As a Long Island Psychologist, I have seen how helpful couples counseling can be for couples in distress or who simply want to improve their relationships. It is incredibly important – an effective way to improve communication and save your marriage or relationship. But it is challenging nonetheless.
There are several reasons that couples counseling is challenging. These include:
- Many people call couples counselors as a last resort, when the relationship has crumbled.
- Often only one partner is interested in couples counseling.
- Sometimes couples counseling is “used” by clients to try to pass blame on the partner.
And of course, the reason that many people do not like to talk about – there are simply some relationships that aren’t meant to be, and started off on shaky footing from the beginning.
Yet despite these issues, couples counseling can always be valuable – even for relationships that have passed the point of “no return.” That’s because at the very least, the couple can help resolve any issues and move on with their mental health, and at best, the relationship can not only be saved – it can be improved.
Preparation is Key
In order for couples counseling to be successful, the couple has to be prepared for everything that counseling entails, and they both need to be committed to the process. That means:
- Desire to Save Relationship – Make sure you and your partner are at a place where you want to save your relationship. That can be tough, especially if infidelity has played a role in your challenges, or you have already started the process for a divorce/breakup. Both partners have to be ready to put in work.
- Retain Positive Support – Friends and family can be sounding boards for what they think we want to hear. This can be highly damaging in relationships. If you are going to go to couples counseling, tell your friends and family that you need them to support your recovery as a couple.
- Prepare for YOUR Changes – Many couples go to counseling hoping to change the OTHER person in the relationship. But couples counseling is all about changing yourself, and doing what you can do to make the relationship work. You have to be willing to let go of what you want from your partner (beyond its communication) and focus on what you can do to make things better.
Above all else, make this a learning experience about yourself. It’s true, not all relationships can be saved. It is also true that doing your best, working towards healing your relationship, and at the very least working out your issues with your partner all play a significant role in your happiness, both now and in the future. Couples counseling has saved countless relationships, even those on the brink of divorce that “could not be saved.” But no matter what happens, those that are fully prepared mentally for couples counseling will receive benefits from it.