When do you put gas in your car? For some, it's when the gas light comes on. For others, it's proactively when you're at half a tank because you believe going lower hurts your vehicle. If you don't ever add fuel, your car simply stops working. Your car takes routine maintenance to work. When it doesn't work, you take it to a mechanic. The same logic can apply to your romantic relationship.
For some individuals "couples counselling" is a stigmatized term accompanied by shame and perceived failure. On the contrary! Attending counselling with your partner demonstrates wisdom, courage and commitment to your relationship. If people invested as much time and effort "tuning up" their marriages/love relationships as they do their cars, the separation/divorce rate might be lower. Seeking couples counselling is also like going to a medical doctor or the gym - it won't hurt you, only help you, even though it may be uncomfortable at times.
Depending on a couple's issues, needs and goals, I may endeavour to help both partners:
- See their relationship in a more open-minded way and stop the "blame game"
- Learn how past experiences affect current relationship dynamics and problems
- Better understand each other's feelings, perspectives, needs and behaviors
- Improve communication and interaction patterns
- Discuss differences rationally and solve problems together
- Heal from an affair and restore trust
- Bring out emotions and thoughts that they fear expressing to the other person
(to reduce the risk of becoming emotionally distant and growing apart).
If your spouse/partner refuses to attend sessions, you can still go by yourself. It's more challenging to resolve differences when only one person is willing to participate in therapy, but you can still benefit by learning about your reactions/behavior and how these impact the relationship.
Marriage/couples counselling can be relatively brief or more extensive. You might need only a few sessions to help you weather a crisis, or you may require more sessions if your relationship has greatly deteriorated. In some cases, joint counselling helps partners discover that their differences are irreconcilable and that it is better to end the relationship.