There are many reasons why people choose to pursue therapy; they may want to resolve past trauma, work through an issue like addiction, or improve their self-confidence among many other things. While individual therapy work is very important, individual issues can often be affected by a person’s relationship with others — particularly a romantic partner. And of course, romantic relationships bring a whole series of other situations that could be supported with proper counseling, including communication issues, sexual difficulties, and raising children. Often referred to as “marriage counseling”, couples counseling can actually benefit anyone in a romantic relationship, whether married or not. But what can couples counseling actually solve?
To answer this question, you must start by identifying what is causing stress in a relationship. After all, you can’t exactly find solutions without first identifying problems. Every relationship is different, with different needs and different requirements for assistance. Below are some of the various reasons why couples enter into counseling, and what counseling can offer.
Long-term relationships come with a host of potential pitfalls that can stand in the way of enjoying a satisfying partnership. Maybe you and your partner are struggling financially and are struggling to carry that weight. Perhaps you have differing parenting styles that seem to clash with each other. Or maybe you or your partner have created hurtful situations that have not yet been resolved. The presence of a caring counselor as a third party can be a wonderful sounding board to air grievances in a less hurtful and more productive way.
Life has a way of placing many challenges on even the closest relationships, and those challenges sometimes affect physical intimacy. Just as intellectual and emotional closeness are important, physical intimacy plays a large role in a successful relationship. But when two people are drifting apart, it’s hard to know how to bridge that gap and get reconnected. A good couples therapist can help resolve underlying issues and get your connection restored to its former closeness — or even closer!
It is worth mentioning here that in the case of domestic abuse, counseling alone may not be enough. If you are in a situation where you feel unsafe, you should contact a local shelter or crisis center for appropriate support.
Strengthening a Relationship
You don’t have to be on the verge of a breakup to consider couples counseling! Often couples enter into counseling simply to help them get to know and understand each other better. Various religious denominations suggest this of engaged couples prior to entering into marriage, as a way of identifying differences early on that could otherwise lead to problems down the road. Couples who have been together for a while can benefit from couples counseling as preventive maintenance, much in the same way individuals can benefit from individual counseling for more than just addressing a particular struggle. Taking an active role in couples therapy can help each partner really understand one another better, leading to a deeper and more satisfying relationship at any stage.
What to Expect from Couples Counseling
You and your partner’s experiences will be different from other couples, depending on what brought you to counseling. But a few things will be the same for pretty much everybody. For example, your counselor is not your boss; they won’t tell you or your partner what to do. What they will do is listen and help you reach the right decisions for you on your own.
You might also learn things that are difficult to hear, particularly if you are experiencing struggles in your relationship. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with entering couples counseling, but a good counselor understands this and is ready to provide you with the support you need.
It’s important to remember going in that simply “going to counseling” won’t magically fix problems in your relationship. Improving a relationship takes effort, as well as openness and trust with both your partner and your counselor. And it takes time, although unlike individual counseling, many couples enter into couples counseling for a relatively short period of time. But like most things that require time and effort, the results will be worth it.