Working On Your Relationship? Consider Couples Counseling
Like most good things in life, relationships take a good amount of work from both partners. Part of this work is a daily effort at solid communication, transparency, and understanding. Over time, however, little miscommunications and issues that seem like nothing at first can begin to build up and grow resentment. This resentment in turn can start to rot away at the base of the relationship and skew your view of your partner to the point where little things that would normally be nothing can start to seem insufferable, leading to you being unfair with each other and spiraling down.
Luckily, a neutral third person licensed to help can help mediate any of your issues you and your partner may have. Couples counseling has helped many people turn their relationships around, so if you’re thinking it could be the right move for your relationship, here are some of the things you need to know going in.
How It Can Help
Both partners attending a session with an experienced therapist can give them a safe neutral place to be more open than they otherwise would. As we delve into sensitive issues, we can start to get a little heated. A therapist can help mediate any escalations, avoiding us avoid falling into the blame game and other common pitfalls that don’t get us anywhere and actually undermine progress.
Having a therapist also provides an expert third-person perspective which can identify certain imbalances in the dynamic that can lead to resentment from both sides. By showing both partners some aspects of their relationship’s dynamic they might not have even been aware of, both can start to reflect on not just the relationship troubles, but their part in it as part of working on the relationship first requires working on one’s self. In my approach to couple’s counseling, I do not take sides, I want both partners to feel safe and comfortable to say what’s on their mind, but guide them to do so in a constructive way with growth for both the individual and the relationship as a whole.
One thing many people overlook, is that you don’t need to wait until a relationship crisis to start counseling. You can start when things are good. Why? Working on your relationship while things are good already can give you space to deepen your connection with your partner rather than trying to fix something.
What To Expect
For your first session, expect to both show up a little early (about 15 minutes) as you will need to fill out some paperwork in order to start services similar to how you would at a doctor’s office. Not only is it necessary in a legal sense, but it also gives your therapist great context for when you both begin telling your story.
Your first session will be dedicated to getting your therapist up to speed on your relationship history. Things from before that might not seem relevant may actually be contributing to some tension today, so it’s important for your therapist to see the whole picture.
How To Get The Most Out Of It
Couples counseling has a pretty high success rate, however it’s not 100%. Of those that are successful though, there is a strong pattern of habits they build consistently that lead them to overcome their relationship’s difficulties and come out with a deeper loving connection than ever. Some of the most impactful of these habits are:
If you go into your first session ready with a laundry list of things your spouse should change to fix the relationship, you’re already setting yourself (and your relationship) up for failure. Instead, make an effort to go in with an open mind. Remember that the counseling setting is a safe space and your counselor is NOT there to take sides or assign blame. In fact part of the perspective shift is to stop viewing it as you vs your partner and see it as you and your partner as a team vs the problem. Couples that manage to see it this way grow closer together as they are working towards a common goal (conflict resolution) rather than tearing each other down. Why look for a winner between the two of you, when you can both win against the issue at hand?
Many people go into therapy much like a mechanic. “My relationship isn’t running right. What’s the fix?”, well unfortunately (or fortunately if you have the right perspective), part of working on the relationship is working on yourself. Many times our own insecurities, traumas, and stressors can undermine our ability to be the best partner we can be. If, instead, you focus on working on yourself in and outside of therapy, you can bring a more compassionate, understanding, loving, and overall balanced person to the table, after which working on the relationship is MUCH easier.
One of the biggest reasons many couples end up in a bad shape before starting couples counseling is because of a lack of accountability. Your grievances are valid and deserve to be heard, but if you’re focused solely on what your partner is or isn’t doing you can start to spiral and start to make unfair claims that make them feel unappreciated. “I do everything around here while they sit around”, “I’m the only one who ever initiates anymore”, “they’re not even trying”. Sound familiar?
You can’t control your partner’s behavior, but you can control your own. While you may feel justified in shouting, nagging, or lecturing at times, ask yourself “will it help at all?”. There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries, but work on yourself to phase out dysfunctional behaviors that only serve to escalate and make things worse.
Be sure to emphasize constructive criticism in your relationship from both sides, reaffirm that when you do point out something that can be improved, make sure it comes from you as an equal, loving partner.
Every relationship is unique and at its own stage. Whether things seem good or you are facing a particular issue or even a relationship crisis, there’s never a bad time to seek out a therapist experienced in couples counseling. I’ve helped many couples in the Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter areas form deeper connections and grow to face the world together. So what are you waiting for? Call me at and let’s make you both the best partners you can be!