If you really think about it, the relationship you have with your partner has possibly the greatest impact of all your other relationships on your emotional well-being - for better or worse. If every morning, and every evening, you come home to a partner with whom you are fighting, not having sex with, feeling resentful towards, or no longer connecting with, we bet that no matter how much you avoid your relationship distress, it is impacting everything in your life, every day - work, friends, and your ability to enjoy life.
So why do people in this kind of distress not seek professional help? Well, for starters, admitting that your relationship is in dire straits is not an easy thing to do. Many of us prefer to hide underneath the covers with the hope that things will resolve itself on its own. Sometimes that works, but most of the time, it doesn’t. Time marches on, and so does your emotional numbness and unhappiness.
If you are unsure couples counseling is for you, let us give you our pitch on why it might help:
Couples counselors have specialized training in relationships that others do not.
It can be hard to admit that your relationship needs professional help. We are programmed to be self-sufficient and to not "air dirty laundry" to strangers. Our guess is that you have already exhausted your resources. You’ve probably spoken to a trusted friend, maybe you have read all sorts of relationship books, or even gone to a seminar. However, if things still are not changing, seeing a professional might be worth considering. Good relationships are complex and not all based on "common-sense" or "chemistry." Couples counselors are trained professionals who can help decipher the dynamics in all sorts of relational challenges and help get things back on track.
The process demystified.
If you are a therapy newbie, just the thought of starting counseling can a bit daunting. “What will my therapist ask?” “Will we really talk about sex life with a complete stranger?” “Is couples counseling basically 50 minutes of rehashing old fights?”
The first few sessions are very much focused on getting a real picture of you and your relationship by asking all sorts of questions. Next, we discuss your goals for therapy. You may have a laundry list or just a few key issues. Many couples do talk about sex with their therapist. Intimacy challenges are a common problem between couples, and the therapist's office provides a safe, neutral environment for these difficult and personal topics.
Yes, rehashing old fights may happen at times, but for a good reason. Reviewing past conflicts provides the therapist with the opportunity to teach new skills or to uncover deeper dynamics of the partnership. Sometimes the fight about not taking out the garbage isn’t at all about taking out the garbage. It may instead be a division of labor issue, one partner feeling burned out, or perhaps one partner feeling that their needs within the relationship are not being acknowledged nor respected. Complex stuff, huh?
For some, couples counseling can be transformative. It has the potential to change your relationship forever for the better. However, this isn't the case with every couple. Some couples are willing to do the work and are able to make positive changes, and some are not. Unfortunately, we do not have a crystal ball or a magic wand to change people – we offer tools, professional opinions and resources. The real change must come from you.