Is Couples/Relationship Therapy right for you and your partner?
Let me address 5 common fears you may have.
I’m afraid you will suggest we break up or get a divorce.
You are the experts in your relationship, not me. Your relationship is my client. I am invested in your goals as a couple and helping you reach them. It’s not my place to tell you whether you should or should not be together. My job and purpose is to walk beside you, supporting you both, and giving a different perspective on your relationship (as an interested bystander).
I want to teach you skills and tools that can help you communicate better and more fully understand where your partner is coming from. Then you will deepen your understanding of one another. At that point, we move to heal the parts that are either wounded or keeping you stuck. I am an optimist and want to help you both see the potential.
“I’m afraid you’ll take my partner’s side. I don’t want to get ganged up on in therapy.”
In marriage counseling, the focus is on improving your relationship. I don’t take sides. I may take turns helping each partner to better articulate their needs. Sometimes it may feel like I’m on your side and sometimes it may feel like I am on your partner’s side because I will be honest with you both when highlighting everyone’s contributions to the current state of the relationship.
While I may challenge you to dig a little deeper into how you are showing up, the goal is improve your relationship as a whole, not choose sides.
I’ll help you BOTH learn to take a step back and look at your strengths and weaknesses, both as a couple and as individuals. You can begin to see things when you do master couples do, answering “bids for connection” and repair attempts. We can build on the strengths and improve the weak links in your relationship.
“I’m afraid you’ll make me talk all about my childhood and past relationships.”
No, I approach couples work in a solution “now” focus. Our sessions together are not for you to live or stay in the past but to understand its impact. Your past and your story are relevant and could provide clues to your current situation. With this solution-focused approach, you will explore and learn about how your past relationships are impacting your relationship now.
As adults, Terry Real suggests that you do what you do and say what you say for a few reasons: as a child you learned by watching others, you had it done/said to you, or you behaved this way and no one stopped you. As relationship expert Robyn D’Angelo quotes, “It’s important to understand your past so you can love your today!”
“I’m afraid you are going to be sitting there judging us”
While I do take notes, as we sit together, I sit in a chair of extreme non-judgment. I want to try and understand the current state of your relationship. My wife and I also behave poorly when we forget to use our skills and tools. I would never want to feel judged when we sit with our own therapist when our own relationship needs maintenance.
As we sit together in our initial sessions, I do want to examine two things to get a sense of your relationship status: today and tomorrow. I want to get a snapshot of TODAY. I want to look at how you and your partner talk to one another, show up for one another, and treat one another. I need to better understand what is working well and what is not working at all.
I also want to get a sense of what you hope the outcome is of our time together: what do you want from therapy? What are your therapy or treatment goals (although I don’t love calling them ‘treatment goals’ as that sounds very clinical), but I need to know your session expectations. Let’s talk today about what a better tomorrow looks like!
“I am afraid it will be too much work to salvage this relationship. I don’t even know what we like about each other. ”
Marriage counseling helps you learn how to break the destructive, argumentative cycles that you and your partner may be stuck in.
Gottman makes the distinction between “master” couples and “disaster” couples. Master couples still have conflict and issues, but do 3 things differently than disaster couples:
- Treating their partner like a good friend,
- Handling conflicts in gentle and positive ways,
- Being able to repair after conflicts and negative interactions.
Together, you learn about yourselves and your partner so deeply that the relationship can’t help but improve and evolve!!
Lastly, you’re given the tools to change how the two of you connect, navigate life together (or separately). You will create new, healthy relational habits.