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One of the most common misconceptions about couples therapy is there must be a dire need for it. That is not true, and I’m here to demystify that for you.
It’s not uncommon to wonder about couples therapy, and if you’re looking for some information to help you decide if it would be a good idea for you and your partner, here are seven ways couples therapy could benefit you.
- Life gets crazy: Life gets busy, and sometimes the negative cycles we get into with our partners tend to have toxic effects we don’t see until they’ve gotten out of control. Relationships, just like individuals, require constant maintenance, so consider it similar to a health check-up. Just like with a health check-up, it’s much easier to address issues when you catch them early on.
- Aligning your values: It can be very beneficial to clarify values with your partner in the beginning of the relationship to determine if you are on the same page about what’s important to each of you. These can include priorities on having children, getting married, time spent with friends/family, financial habits, long-term career goals, etc. Therapy can provide a safe space where you and your partner can communicate openly about these topics without judgment, which can help reduce feelings of fear, anxiety, or pressure.
- Vocalizing what you need:We all have individual and unique needs, and clearly talking about those needs is a great way to achieve understanding and mutual respect. Neither partner can read minds, so communicating with your partner is a way to help them help you. Therapy can be an ideal place to explore these topics and learn how to communicate your needs so neither partner feels taken advantage of or unimportant.
- Set relationship goals: Creating relationship goals can be a healthy and effective way to bond and create a shared vision. Outlining what you and your partner both want for the relationship is essential for longevity of the partnership. If you both have very different visions for where you see the relationship going, it’s really important to learn this early on. If not, you may find yourself feeling so deeply invested that you could sacrifice life goals or visions in order to make the relationship work, leaving you feeling disappointed and resentful. Instead, therapy can be a great place to talk openly about your visions for the future and whether or not they are aligned.
- Navigating conflict:Everyone struggles to maintain their cool when they’re upset, and sometimes the person who can upset us the most is the person we love the most. We may say hurtful things we don’t mean or act in ways we’re not proud of. Couples therapy can be a great place to learn strategies and develop tools for how to communicate effectively during times of conflict in a healthy and productive way.
- Anticipating life’s obstacles: Life happens and things don’t always work out the way we anticipate. Couples that stay together long enough will inevitably experience adverse events together, for example loss of a loved one, job changes, financial struggles, etc. Couples therapy can be a place to develop tools to successfully manage future challenges and adversity in the relationship. Whether the challenges occur in the relationship or outside the relationship, couples therapy can be a place to discuss the ways you can plan to be there for each other when times get rough.
- Strengthening your bond:Finally, a benefit that occurs while you are in couples therapy regardless of the reason you came in the first place, is that you will grow closer to your partner. Couples therapy can be a time for you to create a safe space to become more vulnerable and learn more about each other while working toward your goals.
By the way, it’s normal for the first step to feel scary. Sometimes thoughts might pop up like, “what does this mean about my relationship?” And we might feel the urge to sweep it under the rug in our busy lives to avoid the discomfort of that question. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary fix and inevitably that question will continue to nag you. The reality is all couples experience adversity at some point in their relationship, and only a small percentage have the courage to get help.
It is also normal to be concerned about what your partner might think if you propose the idea. Nothing feels better than knowing someone wants to go out of their way to make you feel better. So, consider proposing it to them from the place of “I love you, and I want to strengthen my relationship with you. Couples therapy can be a great place to do that.”
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) can actually help you and your partner be on the same team, versus feeling as if you’re always opposing the other, so you can work together to tackle whatever issue you may be experiencing or goals you may have. EFT is an ideal approach for couples therapy, and it meets criteria for the highest level of empirical validation as set out by the American Psychological Association (Johnson, 2019).
Johnson, S. (2019). Attachment theory in practice. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.