All couples experience problems.
Still, in some cases, things reach a level where the two can no longer have dialogue. That is, the discussions become almost daily and there seems to be no more possible solution.
In these cases, it is time to seek outside help, and nothing better than couple therapy.
In the text, I explain a little how this type of therapy works and how a couple can benefit from it! Let’s talk about:
- What is couple therapy?
- What is not couple therapy
- As it happens?
- Crucial aspects
- Who is it for?
- How can couples therapy help?
- Reasons to seek couple therapy
- You are not the customer. The couple is the customer!
- Make an effort
- Last resource?
- When is the right time to seek help?
What is couple therapy?
Couple therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which a therapist with clinical experience working with couples helps two people involved in a romantic relationship to reflect on the relationship.
Primarily, the objective is to resolve conflicts and improve the quality of the relationship, using a variety of therapeutic interventions.
Although practice may vary depending on the therapist’s theoretical orientation, all couples therapy involves the following general elements:
- A focus on a specific problem (ie, sexual difficulties, internet addiction, jealousy);
- Active participation by the therapist in the treatment of the relationship itself, instead of each individual separately;
- Interventions aimed at changing early in the treatment;
- A clear establishment of treatment goals.
What is not couple therapy
It is important to remember that when you go to couples therapy, the therapist should not tell you what to do, but he should explain your situation as best as possible, see?
Incidentally, he will also not give you his personal opinion and will not tell you whether, as a couple, you should separate or not.
Above all, the role of a couples therapist is to facilitate change and resolution, helping the couple to communicate more effectively and reach their own conclusions.
If you are nervous about discussing private matters with a stranger, you should keep in mind that the therapist is not there to criticize. Your counseling sessions should be a free space for judgment, and you can explore your actions openly.
As it happens?
Namely, couple therapy usually begins with some standard interview questions about the relationship’s history, as well as some exploration of the family of origin, values and cultural background of each partner.
In fact, the therapist can use the initial sessions for crisis intervention, if necessary.
Thus, it will help the couple to identify the issue that will be the focus of treatment, establishing goals and planning a structure for the process.
In addition, the therapist will help the couple to better understand the dynamics of the relationship that maintains the problem, while helping the two partners to understand each of their roles in the interactions.
It will certainly help you to change the way you perceive the relationship and the other.
A crucial aspect of couple therapy, in fact, involves changing behaviors and ways of interacting with each other.
Look, in relation to the techniques used, part of the work that is done is performed within the counseling sessions themselves.
However, you will also be asked to do a “homework”.
Usually, your therapist will propose that you do a task or talk about something specific when you get home.
Later, during your next session, you will have the opportunity to talk about that task, discuss any challenges that have happened against you and how the experience has made you feel.
Who is it for?
Couple therapy is beneficial for any type of relationship.
For example, a newly married couple may find that premarital counseling is an opportunity to meet relationship expectations before getting married.
Another couple, with more than 25 years of relationship, may find that therapy is an effective way to recover a feeling of excitement and romance in their relationship.
Anyway, couple therapy can solve a current problem, prevent a problem from getting worse, or simply provide a “check-up” for a happy couple who is going through a period of transition or stress.
Common areas of concern addressed in this type of therapy include problems with money, parenting, sex, infidelity, in-laws, chronic health problems, infertility, gambling, substance use, emotional distance and frequent conflicts.
How can couples therapy help?
First, when we have been in a relationship or marriage for a long time, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not listening to the other person or not communicating our needs clearly.
Sometimes talking to someone who has no connection with you or your partner is all it takes to gain perspective.
Know that what couple therapy offers is the opportunity to talk to someone who has no preconceived notions about what a couple is, with the added advantage of having skills and training to guide them in their concerns.
The overall goal of couple therapy is to help you do the following:
- Understand how external factors, such as family values, religion, culture and lifestyle affect your relationship;
- Reflect on the past and how it works in the present;
- Communicate in a more constructive way;
- Negotiate and resolve conflicts whenever possible.
As counseling sessions progress, you and your partner can find a way to overcome your problems, or you can decide it is time to separate.
Either way, therapy offers you the space to grow and decide what you would like to do in the future.
Reasons to seek couple therapy
1. Trust has been broken
Perhaps it was infidelity in the form of sex; or an emotional issue; perhaps it was a series of lies or mistakes about money.
In any case, rebuilding the trust base can be helped by establishing a forum in which both parties are free to express their vulnerability.
2. Fights are getting more frequent
Do you realize that you are fighting more and more?
Perhaps they are “small” discussions, or perhaps they are big conflicts that leave traces of drama.
Either way, it is the pattern of the increase that is important.
Maybe it’s a dot on the screen, with one of you going through something difficult personally. But it can also indicate a trajectory of constant discussions.
So the most important thing is that it can show that there are significant problems under the surface that are not really being addressed.
