphold your boundaries, you send a clear message that certain behaviors are unacceptable. Over time, this consistency can lead to positive changes in your relationship.
For example, if your partner continues to use vulgar language despite your warnings, consistently following through with stepping away from the situation reinforces the importance of respectful communication. It conveys that you are serious about your boundaries and that change is necessary for the relationship to thrive.
The Contagious Nature of Emotional Stability
An intriguing concept to consider in the context of intervention is the contagious nature of emotional stability. When you manage yourself effectively and demonstrate emotional stability, it often influences those around you to do the same. While it may not work in every situation, emotional stability can have a significant impact on the overall dynamic of your relationship.
In essence, if you practice emotional stability and consistency in your interventions, your partner may eventually mirror these behaviors, leading to a healthier and more harmonious partnership.
In conclusion, intervention in marriage counseling is a valuable tool for addressing issues within a relationship. It is not an all-or-nothing proposition but rather a carefully planned and executed strategy. By avoiding extreme reactions, developing incremental strategies, and maintaining consistency in your responses, you can convey the importance of your boundaries and encourage positive changes in your marriage.
Remember that most people in long-term relationships genuinely care about the connection they share with their partner. By implementing incremental interventions, you can address issues without resorting to extreme measures, ultimately leading to a stronger and more fulfilling marriage. So, take the time to assess your boundaries, plan your interventions thoughtfully, and watch as emotional stability and understanding flourish in your relationship.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.