Five Reasons to Pursue Couple’s Therapy
As a therapist, I tend to recommend couple’s therapy to many of my individual clients in relationships. I make these recommendations for a variety of reasons, but the thing that always strikes me is the response I get from clients. “We aren’t there yet,” or “I feel like couple’s therapy is for people who are on the verge of divorce” are some of the replies I hear the most.
I’m here to tell you, and hopefully reassure you, that couple’s therapy isn’t just for relationships that are on the brink of collapse but, most times are preventative in nature. Here are five reasons why couples benefit from therapy (that do not include trying to save a divorce or break up):
1. Communication Skills 101
Have you ever been driving and seen someone make a turn without turning the signal “on”? Of course you have, because people do it all the time. Now imagine how many people you run into day-to-day, who do the same type of thing, and now imagine them in a relationship. Sometimes couples have a way of communicating like someone not turning on a blinker but intending to make a turn. Couples for many reasons, struggle with verbal and, consequently, non-verbal communication.
“He should just know” is also one of my other favorite phrases I hear. Nobody in the world can know what your expectations, boundaries, desires or goals are unless you share them verbally. Much of my work in individual therapy is empowering clients to verbalize their needs, so it stands to reason that many couples assume that sharing those needs or expectations would rock the boat or potentially cause conflict. Therapists help couples learn to listen to each other effectively, how to communicate needs in a non-threatening manner, and help debunk misconceptions each person has based on communication patterns already in place.
2. “Pre-Marital” Work
Couples who are not married, or sometimes not even engaged yet, that choose to work with each other in couples therapy have the right idea. Pre-Marital work has more structure so the couple can talk through main topics that will arise in a long-term partnership. These topics are finances, communication and conflict resolution skills, values, individual and mutual long-term goals, whether or not to have children, what having children would look like, managing in-laws and, last but certainly not least, sex and intimacy. Working with a therapist to navigate some of these tricky topics is a huge help for couples and helps to build a stable foundation of the relationship long-term.
We have to give it up to the couples who are also parenting. It’s hard enough to navigate a relationship without children, and adding kids to the mix, poses its own unique issues, that it necessitates its own category for why couples would benefit from therapy. I often tell couples with and without kids that when you commit to the relationship you are taking two different sub-cultures and trying to mesh them to create one unified culture of your new unit. This only becomes more complex with children. Parents often find themselves unaligned with things like discipline, values, where to raise them and around who to raise them, and/or taking care of each other during this life phase. Parents are forming new identities together. Many couples have their relationship “down” and when they have children, the identity shift completely rocks them. This alone is a reason to seek support through couples therapy.
4. Recurring Issues or an Inability to Move Past Old Issues:
Due to some reasons above, many couples struggle to move past old or recurring issues. It’s helpful to seek couples therapy to help work through these, but it’s also important to remember that a therapist is not a referee and is not there to help point fingers. A couples therapist can help to bridge communication gaps, encourage routes to acceptance, and create a safe space to process these issues in case one person is not feeling heard.
Additionally, trauma or incidents that haven’t healed from previous relationships plays a large role in how couples communicate, behave and interpret behaviors in their current partnerships. A therapist can help bridge a path to forgiveness and healing in couples therapy.
5. Sex & Intimacy
This probably goes without saying but sex is a huge part of relationships so it also can be a cause of friction, inconsistencies and dissatisfaction in relationships. Sex and intimacy can be impacted by trauma, differing libidos, time, life changes, mental health, interests and more. Couples therapy can work to get both partners to a place of understanding and rhythm that works for where they are in life and their own personal healing.
Truthfully, the list goes on. Our therapists can provide the safe space each couple needs to continue the work and growth they committed to at the beginning of their relationship and create a foundation that sets them up for the future. My hope is that after reading this list you understand that a crisis isn’t needed for a couple to seek help, but rather couples therapy being a preventative measure or used as maintenance to keep the bond of a couple strong and united.
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