3. Communication is poor
Open conflict may not be the problem, but you constantly feel misunderstood or ignored.
Or maybe you feel like you don’t even have a good idea of what’s going on with your partner emotionally these days; he may well be a stranger.
Finally, often, one of the most concrete results of couple therapy is the increase and quality of communication.
In this way, a qualified counselor can give the couple tools that will help the two to communicate, hear and understand each other much better on a daily basis.
4. Something definitely seems wrong, but you’re not sure what or why
As with individual therapy, sometimes couple therapy is useful not only for solving problems, but also for identifying them.
Let’s say that something in the dynamics of your marriage has changed, but you can’t describe it.
Or you are not as comfortable with your partner as you used to be. Or you resent him, but you’re not sure why.
These are often early signs that interactions are becoming dysfunctional.
This does not mean that a person is to blame, but that the relationship itself could be adjusted .
In such cases, a therapist’s office is often a very beneficial place to begin this process.
There is something you want your partner to know, but you are not able to tell him
Sometimes the beauty of therapy begins with the room itself: it can become a safe and supportive place for you to address things that are difficult to discuss in other situations.
A trained professional with a warm presence can often help you overcome your fears of sharing something with your partner.
6. One or both lose their reason during a conflict
The way a couple handles conflict is one of the best ways to diagnose whether their relationship will last or not.
Perhaps you or your partner will disconnect, attack, or be vindictive or passive-aggressive.
Unfortunately, there are several wrong ways to deal with conflicts – which makes the original problem much worse.
7. You went through something devastating that is changing the way you connect with your surroundings
Sometimes, the pain of a traumatic event can affect a relationship.
For example, many couples go their separate ways after the painful loss of a child.
Other times, it is long-term unemployment , a health crisis or turmoil within one of the partner’s families of origin.
Look, you may not think about going to couples counseling in the wake of something so big going on, after all, you have enough to worry about.
However, maintaining a strong bond between you can help the union and provide additional strength to withstand the coming storm.
Do you feel trapped in bad standards
There is no limit to the number of standards that partners develop on a daily basis.
They can be related to how and when they eat and sleep (and insufficient sleep is associated with marital problems), how much time they spend separately or with each other, who handles various household chores, how they interact with each other’s families.
Maybe it’s something simple, maybe one spouse fills the other’s ears complaining about something, but he never wants to hear it.
Or even more profound, like a long division of household chores that seems unfair. The longer a pattern is established, the more energy and time it will take to change it. Better to start early.
9. No emotional intimacy
It is almost a cliché for two partners to feel that the “spark” has disappeared after spending a decade or more together, and that they are more roommates than soul mates.
Sometimes this is because the routine of everyday life has started to limit the ability to connect , and it is simply a matter of re-prioritizing.
At other times, it can go deeper, like two partners who have been quietly distancing themselves, changing for a long time or even learning to meet their needs elsewhere.
10. Physical intimacy is a problem
Sexual issues can be both a symptom and a cause of relationship problems, which means that he is often at the forefront of a couple’s daily complaints.
Sometimes the change is obvious and frustrating – a couple moves from frequent physical intimacy to almost nothing, and it is shocking. Other times, it’s gradual.
In other cases, there are more explicit conflicts, with a partner expressing frustration, a partner constantly being rejected or sex being used as a bargaining tool.
Whatever the problem, a qualified counselor can help you start working on it.
You are not the customer. The couple is the customer!
Most couples therapists have what they call the “Rule Without Secrets”.
This means that everything you share individually with the therapist is also shared with the other partner.
Also, don’t expect a partner to be the focus of therapy. Yes, even if that partner was the one who cheated, for example.
Even if you’re the only one with the drinking problem. Or even if he is no longer interested in sex.
This is about the two of you as a unit, not one of you as an individual.
Make an effort
For your own sake, make an effort!
Undeniably, one of the most difficult things for couples who are deciding whether or not to part ways is that this doubt often makes them resistant to doing the job.
However, doing this will help you, no matter what happens to the relationship.
First of all, know that human beings behave in patterns. Neglect this, and you are likely to repeat the same harmful behaviors and follow the same patterns in your next relationship as well.
For some, the suggestion of therapy is considered a “last resort” to save a relationship / marriage.
Although, of course, this is sometimes the case, we don’t have to wait until things get so bad before trying therapy.
Similarly, many couples use sessions as a way to keep their relationship healthy and address any underlying concerns that may become conflicts in the future.
When is the right time to seek help?
In short, each couple is different, so choosing to seek help will depend on the nature of the problem you are facing.
If you are concerned about your relationship (for whatever reason) and feel that you cannot reach a conclusion on your own, look for a couple therapy!
Surely the therapist will offer space for you to feel safe enough to express those things that you would not normally express otherwise.
This will reflect very positively on the relationship between two!