Despite what you may think, couples therapy (like individual therapy) is not reserved for people with extreme or uncommon problems.
Too often, the word “therapy” stigmatizes the concept, creates misconceptions, and pushes people away from the process.
But participating in couples therapy does not necessarily mean that you and your partner have a problem or need to be fixed. It merely means that you and your partner are interested in improving and supporting your relationship in order to create lasting love.
Overcoming The Couples Therapy Complex
In school we learn about sex and physical anatomy, but very few classes ever teach us about managing emotional relationships or how to argue constructively — even though this is one of the most valuable lessons in life.
In relationships you will argue, and you will fight. It is simply inevitable. You can’t change this. But you can change HOW you fight. In couples therapy, you learn that skill among many others.
You will discover how to deal with conflict in your relationships and productive ways to listen and communicate during a disagreement. This skill is vital for people who want their relationships to flourish and grow.
Therefore, couples therapy can be beneficial to absolutely anyone who wants to have a more cooperative, fulfilling partnership with their loved one. I like to say, “Don’t wait until it is broken to fix it.”
Goals of Couples Counseling
Couples therapy doesn’t always require weekly visits and intensive psychotherapy where we dig into your childhood or highlight your skeletons in front of your significant other. You are in charge of the process and that process has simple goals:
- help you discover how to have a healthier relationship
- help you better understand your partner
- help you accept your partner
- teach you how to support each other
- explain how to ask for support from each other
- learn to share your lives productively and happily
- help you learn to parent together
- and the list goes on and on….
There are many little steps along the way, but the main goal is that we want you both to be happy together!
Do You Need Couples Therapy?
Everyone has concerns in a relationship, but some stand out as recurring problems. Obvious ones include:
- financial irresponsibility
But subtler concerns and many more can be addressed and alleviated during the couple counseling process such as:
- lack of communication
- not feeling heard or understood
- lack of intimacy
- emotional distance or not feeling “in love” any longer
If you’re feeling unsatisfied, talk with your partner and consider seeing a professional. The process can help you resolve problems AND prevent problems before they begin.
Finding a Therapist
Choose someone you and your partner both like and agree on. The client/therapist relationship is the single most important factor for that of positive change during your counseling.
It is important that you feel a connection and comfortable with your therapist. However, you won’t always feel that right away because they are obviously still a stranger. So, we always recommend completing at least three sessions before deciding.
When you meet at first, basic background information will be gathered “What brings you in?” or “Where are you from?” The idea is to collect some relationship and individual history at your first session.
The Right Number of Sessions
As mentioned above, we do recommend participating in at least three sessions in order to get comfortable with process and therapist before deciding whether or not to move on with therapy.
After that, the process will be a little different for everyone.
Sometimes things are resolved fairly quickly, but other times a lot of adjustments must be made over a long time period. It is always a learning process, and learning to communicate and interact differently can be difficult for some as it is life-changing.
The process can be shortened, however depending on each partner’s commitment to implementing the new habits. Most therapists teach methods of practicing at home when they are not around to help you get into the habit of improving your relationship. One of the largest reasons that therapy becomes long-term for a couple is that the methods aren’t being implemented consistently at home.
There is no right or wrong amount of time to participate in couples counseling.
What Happens During Couples Counseling?
So how does it work? What takes place during the process?
Well, it varies depending on the issues a couple is dealing with. But you might be surprised how common some of those issues are, and how helpful it can be to address them early on.
Problems in relationships often arise when frustrations aren’t discussed or properly resolved. Disagreements and conflicts are uncomfortable, but with a therapist mediating the discussion things can be kept on track and remain productive, rather than hostile.
Now, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to argue or disagree in session. In fact, we encourage that to an extent, but we will always help keep the discussion on track.
Some things are hard to say to the person you love, and just because you are in therapy, it doesn’t mean you have to reveal all of your secrets. Many times, your therapist will encourage you also meet individually to get some things off your chest and vent a bit.
Your therapist should never repeat anything from your individual session to your partner. Your therapist will work with you on constructive ways to communicate and express anything that needs to be discussed that may be damaging your relationship in order to get it back on track. The support is immensely helpful for both!
Gain Insight Into Each Other’s Perspectives and Options
One of the main benefits of having a trained, neutral third-party present is that they can help you understand issues from a new perspective. Not just about each other, but about the circumstances of your relationship (financial problems, family problems, etc.).
You may find that your issue is more common than you thought and that it can be easily resolved once you get past the frustration.
Therapists help break down the “me vs. them” mentality of an argument.
It is a common pattern that you may have said something to your partner before about a feeling or opinion and then felt like they didn’t listen to you. Then it so happens that your therapist says the exact same thing, and they suddenly get it right away!
It is without a doubt frustrating because you feel that your partner doesn’t value your opinion but will listen to others. But more often than not, that isn’t the case.
It is interesting how that works, but sometimes they just need to hear it a different way or simply just not from the person who they love or has the potential to “hurt” them more than anyone else.
Usually their deaf ear towards you is a result of emotional investment in your opinion more so than others, and if it is something difficult to hear, it is easier to just disregard it. We will work through that as well.
Your therapist should be very well trained on remaining neutral and refraining from taking sides. If at any point you feel that they are, it is something you should communicate immediately in order to create balance.
Decide on the Status of the Relationship
Not all therapy results in a continuing relationship. Part of couples therapy involves determining if it is wise and healthy to remain together or if separating might be a better option.
Often when a couple seeks therapy, one or both of them may already be leaning towards separation for the simple reason that they just don’t see any other ways to “fix” things, but the process is never easy.
A therapist can help a partner wanting to leave determine if they should, and a partner that doesn’t want to leave to deal with their emotions in a healthy manner afterward.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of recognizing unhappiness early on and being open to professional insight.
Aside from recognizing something is wrong early, an even better option is to do a relationship “wellness” check-in even when there aren’t any issues as a preventative measure.
Participating in couples therapy doesn’t mean that your relationship is on the rocks or unhealthy, it’s more like a check-up at the doctor’s office to keep things healthy. Sometimes things feel off but you can’t put your finger on the problem, and a therapist can help you identify just what it is.
Don’t give up on your relationship without a fight. Rediscover and strengthen your love.