I am going to tackle an important question regarding couples counseling that many of you may be wondering: Is couples counseling worth it? I can often see the concern, doubt, and worry on many client’s faces.
These are valid questions and feelings to have. Is it worth putting in the work for something that feels so broken? Is it worth it to keep trying when in the end, you don’t know the outcome? Is this relationship even worth saving?
There are several ways to explore the answer to those questions. One of which is asking clients to consider whether they want the relationship to work. In order for a relationship to make progress, it is important for the couple to have the desire to make the relationship work. Simply wanting the relationship to work, is the first step.
The second aspect will test your commitment. Couples therapy is not necessarily an easy process, it will challenge you in many ways. Are you committed to the process and in it for the long haul? Couples therapy is work. However, if you and your significant other are willing to put in the work and commit to the process, your relationship will come out better than you expected. Relationship counseling is simply a way for couples to relearn how to effectively communicate their needs and feelings to one another.
At some point in the relationship, communication became a challenge and it continued to decline until at least one person does not feel like they can openly communicate or feel as if they have to walk on eggshells. Communication is key to having a successful relationship.
The following are 3 common myths that client’s say as to why they are unable to openly communicate with their partner:
1. “Why bother? I already know what they are going to say.”
It may be true that you already know what your partner may say. You know your partner better than most people. You know their little quirks and their communication style.
However, if you automatically assume or you are predicting how things will turn out, you are not providing a fair chance for your partner to alter those beliefs. But now, you will have the opportunity and a safe space to effectively address those issues as well as express the type of response you desire so there is no ambiguity.
2. “Any time I try to say something, it turns into an argument.”
More often than not, if a conflict is approached in a respectful way, the possibility of the conversation turning into an argument goes down drastically. However, try a different method. Approach the conversation by laying out the expectations first; therefore, your partner understands that you are not attempting to start another argument.
On the other hand, if this approach is still leading to an argument, it may be necessary to reach out to a counselor so the counselor can provide a safe space to begin a healthy dialogue.
3. “Why does it matter, they do not care anyway.”
Let’s analyze the accuracy and truth of this statement. If your partner or significant other did not care, would the both of you still be in a relationship? Would you be reading this, looking for a solution, or contemplating couples counseling?
On the other hand, if you try to communicate and your partner states and/or demonstrates that they do not care, then assess whether or not the relationship is working. Inquire about seeing a counselor to work toward resolving conflicts. If they refuse, maybe it is time to move on or reconsider the direction of the relationship but take time to consider the next steps.
Another common occurrence is that couples may not have as big of an issue communicating as much as they just lack communication skills. Maybe you are together but are not having in-depth or stimulating conversations that help the relationship feel intimate. So, you are experiencing more quantity time but not quality time; quantity meaning the actual amount of time spent together and quality meaning the connection you truly seek.
What is considered quality time? Quality time is going out on a date and reframing from looking at your cell phones. It is winding down and getting in bed a little earlier so you can talk about your days. It is planning activities for your next date night rather than binging a television show with minimum interaction.
Overall, quality time is intentional time that allows for open communication and enjoyment. It is about showing interest in your partner. When the quality of time increases, the value of the relationship increases as well. Maybe there is more to your relationship concerns than just communication. Maybe in the past, your significant other has broken your trust. Or maybe you broke your significant other’s trust. Either way, it has created a deeper, underlying issue. What now?
Sadly enough, people often come to couples therapy or marriage counseling when their relationship is at the lowest point. Rather than seeking couples counseling when your relationship is at the lowest point, reach out as a preventative measure. When you realize that the intimacy is diminishing, conversation is not quite the same as it used to be, or you and your partner are not seeing eye-to-eye on important issues, seek counseling services rather than waiting until your relationship has been struggling for a long period of time.
Counselors are a great resource and there are many benefits to working with one. A counselor can navigate you through the maze of hurt and help you see the possibility of healing and resolving conflicts.
We have tackled the 3 common myths when an individual is unable to openly communicate with his or her partner. Now, I want to acknowledge 3 ways to improve your experience and likelihood of having a positive outcome with couples counseling:
1. Be open and willing to change.
Counseling is about doing something different because something is not working as it is. Be open and willing to learn new skills and apply them outside of counseling.
2. Be prepared to be emotionally vulnerable with your partner.
Counseling is more likely to be effective if you can be honest and vulnerable with your partner. Now that you are in a safe space, tell your partner how you are truly feeling and share your fears and worries. You may feel uncomfortable initially but being vulnerable can lead to a more intimate connection. Remember, feeling uncomfortable is just another opportunity to grow.
3. Remember that you are a team.
Some couples approach counseling with the expectation that they can unload a list of complaints about their partner, want the counselor to agree or side with them, and then want those things changed. However, that is not quite the process of counseling.
Do not go into the session seeing your partner as an opponent. See yourselves as a team, working together to resolveconflicts or underlying issues. You walked into the room together, so work together. Changing your mindset to this positive perspective can lead to a more successful outcome in couples counseling.
So back to the first question: is it worth it? If you value your relationship, then it is absolutely worth it. It is possible for you to once again have a healthy and successful relationship.
Couples Counseling could end up being the best thing that could have happened. Just remember that it takes work, but in the end, it’s always worth it.
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Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com