Helping a couple develop positive relationship habits will make the marriage stronger and more resilient. Encouraging them to express appreciation to each other is a good example. Here’s one way to do that as you walk them through the Conversation Jumpstarter.
When they begin discussing their answers to the CJ, their first mini-conversation is to take turns saying what they liked about their partner’s answers on a chosen topic. This is a perfect opportunity to capitalize on what is already a positive conversation.
Let’s say Jessica goes first. She tells Jerry something she liked about his answer, and does so clearly and congruently (i.e., her facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. match the content of her words). You can ask her, “So what does this tell you about the man you’re marrying? Tell him what you appreciate about him as a person.” Listen carefully, and help her put her appreciation into words if necessary. It’s possible that she’s never really thought about it before, and putting her appreciation into words may help her see Jerry in a new light.
After she has spoken, you can ask Jerry to respond: “What’s it like to hear Jessica say these things about you?” Chances are Jerry will like hearing it, even if he receives the words shyly or reluctantly. Then turn it around, and ask Jerry to tell Jessica what he appreciates about her.
Throughout the preparation process, look for opportunities to create the same kinds of interactions. It’s a way of reminding them what they want to preserve about their relationship. You can make this even more concrete using the Making Our Marriage Stronger exercise in Appendix E.