This pandemic has been hard on so many people — both individually, and as couples and families. I, like many psychotherapists and counsellors, have experienced a much higher demand in couples counselling and marriage counselling since the pandemic began. But often I end up with one half of a couple coming to me saying their partner won’t come because they ‘don’t believe in marriage counselling’. Drawing from the brilliant work of Alexandra Solomon of Loving Bravely, I say what is not to believe? It exists! And it can be enormously helpful.
It’s amazing to me how much people spend on clothes, vitamins and supplements for their health, schooling, training — all to get good at something. But when it comes to improving or getting better at relationships, it seems we “should” know how to do it? That’s ludicrous. How? Many of us had very poor models of healthy relationships or healthy communication or fighting patterns in relationships. Many of us remain misguided about the path to getting our needs met in relationships and how to best meet the needs of others. The result is that we chip away at problems in ways that chip away at trust and intimacy. Small resentments become big resentments until we see no other way forward. In my experience, avoiding couples therapy is about avoiding feelings of shame – shame of so called failing, being blamed, being imperfect – feelings that are uncomfortable for all of us – especially when we have to consider taking responsibility for our own imperfect behaviours — at sort of a core, raw, emotional level. But I ask people to think about the alternatives (see above) and see if they can envision themselves staying in the same pattern, the same way for the next 5 years and lasting in the relationship. You can imagine the answer.
Couples therapy is not a magic bullet. It’s work. It’s messy. It’s imperfect. But so is life and marriage.
What therapy can do is help you navigate that mess with a little more skill, insight and compassion. I think some of the suggestions in this article might help people who want couples therapy but want to convince their spouse to come on board. Personally, I ask clients to have their spouses join us or me for just one session so I can alleviate some of their fears, clarify misconceptions and answer any questions they might have. That’s usually enough to see some benefits and try it out. Having seen the benefits personally and professionally, I think all relationships can use help over the lifetime. I personally have incredible admiration for those who try it, who stick with it — even when it’s hard — as it often is.
Looking for some help as a couple? Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m here to help.
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