Relationships are complex despite being an important component of our lives. The core values of trust, intimacy, romance, passion tend to drive most relationships – making them very personal to us. These values tend to trigger different emotions in us and with our partners. For example, our childhood experiences can paint certain projections towards our partners. This makes romantic relationships the most nuanced of all, and can hold the significant power that can impact our well-being, either positively or negatively.
An interesting analogy about marriage is that partners are like two astronauts in space. While they’re individuals moving by themselves, they are also on some level tethered together. There are times when both people get preoccupied with their own lives, it’s easy to drift apart without noticing. Identifying the root cause for the distance helps centre the relationship. But how do you achieve this? This is where couples therapy helps because it helps you work out the issues and frustrations in your relationship while creating a safe space to discuss these.
What is Couples Therapy?
In simple words, couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can help you and your partner improve your relationship. Relationships require regular maintenance and at times, despite our best effort, some external help to ease out the frustration makes the process smoother and helps to instate healthy communication in the face of conflict.
Typically short term, couples therapy can help at any stage of your relationship, regardless of marital status, age, race, faith, or sexual orientation. It can be accessed in the form of marriage counselling, premarital counselling, and family therapy.
When to Seek Therapy
According to many therapists, it is preferable if people wouldn’t wait to hit a crisis situation before seeking help. Ideally, just like it takes time to familiarise with a general physician, the same amount needs to be given to identify a therapist who is the right fit. Similar to how you would establish a relationship with your doctor prior to a dire situation. Couples therapy can also be extremely helpful while going through a major life event, but in the face of a catastrophic problem, the process of finding a therapist, scheduling sessions and establishing a rapport becomes monumental and makes it challenging for the healing to start in time.
Realistically, it is highly unlikely that one would seek couples therapy in a non-crisis situation and your therapist will be trained to help you through those situations. But, to have a secure and healthy relationship, it’s good practice to consider therapy. Rather than wait till you’re in crisis and take out your phone to search "best couples counselling near me”.
Couples therapy can be preventative and help inculcate healthy behaviours so that larger issues can be dealt with smoothly, as and when they come so you’re not at each other’s throats. This also helps avoid the added pressure of finding a therapist at the eleventh hour.
Another benefit is that it also reverses the stigma around therapy and mental support as a whole, that hinders people from seeking help. The societal concern of “private problems” being revealed to someone outside the relationship or family also makes people hesitant.
Remember that your therapist will keep everything confidential and there is nothing wrong with seeking external support, just like you would for a physical ailment. If you find yourselves arguing over the same things without resolution, you might want to seek couples counselling.
Another important thing to note is that if your partner is abusive or you want to leave the relationship, there are resources available and you can report them. Couples therapy is a way to heal and start fresh, but not an excuse for you to tolerate abuse.
How does couples therapy help?
Couples therapy can help with a variety of issues ranging from intimacy issues, stress, sexual problems, affairs, external stressors and other difficulties.
Better understanding of yourself and your partner
Therapy is an opportunity to explore your mind and do a lot of inner work, which by extension benefits your relationship. Many developments such as knowing your attachment style helps you and your partner understand how to make each other feel loved.
Better communication and conflict resolution
Through the presence of a moderator, communication will be more effective and less likely to turn into arguments. A couples therapist will help establish healthy communication styles that will help you overcome your conflict.
Identify causes of issues
Many times we are reactive in relationships because of our own past experiences, which, at the moment, may not be visible. Therapy will help you identify dysfunctional patterns of behaviour and why they are happening, so you can figure out how to reverse them and not project them on your partner.
Resolve individual differences
Each person is different with a unique set of characteristics. At times, these characteristics are in conflict between two people. Couples counselling would help you reach common ground with some effort on both sides, facilitated by a professional.
Improve relationship satisfaction
By taking these steps, the overall quality of your relationship is improved, allowing for a healthier and happier relationship where you both get the security you look for.
A few tips to start with
Your therapist would guide you step-by-step through the process, but here are a few things to keep in mind to make the best out of your sessions in couples therapy and prepare for it.
- Find a good therapist: A lot of difference is made by how well your therapist is trained in couples therapy and how well they fit with you as a couple. You could ask for their qualifications. Look for a therapist online here.
- Be honest with yourself: Shifting blame is not the purpose of couples therapy. Accepting that you might be at fault goes a long way. The goal is not to win an argument but to resolve the issue at hand.
- Prepare to have uncomfortable conversations: Couples therapy requires a lot of work on both ends. This is not always easy and will require you to face a lot of difficult emotions.
- Be willing to make changes: Do your homework. Active effort is required to make healthy changes and it will be gradual but pay off.
Convinced to take couples therapy? Rocket Health can help you get started – find a therapist online here.