Relationships don’t live in the honeymoon phase, and it’s completely normal for you and your partner to experience growing pains along the way. But have your arguments with your partner escalated into constant conflict? It may be time to consider bringing an expert into the mix: a couples therapist.
From emotional disconnect to heightened insecurities, there’s no right or wrong reason to call in an expert. Just admitting that there’s an issue in your relationship, and being open to creating space for positive change with your partner is a huge step in the right direction. Consider couples therapy as a labor of love for your love. It’s an opportunity to break bad habits that you and your partner have fallen into, and that are inevitably creating a divide.
Couples therapy comes with some common misconceptions. Some couples are afraid that seeking it out means that they aren’t strong enough to handle their issues internally, while others find that it’s easier to avoid their issues altogether than confront them. Instead, welcome the opportunity to reflect openly on your relationship. Doing so shows just how much you’re both willing to put in the work to make some serious changes.
Ask yourself, how do you and your partner handle conflict? Does one of you dominate the discussion? Do you avoid conflict altogether? Is your communication productive? Communication is no longer effective if either of you feels talked at or down to. Both of you deserve to feel respected and heard in your relationship, even in conflict. Couples therapy serves as a safe space for you both to express your feelings, with someone there to moderate and encourage you along the journey.
You don’t have to have a concrete concern to go to therapy either. Couples seek assistance for all kinds of reasons: feeling misunderstood by their partner, lack of intimacy, major life transitions, or even problems they can’t immediately identify! It’s a great opportunity to build a united front against your concerns, and tackle them head-on. And TBH, it’s also just a great way to be proactive in growing your relationship, even if there’s no apparent problems at all.
Therapy isn’t an overnight solution for what you and your partner are experiencing, and it shouldn’t be your last resort. Get proactive in your approach to therapy--use it as a preventative tool, before you reach the need for intervention. It’s easy to let bad relationship patterns snowball, but a therapist might help you identify the underlying issues before they even develop into a pattern. Use therapy as an opportunity to let your partner in and to honestly address how you’re feeling, even when it seems far easier to push both away.
Not everyone is open to going to therapy. Opening up to a stranger about your relationship and feelings can be a daunting task. Which is why you never want to spring it on your partner. If they feel blind-sided, it could put them on the defensive, and then it won’t be a productive experience. Instead, explain to your partner why this is a resource you want to pursue, together. Express that you value your relationship, and believe it’s not currently getting the care it deserves.
Need some stats to back up your argument? There is a 30 percent higher marital success rate for couples who received counseling before their wedding than those who did not. Forty-Four percent of couples who are getting married agree to premarital counseling before they take their wedding vows. Already married? Roughly 50% of distressed couples will have an improved, more satisfying marriage for 4+ years after counseling.
If your partner is absolutely not open to exploring therapy, consider going at it alone. You can use the opportunity to work on your own personal growth. Don’t force it.
When it comes time to choose a therapist, do a little digging. Once you’ve found an experienced therapist, you’ll want to talk to them about their communication style. You will be most receptive to the prodding of a therapist who you are comfortable around. And if you find that, after a few sessions, you aren’t able to open up in the presence of that person, don’t be afraid to seek out a new one!
In general, your first session will involve the therapist getting to know you as a couple, and determining the problems you’d like to address or the goals you’d like to meet. A therapist isn’t there to take sides. Instead, they will aim to serve as an objective third party, there to facilitate effective communication between you and your partner.
The real success of your sessions will be seen outside the therapist’s office, when you put in the work in real time. Give yourself the grace to stumble along the way, but taking that first step is an achievement in itself that you both should be proud of! Do your best to be reflective and self-aware throughout the process. The more work you put in, the more you will gain.