Everything You Need To Know About Couples Therapy Before Going In
The mere suggestion of couples therapy is enough to send any guy into a tailspin, whether he’s happy with his relationship or not. The idea of airing dirty laundry and seeking advice for problems you and your girlfriend are having isn’t exactly your idea of a great way to spend the day.
That being said, couples therapy isn’t the best option for every couple, and shouldn’t be entered into lightly; running for help with rudimentary relationship troubles won’t do much to solidify your relationship. If you are headed toward therapy before the six-month mark, it might be time to really assess your compatibility with your partner and the likelihood of a long-term relationship before you seek out couples therapy. However, if your long-term relationship is suffering, and you want to fix it, couples therapy can offer guidance toward workable solutions.
Knowing when couples therapy is a valid option is important; it can’t save a relationship that isn’t working, but it can help couples that are facing issues that aren’t easily solvable.
Specific Problem Resolution
Therapy isn’t the avenue to sort out common relationship problems like laundry duty and dishes, unless there is a true inability to communicate with each other, and is most effective when dealing with large-scale issues that the two of you aren’t capable of sorting out on your own. Issues like infidelity, the loss of a child, serious health problems and such are the types of situations from which a mediator can remove the emotional intensity and focus on resolution rather than name-calling and finger-pointing.
Ongoing Relationship Issues
Every relationship has sticking points — those big-ticket relationship arguments that carry over for months on end with no clear resolution in sight. Battles stemming from differing views on family finances or drastically incompatible sex drives can break up a lot of couples, but they can also be negotiated to an equitable resolution if both parties are committed to understanding the other’s point of view and are willing to find common ground. Even if there aren’t that many issues to deal with, if conversation on those issues between you and your partner is explosive or nonexistent, a counselor can help negotiate and mediate positive resolutions.
Recurring Relationship Hiccups
No one knows why some couples endure arguments about laundry on the floor or bad table manners while others let those seemingly mundane problems divide and conquer their relationships. Every individual has trigger behaviors — specific things that drive them crazy that wouldn’t bother the majority of other people. Issues like these that are couple-specific often leave the other partner at a loss for what the issue is and why it’s a problem at all. A therapist can help a couple discuss these issues and understand the basis for reactions that seem out of place.
The Role Of The Therapist
The number one role of a couple’s therapist is to play mediator: You might feel certain that any counselor will immediately side with your girlfriend on every issue of contention, but remember that they are professionals who are highly trained and regulated to ensure they are up to standard. When you’re headed to couples therapy, remember that your therapist has no invested interest in your relationship. A therapist won’t endorse a relationship if he thinks you’re best off apart, and won’t sabotage a relationship that is worth working on. Whether you stay together or not is a decision that only you and your partner are qualified to make.
The Role Of Therapy
Your therapist will likely ask questions about your relationship as a whole, not just the areas that you feel need to be worked on, as well as your respective relationship histories. Your answers establish a basis for your collective communication styles and your previous relationship experiences that will help as you work on your current situation. When your specific problems are being discussed, be prepared to stay silent while your partner is giving her point of view, and be ready to talk openly about your own side of the story. Full disclosure is an essential part of couples therapy and your therapist won’t be able to help without it.
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If you find yourself in a waiting room preparing for a session of couples therapy, you must be fully prepared to participate in the process, or neither you nor your girlfriend will reap any benefit. Counseling isn’t a one-sided pursuit; it takes acknowledgment from both partners that changes need to be made — in both your behavior and hers. Keep an open mind and be prepared to hear the good and bad about yourself, not just your partner. Whether your relationship works out or not, at the very least you can learn a bit about yourself and your interactions with the people in your life, which can only be a good thing.