How does Couple Therapy Help
Sex and Relationships / By The Emotional Wellness Initiatives

Feeling stuck in a marriage or a relationship is the worst feeling ever! You love the person, but also feel like you can’t live with them! Sometimes this can manifest as ugly fights, sometimes as silent treatment, and sometimes just as heart wrenching emotional pain. Also, when it comes to relationships, it seems that everyone is an expert. The moment you open up about relationship problems to your friends and family, you face an onslaught of confusing advice, most of it biased and emotionally charged. But resolving relationship issues requires maturity, a neutral viewpoint, and a rational thought process. This is where couple therapy or marriage counselling (if you’re married) comes in!

When it comes to couple therapy, usually people express resistance through the following thoughts:

  • This is my relationship and I should be able to fix it myself
  • How will an outsider understand our relationship in just a few hours?
  • This is a relationship problem, not a mental illness that requires a therapist
  • What if the therapist/counsellor ends up telling me that I’m the problem?
  • We don’t need couples therapy, if only my partner would change their ways!

Do any of these sound familiar? If yes, then you’re probably carrying a very skewed understanding of what couples therapy can do for you. Read on for five very important ways in which couples therapy can make your relationship your happy place.

Couples therapy is for everyone

People usually think couples therapy is only for married couples. Therefore, if they are in a committed, engaged, or live-in relationship, they don’t think couples therapy is for them and find it difficult to approach friends, family or therapists openly. But couples therapy works with couple relationships - no matter what form they are in. Whether you are married, engaged, committed, living in, friends with benefits, dating, in an open relationship or polyamorous - couples therapy is for you! Just make sure you do your research well and find a therapist who has experience with all forms of relationships and is open minded and non-judgemental.

Changing unhelpful behaviour

When couples are unhappy, it usually leads to unhelpful behaviour, for example trying to persuade your partner to change the way they behave or think. Unfortunately, the more you try to get your partner to change, the more they are likely to resist and push back at you. The result is often frustration, anger and hopelessness. Couples therapy can help both partners see that they can only take charge of their own actions and can guide this change in a way that it goes from attack and defence to collaboration and alignment.

Opening up

A relationship’s biggest reward is it being a safe place for us to be truly who we are. When relationships go wrong couples often shut down to each other. When people don’t feel safe to share their more vulnerable feelings, it prevents intimacy from developing. That can make a relationship feel empty, lonely, and loveless. You might find you are more focused on just getting through each day rather than cherishing the qualities that brought you together in the first place. If you can share your thoughts and feelings in a caring way you’ll feel closer to each other. Couples therapy facilitates communication in a way that makes it easier for you to be honest with each other while managing the fear of abandonment or retaliation. Your therapist acts as a moderator and creates a safe environment for you to open up so that you can learn to recreate it for yourself!

Changing the way we communicate

We often use blame language while communicating with our partners. It is often “You make me…” rather than “I think/I feel…” When we use this language, our partners immediately get defensive and it becomes impossible to get our point across. The more we can learn how to communicate assertively by taking responsibility for our own emotions, the more likely we are to arrive at an agreement. In couples therapy, coaching for healthy, assertive communication is provided where both partners can systematically learn how to respond to each other rather than reacting.

Identifying strengths

After spending some time with our partners, our vision becomes micro. We zoom in on nitty gritties and overlook the larger picture and larger relationship goals. Couples therapy can take you from individual weakness to collective empowerment. It can help to see what is keeping you together more than what is breaking you apart. Sometimes, going back to the original reasons why you got together as a couple can reinforce the relationship and can also help to examine what has changed over time to lead to conflict. Your therapist can bring out your strengths as individuals and as a couple, and can use that to empower you!

So it's not difficult to see that couples therapy can be the vehicle of change you need to take your relationship from cumbersome to awesome!