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Are you feeling dissatisfied in your relationship?
If you are reading this, chances are you answered yes. Regardless if you call it marriage counseling, couples therapy or relationship counseling, what you are signing up for is inviting a collaborator, a couples counselor, into the life of your relationship in order to help you and your partner grow.
Just like every person who comes to therapy requires something different, so do the needs of every couple. At Makin Wellness, we view the premise of couples therapy as three people (the couple and therapist) all coming together in order to help.
Do you need or want a mediator? Or perhaps someone to be tough with you both? Are you both struggling to communicate effectively? You might have some ideas about what type of help you both need, but first let’s learn more about what exactly is going on with you both and create a plan together.
There is more than likely a good reason as to why you or your partner is seeking out couples counseling. You probably also do not have the time or desire to work back through the history of your relationship to analyze details of your personality. Some of that could be helpful, but you would be in therapy for weeks or even months before you got to the current state of your relationship.
Drugs, anger, violence and infidelity all can challenge and change a relationship. If those factors are part of the picture, we should get honest about that. Those are all situations that can be confronted in session with a skilled therapist. When you and your partner are serious about doing the work, being open and honest about the ways the relationships has been hurtful , there’s so much room for growth. While in session, you are guaranteed a safe, judgement free environment. There is no situation or dynamic we won’t deal with.
Common relationship dynamics:
- Same sex relationships
- Long-term relationships not defined by marriage
- Blended families
- Mixed-race marriages and relationships
- Open relationships
- Relationships with a large disparity in age
- Transgender or gender non-conforming relationships
Let's get started...
Although many couples show up ready to work, there is understandable a good deal of hesitation around getting started with couples counseling. Many times, one partner is much more comfortable with the idea of counseling than the other. The biggest challenge comes down to making and attending the first appointment . When you call to schedule, be prepared to give a short description with what’s going on in your relationship. You also have the option of choosing how long of a session you’d like with the shortest session being 100 minutes.
We don’t know if we want to stay together… should we attend couples counseling?
In good couples counseling, the honest question of whether or not both people in the relationship are committed to continue has to be brought up, however uncomfortable that may be. While a couples counselor won’t tell you what to do, if you have uncertainty we can help explore the viability of the relationship as one that can meet everyone’s needs in the present and down the line as a growthful, sustaining relationship.
We don’t really have issues , but we feel like we need some therapy
Problems can be a slippery slope in therapy: We tend to understand a pre-condition of therapy as “having problems or issues.” Sometimes that’s evident(we fight a lot, we deeply disagree about fundamental matters) and sometimes there’s not much “wrong”–no problems, per se–however ,one or both people in the relationship want more. More intimacy. More fun. More variety. Better sex. More freedom. A better partnership as parents. What’s great in these cases is that the work can be driven not by problems but by wanting–a powerful force for growth if we let it.
I’m worried we’re just going to fight the whole time… isn’t that just a waste of time?
You won’t fight the whole time. As part of the healing process of sorting through the challenging things of the relationship sometimes intense emotions will come out–they need to and this is actually great progress. The role of a great couples therapist is to provide a safe and inviting environment where that can happen and not get out of control.
Looking past idealism and unrealistic expectations
Your relationship is not perfect, and you are probably smart enough to know perfection isn’t what couples therapy is all about. Regardless, the ideal and the pressure of trying to match that ideal of a relationship that seems perfect can get intense. This is a big reason why couples therapy is so hard: It appears like relationships shouldn’t be such a struggle, and that they aren’t this hard for other couples… this simply is not the case.
Admitting you need help for your relationship can eventually lead to giving up the struggle of idealism and moving towards a better relationship. Giving up on idealism is so important because that concept is about what things should be … we can thank rom coms, books and movies for these unrealistic expectations.
Some common unrealistic expectations
- My partner and I should NEVER fight
- I should never think about leaving
- We shouldn’t have to work this hard.
- I should always trust my partner no matter what (what’s wrong with me if I have doubts?)
- Intimacy should be easy and meaningful every time
None of these statements are grounded in the tough, day-to-day reality of making relationships work. In great couples counseling we root out these ideals and the ways they can interfere with creating an actual, messy, imperfect but wonderful, loving relationship. When we move the shoulds out of the way, we can get real and get to work.
Couples therapy requires effort from both people
Most therapists, if they’re honest, will tell you that couples therapy is among the most challenging work they do. At Makin Wellness, your couples therapist will help put out the fires, establish conditions for productively sorting through the fog, creating a relationship where everyone can grow and find a way to connect with both you and your partner and navigate the landmines you’ve laid for each other. That’s not easy: Everyone needs and desires to be heard, to not feel “ganged up on” but it’s equally important that everyone be honest about what isn’t working and what potential solutions there could be instead.
Couples therapy is hard work for those of you in the relationship, too. Signing up for couples therapy probably means having your partner expose some of your messier stuff, while having to take a look at it not just on your own terms but on the terms the relationship needs.