What’s the key to a long and happy romantic partnership? If you’re thinking it’s taking a semi-annual couple’s vacation or having great sex seven days a week, think again. While those things are (obviously!) nice to have in any relationship, what’s most important here is communication. When you can speak openly with your partner or spouse about your needs and desires—or why they’re driving you a little crazy!—you can keep your relationship on track.
Some couples seem naturally inclined to be perfectly honest with each other, while others find it challenging to say what’s on their minds. If you love your partner but find yourself wishing that you could discuss certain topics with more ease, you might benefit from couples therapy, also known as couples counseling. Here, I’ll explain what couples therapy is and how it can help your relationship. I’ll also give you some tips to help you broach the subject with your partner if you’re feeling a little reluctant or shy.
- What Happens in Couples Therapy?
- Does Couples Therapy Work?
- How Do I Talk About Couples Counseling With My Partner?
What Happens in Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy is similar to private psychotherapy, except that you’ll attend most appointments with your partner. Your therapist will work with you to address any problems or challenges you’re facing in your relationship. For example, if you find yourselves getting into arguments over trivial matters on an everyday basis, your therapist can help you explore why you’re quick to lose your tempers with each other.
If you’re considering marriage, your therapist can help you make sure you’re on the same page on all the major life issues, like children, careers, and finances. If you’ve just become first-time parents, your therapist can help you navigate the transition from just-the-two-of-you to Mom and Dad. And even if you generally get along pretty well and coexist peacefully, your therapist can help you to bring more excitement to your relationship, which will help strengthen your bond. Whatever your situation, an experienced couples counselor can help you maintain (or return to) a happy and healthy relationship.
If you and your partner want traditional in-person counseling, a quick Google search will reveal the names and contact information of couples therapists in your community. (You might also ask a trusted friend if they have any personal recommendations for you.) If you prefer to receive counseling in the comfort of your own home, you can try couples counseling online, available from sites like TalkSpace and BetterHelp. Whatever makes you and your partner feel most comfortable is the right choice for you.
Does Couples Therapy Work?
When you’re feeling down in the dumps about your marriage or partnership, you may wonder if there’s any benefit to opening up to a third party. The answer is YES! Participating in couples therapy or marriage counseling has many benefits.
If you’re both truly committed to improving your partnership, couples therapy can help you to communicate better and bring you closer together. Your therapist can give you special couples therapy exercises that will help you gain a better understanding of your partner’s needs and vice versa. You’ll both learn to become better listeners, and you’ll learn how to argue in a more constructive and less hurtful way. If you’re holding onto anger or resentment from issues that first arose years ago, you’ll have the opportunity to air your old grievances so that you can release them and move on.
From a very young age, most of us figure we’ll grow up and find that special someone, but we’re not always taught how to maintain a healthy relationship. If your parents didn’t have a happy and healthy marriage, or if you’ve been in a toxic relationship in the past, you may have trouble trusting your other half. You might experience impostor syndrome in your relationships, feeling like you’re never worthy of your partner’s love. That’s not true—and you don’t have to go through life feeling that way.
It can be difficult to admit when you need help, but it doesn’t make you weak or a bad partner. In fact, asking for expert help to improve your relationship makes you a loving, caring, and committed partner. You should feel good about wanting to do something so positive for your relationship or marriage.
How Do I Talk About Couples Counseling With My Partner?
Raising the subject of couples counseling with your other half can be uncomfortable and intimidating. You don’t want your partner to feel like you’re criticizing or attacking them by suggesting that you need outside help. That’s why it’s best not to bring up the idea when you’re in the middle of an argument. Save it for a moment when you feel close, connected, and peaceful. These smart tips from the Gottman Institute will help you choose the opportune time to have the “therapy talk.” You may want to take the time to write down some of your thoughts before you begin the conversation, in case you find your emotions getting in the way of what you want to say.
It’s my hope for you that your partner will agree to go to couples therapy as soon as you propose it. Of course, that’s not always the case, and it’s not easy to hear “no.” If your partner is resistant to the idea of counseling, try not to express anger or disappointment. Ask if there’s a reason they’re unwilling to give it a try, and if there’s a legitimate concern, see if you can resolve it together. I know it’s not easy, but do your best to be patient and gentle. Your partner may feel judged, anxious, and defensive, and they’re more likely to take a deep breath and reconsider the idea if they see you’re coming from a calm, thoughtful, and loving place.
Relationships and marriages really ought to come with instruction manuals. For many couples, attending counseling sessions together is the key to working through past and current issues and preventing future conflicts. You and your partner or spouse deserve to be secure, fulfilled, and happy. An expert therapist can help you to achieve all of that and more.