You constantly fight, you’re struggling with infertility…one of you mentioned divorce…someone had an affair. There many reasons why marriages are strained and pushed to the limit and these complex issues compel couples turn to a counselor for help. Whatever situation or scenario is driving your relationship downhill, a good counselor can work with you independently as well as together to build a safer and more solid foundation. Additionally, if you are miserable in your relationship it may be helpful to look at whether staying together is the healthiest goal. I work with couples to help them see the bigger picture of their marriage and we explore what has led them to a place where hurt, anger, resentment and frustration has taken the place of love, caring and support.
If you feel like it is time to “do the work” of couples therapy, here is my best advice.
- Be open to the process. We will talk about your feelings and emotions and for some, that can be difficult to navigate. You might be scared of divulging your feelings and revealing what your role has been in hurting your relationship. You may also be scared of what your significant other will reveal. But, the more open you are to sharing and listening the more you will get out of the process.
- Acknowledge your part. While you may think your spouse is completely to blame, you probably have done something that was not in the best interest of your relationship. If you go in without trying to blame your partner and share what you are willing to do to improve the situation, your partner may really appreciate that honesty and effort. Try to stay away from defensiveness and explanation and substitute that for “how can I help my partner know and feel that I care”.
- Have goals. Sometimes you just want a safe place to talk where a therapist can act as a guide, intermediary, referee, interpreter and a buoy in a stormy ocean of emotions. You might decide that separation and divorce is the best solution for your particular situation and therapy is a place where that decision can be made with mutual respect.
- Be realistic. Couples therapy will not work overnight and can not completely change a person. You need to be willing to dig deeply to uncover your own demons and sit with your partner as they do the same. Being open to self and mutual exploration is how couples learn about one another and grow. Vulnerability is the path to intimacy and if you are willing to commit to the process, you will learn so much about yourself and your partner.
If you are considering couples therapy I applaud you. Sometimes just admitting there is a problem or catching something before it escalates can mean the difference between a happy marriage and a sad and dysfunctional relationship. Take some time to find the right therapist and then be ready to engage in a journey with your partner.