The Gist of Couples Counseling?
I typically see 2 types of couples in my practice. Couples who are just starting their journey together and feeling like they can use some foundation work in their relationship such as communication skills, conflict management skills, love language skills, and all that good stuff. And the other couples I typically see are in crisis. The couples who feel completely hopeless about their situation, have fallen out of love, filled with resentment, and quite frankly struggle to even be in the same room. As much as I love working with new couples learning to build a healthy foundation, I would be lying if I did not admit that I find the most satisfaction in working with the couples in crisis. Because, I can offer hope where it feels like hope is dead.
My heart breaks every time I have new clients who come to see me for couples counseling that are in crisis. Often times they are both highly stressed, deeply hurt, overwhelmed with confusion, and angry. Although I would never say I know exactly what my client is feeling, through my own (at one time) crumbling marriage, I can truly empathize and have felt the range of emotions from complete despair to complete anger. Working with couples is an experience like no other. There are several different dynamics that are happening all at once. You have each individuals feelings and reactions, the dyad (just a fancy term for interactions/energy between the couple), and you have the dynamics brought into the room by the therapist. This is why finding a skilled couples therapist is important. It’s quite fascinating really. As the years pass, and my knowledge and experience with couples counseling grows, I love it more and more.
How can you improve your chances of success when deciding to try couples counseling? Unfortunately not all couples I see stay together. The reason usually being that at least one partner decided not to do the hard work involved in saving their relationship. If you want to improve your odds of couples counseling, first and foremost find a therapist who is experienced in working with couples and believes that when you’re in the therapy room you are fighting for your relationship. Sadly, many therapists do not practice with the philosophy that “we are here to save your relationship.” My thoughts are; “that is exactly why you are here, to save your marriage.” It may not always feel like that while in the process, but a good couples therapist will always be fighting for your relationship, even during the times you are not. They will continue to instill hope while you work on the big changes that need to happen in order for the relationship to survive and thrive.
After finding a qualified couples therapist, the real work begins. It is not enough to just show up once a week for your sessions, talk about your feelings, and then expect things to get better. You have to commit to the process. Commit to the hard work that always comes with self-reflection and change. This means taking on the monumental task of looking inward and taking responsibility for the contributions you’ve made to the decline of your relationship. I really believe that there is always hope that a relationship can be restored and built to be even better than before; only if both partners are willing to step out of their comfort zones and make big changes. Just remember, you are worth it, your relationship is worth it, and your family is worth it. Ending a relationship/marriage is also ending a family.