Did you ever imagine on your wedding day that you would one day end up on a therapist’s couch in one, five, or fifteen years discussing the most intimate details of your sex life, your financial debt, your inadequacies, and all the things you can’t stand about your partner? Well, imagine it. With the divorce rate in the US at an estimated all-time high, 50%, it’s either you or your best friend headed for doomsville.
In Harville Hendrix’s NY’s time best seller, Getting the Love You Want, he writes eloquently about people’s innate tendencies to pair up with a spouse or partner that has characteristics and personality traits of those similar of their primary caregivers (mom or dad) and then replicate the relationship in order to unconsciously undo or resolve “old wounds.” Hendrix’s research and techniques are solid and evidence-based. In fact, researchers have been studying couples dynamics for decades. Reading a book on couples counseling is great. However, applying the material and learning exercises and techniques is fundamental. Hence, this expert advice may be just what the doctor ordered.
When was the last time you felt like someone heard you and understood you? It probably wasn’t by your partner/spouse. A neutral trained professional listens for key information that can help couples gain a better perspective on their relationship.
When emotions escalate you may not always feel safe to discuss hurtful and painful feelings with your partner at home. Instead, the safety of a therapist’s office who you feel comfortable to disclose information to may be just what your relationship needs to fully process the issues at hand, instead of avoiding them or dodging them.
Empathy does exist and it helps when the therapist not only can empathize with your story but teach the couple to be empathetic to one another. The therapy setting is a great way to observe how empathy goes a long way in truly connecting to another human being. If you don’t feel connected to your partner/spouse now, therapy can help to bridge the gap.
If you don’t trust your partner, therapy certainly uncovers what holds you back from truly allowing yourself to be vulnerable and trusting of your partner and relationship. Relationship counseling helps couples confront the underlying issues not just in the current relationship, but triggers as well that may be correlated to past experiences.
When you know better, you do better. Having more insight into one’s relationship and personal life allows for people to have an overall better sense of self. The more perspective one has on his/her life, the more open and engaging one is in fostering healthier relationships and engaging in healthier activities.
You may be concerned that there may be backlash with something you, your partner or even your therapist said in the therapy room. Fearing that your relationship may end if you seek out counseling may deter you from wanting to go. Therapy is designed to root out core breakdowns in your relationship, not make it worse.
What will you find out in the therapy session? You may be scared of what you could uncover. What if you find out your partner cheated or has an insurmountable amount of financial debt? It takes years to build a relationship and you may not be prepared to learn about your partner’s/spouse’s past history. However, having a healthy relationship means being honest about everything.
Telling a stranger your “private story” may feel intrusive or just plain uncomfortable. But just to normalize, if one has never been in therapy before, it is normal to feel a little strange or awkward in the very beginning. The goal is that through the building of the therapeutic relationship, one becomes more comfortable and safe to disclose personal information in a trusting environment.
You wouldn’t want financial worries to be another underlying strain in your relationship. However, if you were to have an ongoing terrible headache or backache you probably would see a physician. Hopefully, you wouldn’t disregard your physical symptoms. It’s best to not ignore your emotional ones too.
Going to therapy takes time and is a huge personal commitment. Therapy normally involves regularly scheduled weekly visits, usually at a specific time every week. Both partners in the relationship have to be willing and committed to the process. Couples counseling can’t work with half the couple.
You may ask yourself, what can I get out of couples therapy? The answer lies in what you are hoping to learn about yourself, your partner and/or your troubled relationship. People go to couples counseling for 1 of 2 reasons: to save the relationship or to end it. There are many factors that make relationship counseling successful. It helps when both parties are invested and open to the process. One thing's for sure, you will definitely learn something (positive or negative) about yourself and/your relationship through the process. It’s a journey.
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