Despite what we see in movies and fairy tales, and on other peoples’ social media feeds, there is no such thing as the perfect marriage. While the partners in a relationship may share fundamental beliefs and value systems, they are still two individuals with their unique life experiences, personalities and quirks.
Sometimes we find that those elements about ourselves complement and balance those of our partners. Other times, the combination can create friction, like a chemical reaction gone wrong. And when those bad chemical reactions become too frequent or too explosive, the couple may find themselves in the position of having to Google couple counselling.
But does couple counselling really work, or is it just a nice-sounding idea that doesn’t really accomplish anything?
In order to understand how couple counselling may or may not work, we need to know what it is – and perhaps more importantly, what it is not.
What Is Couple Counseling?
Couple counselling is a form of psychotherapy in which a licensed practitioner, such as a marriage and family therapist, helps couples explore and resolve the conflicts that are negatively impacting their relationship. The specific goals depend on the couple and their unique circumstances: sometimes, the goal is to improve communication, other times, it may be to give one or both partners the tools to cope with a traumatic experience or loss.
Couple counselling sessions usually include both partners, but from time to time, the therapist may have a session with one partner at a time. This may allow partners who are reticent in the couple sessions to open up and talk freely without the other partner present.
Beliefs That Can Make Couple Counseling Fail
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy estimates that over 80% of couples who seek couples counselling benefit from it. That statistic is an indication of how effective this therapy can be if the couple is committed to the process. However, there are some self-sabotaging beliefs that couples sometimes have that can jeopardize the chances of success.
Couple Counseling Is Retribution For Infidelity
There is no getting away from the fact that infidelity invariably leaves a trail of hurt in its wake. In many cases, couple counselling can help both partners move on – either together or separately – but it has to be entered into for the right reasons. If the goal is to punish the offending partner or to shame them in front of a therapist, neither partner is likely to end up feeling good about it.
We Have To Try This For The Sake Of The Children
Attempting to save a marriage for the benefit of children can backfire. Children are highly perceptive and are usually aware of tensions in a marriage, no matter how well their parents try to hide it. Continuing a toxic relationship could be harmful to the children by raising their anxiety or exposing them to abusive patterns of behaviour.
This Is An Opportunity To Prove My Partner Wrong
Some people go into couple counselling not to resolve conflicts in a healthy manner, but in hopes that the therapist will side with them. No marriage and family therapist worth their salt would allow this: a counselling session is not for assigning blame, it is for helping the couple move forward together, in a positive way.
It’s The Last Resort
If a couple seeks couple counselling as a final step before separating, the relationship may have already have reached the point where it cannot be saved. The longer conflicts and resentments are left to fester, the more difficult it is to resolve them. Ideally, the couple should seek counselling early on.
How To Make Couple Counseling Work For You
It is a well-known adage that “you only get out what you put in”, and this holds true for couple counselling. The chances of success are much higher if both couples are committed and willing to do the work.
Know What Your Goals Are
Not everyone goes to couple counselling for the same reasons. Knowing why you are going makes it easier for you and your therapist to work towards those goals. Some common goals of couple counselling are:
- To improve communication, learn the importance of listening to your partner, and develop conflict resolution skills
- To manage conflicts arising from sources external to the relationship, such as in-laws or former spouses
- To adjust to major changes, such as the formation of a blended family
- To help one or both partners cope with a traumatic experience, such as loss of a loved one, assault or accident
- To give divorcing couples the ability to move forward in a constructive manner, especially if they have children together
Be Open To Change In Yourself And Your Partner
As a species, human beings are resistant to change. Even if a pattern of living is negative or destructive, it can seem more frightening to break those patterns than to stay with the old habits. The whole point of couple counselling is to identify negative behaviours that are holding your relationship back and to replace these with more positive behaviours that can help you move forward. You and your partner may experience some teething pains as you start to make these changes – you simply need to give the processing time.
Couple Counseling Can Work For Any Couple
You don’t have to be married in order to benefit from couple counselling. Couples who are dating may choose to seek help to repair a relationship that they are heavily invested in. Whether you and your partner have been together for several months or several decades, a qualified therapist can help you resolve whatever difficulties you are experiencing. In some cases, couples who are engaged to be married go through couple counselling in order to ensure that they are building their marriage on a foundation of strong communication and conflict resolution skills.
You Don’t Have To Have A Problem
People tend to have a perception of couple counselling as a venue for couples who are constantly at each others’ throats, but this is not the reality. In fact, the people who benefit most from couple counselling are couples who recognize early on that there are things that could be improved. Learning how to resolve conflicts before they actually happen can contribute to long-term success and happiness in the relationship.
Your Journey To A Healthy Relationship Can Start Today
If you and your partner are feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship, don’t delay. Psychotherapy Clinic will provide you with a safe, welcoming environment in which you can begin the process of healing and move forward together. Call us today to get started.