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People often ask what I learned in couples counseling. These are some of my thoughts from the experience. “My husband and I started couples counseling about a year before we got married. We were having issues that seemed to spiral out of control. We were also fighting over the same issue time and time again, and I started to feel hopeless that things would never change. We both agreed that something had to give or we were going to have to admit that we weren’t ready to tie the knot, and maybe we never would be. Even though we were fighting constantly, I still loved him and I still wanted things to get better, but we were running out of patience and energy to keep going. That’s when he mentioned a couple’s counselor. I immediately said ‘no way.’ It actually took several weeks for my husband (then fiancé) to convince me to even consider it.
Even though I’ve had individual therapy on and off for years for an anxiety disorder, I never thought that couples counseling could give us the same benefits. I think part of the reason was I didn’t want to be ’embarrassed’ in front of my fiancé, and I was afraid to air our dirty laundry to a stranger. I was also a little worried that the counselor would side with my fiancé, and I would end up getting blamed for all our problems, and worse, not be able to leave the room while being blamed!
I think the main reason why I kept telling him ‘no’ over and over again was that to me, seeing a couple’s therapist was the same as admitting that our relationship was hopeless. If we can’t fix our own problems, how is someone that doesn’t even know us going to fix us? I just didn’t want to be labeled ‘broken.’ I was afraid of his family or our friends to finding out and thinking we were desperately trying to save our relationship. I didn’t want people to think we weren’t madly in love, especially since we just got engaged! I didn’t want our relationship to have the stigma of therapy.
After having the same fight for the billionth time one night, I finally said ‘yes’ to searching for a couple’s therapist. I think I finally realized that we would be needed someone on the ‘outside’ who was totally objective to take a look at why we kept fighting over the same issue again and again. We saw him for an entire year, right up to the month of our wedding. Contrary to my fear, I did not get blamed for our problems – instead, with the help of our therapist we both came to realize our part in the arguments, and we learned to take accountability for our actions and our words. We learned that even though we have different perspectives, interpretations, and reactions to things, we needed to trust and be kind to each other, and realize our goal was the same for each other: happiness.
I also learned that I was not alone in my fear of therapy stigma. When I opened up to my best friend about our couple’s therapy, she confided in me that she and her husband had gone to sessions themselves to work out some issues. I was shocked! When I think of perfect couple’s, I think of my best friend’s marriage. I would have never guessed that they saw a therapist. She told me she didn’t tell anyone because their problems weren’t that bad, just some minor issues to work out. She didn’t want people to think they were in bad shape when they were just fine.
I’m thankful that my fiancé kept pushing because I think it not only saved our relationship, but it made it stronger. We are not perfect and we’ll still have our fights, but we now have the tools to handle our arguments in a healthy manner, and these disagreements actually end up strengthening our relationship.
If you and significant other are having problems, no matter what stage you are in your relationship (dating, engaged, newly married or several years of marriage under your belt), please consider couples counseling. Don’t be like me and view it as a last ditch effort, or think that therapy is a scarlet letter ‘F’ (for failed) on your relationship. You might be surprised to find out how many of your happy couple friends have gone. Couples counseling is one of the best things you can do to invest in the happiness, healthiness, and quality of your relationship.”
If you feel that you and your partner need guidance in your relationship, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment.