By Janet Lee, MFTI – Do you feel nervous about seeing a couples counselor? It’s natural.
The prospect of talking to a complete stranger about your relationship may seem daunting. Although it may be scary to think about revealing the details of your relationship or marriage to a therapist, one of the benefits is having access to someone with whom you can talk openly about your relationship. Clients often find they lack outlets where they can talk about these details and the challenges they face.
Discussing topics like sex and money is difficult enough with your partner, let alone with friends and family. You can make this easier by speaking with a professional who is accustomed to talking about these topics without judging you. So if you’re thinking about investing in yourself and your relationship, here are four benefits of couples counseling:
1. It can help you clarify your feelings about your relationship
Relationships are challenging for everyone. One of the aspects that makes them confusing is sorting out how we feel about our partner. Some couples come in knowing that they want to stay together and work on issues, but others come in confused about whether they want to stay in the relationship. Having a set time and space each week for you and your partner to express your thoughts and feelings can help paint the path towards the direction you want to take. In couples counseling, your therapist can act as a guide through this process by shining a light on aspects of your relationship that you may not be seeing and providing an objective outside perspective.
2. It can help resolve relationship roadblocks before they become impasses
Arguing can be an experience that either strengthens or weakens your relationship with your partner. Often people come for couples counseling because they’re struggling to address topics that have come up as their relationship has matured. For some, this might pertain to family planning, while for others it may be around communication style. Having a forum to tackle these topics in a confidential setting can help to accelerate the growth of your relationship by highlighting and understanding both points of view and discovering if your values are aligned.
Maybe you’re not disagreeing about major decisions such as where to buy a house, but it’s about little things like whose turn it is to wash the dishes or walk the dog. If you’re constantly squabbling over minor concerns, it could be that the spats are actually about deeper issues that aren’t being addressed. By continued participation in couples counseling, you can work through these potential roadblocks before they spiral into a relationship stalemate.
3. It can deepen intimacy and connection
Perhaps you’re coming to therapy not because you argue too much but because you don’t argue at all. Perhaps you hardly talk about anything other than what you’re having for dinner or who’s picking up the kids. You haven’t had sex in months, and staying late at the office seems more appealing than going home to spend time with your partner. The spark has fizzled out and you’re not sure if you can get it back. Maybe you believe that this is just how long-term relationships are supposed to be, so you resign yourself to a relationship with someone whom you admire, and reminisce about the passion the two of you once had.
Part of the reason relationships feel so exciting in the beginning is because both parties are making an effort. Dates happen frequently and they’re planned ahead of time. Over time, comfort and routine sets in and date nights turn into ordering takeout and watching Netflix. The very act of coming to couples therapy can reinvigorate passion, if only because the relationship is finally getting some attention. This is why date nights have become so popular, because it mimics what the relationship felt like in its early stages.
4. It can help promote self-awareness and personal growth
You might be a longtime veteran of therapy. Or maybe your only experience of it is from watching “Good Will Hunting.” Whatever the case, meeting with a therapist each week can help you learn about your unique personality and what motivates you in life. Although the focus of the therapy will be on your relationship, how you relate to your partner might correlate with how you relate to other people, such as friends and coworkers. It’s not only your primary relationship that can reap the benefits of couples counseling; the other areas of your life can be transformed as well. If you are curious about learning more about your relationship and want to gain insight into the deeper reason why you’re with the person that you’re with, I recommend reading “Getting the Love that you Want” by Harville Hendrix.
Whether you’re trying to make a major decision such as whether to get married or have children, or if there’s been an affair and you want to rebuild trust, or if things are going relatively smoothly but you hope to deepen intimacy and improve communication, couples counseling can be the avenue to help you achieve those goals.