Taking stock of a couple’s relationship is a normal part of marriage counseling. In fact, all relationship therapy involves taking stock to some degree. But guess what? You don’t have to wait until a relationship is in trouble to do so. Regularly taking stock of one’s relationships can prevent trouble before it occurs.
So what does it mean to take stock of a relationship? It means to honestly evaluate where that relationship currently is, where it has been, and where it is going. The key here is honesty. We have to be honest with ourselves about the good and bad if we hope to make the necessary changes to avoid trouble.
Taking stock involves three primary components: observation, discovery, and response. Please understand that each of the three components takes practice. No one becomes a relationship expert overnight. But the more you work at it, the better you get at taking stock of all your relationships.
Observation: Where You Are
Observation is the first step in taking stock of a relationship. You have to know where you currently are before you can do anything else. So, you step back and observe. You pay close attention to how you and the other person relate to one another. If it helps, taking notes is not a bad thing.
Play close attention to how you and the other person communicate. Observe your reactions when communication is pleasant, as well as when it’s unpleasant. Observe how much time you spend together and what you do during that time. Acknowledge those things in your relationship that are most important to the both of you.
While you are in observation mode, remember this one important principle: the point of observation is only to discover where you are. It is not to make assumptions about hidden meanings, the other person’s intentions, etc. Approach observation as objectively as possible. Do not make assumptions or draw conclusions.
Discovery: Where You Have Been
The second component of taking stock is discovery. This is essentially looking at where you and the other person have been to try to determine what influences where you currently are. For example, you and your partner may have difficulty discussing financial issues. Is there anything in your past that could be contributing to this difficulty?
Relationships are a lot like construction. When you build a house, you start with a foundation and work your way up. Each piece is built on top of the piece laid before it. The same is true with relationships. Both good and bad things in your relationship are built on foundations laid in the past
Response: Where We Are Going
If taking stock of your relationships is to be fruitful, it must provide a direction for the future. This is where the response component comes in. Observation tells you where you are. Discovery tells you where you came from. Response determines where you will go as a result of taking stock.
What was your immediate response to what you observed? Was that response altered by what you uncovered during the discovery phase? Now you have to take information from both of those phases and use it to make decisions about the future. Your best bet is to continue encouraging the good things while simultaneously working to correct the bad things.
Taking stock is an important part of any relationship. By regularly taking stock, even when trouble doesn’t exist, it’s possible to prevent some of the trouble altogether. As marriage and relationship counselors, we encourage our clients to take stock as often as necessary to maintain healthy relationships.