A full 75% of married people who tried going to couples therapy say it benefited them. So why is it that most people seem to think of marital therapy and mediation as a last resort?
Far from being like a routine doctor’s visit, going to couples therapy feels almost like admitting defeat — we assume that only couples having serious trouble with their relationship need counseling. As a result, too many people miss out on the many ways that couples therapy can benefit their relationship.
This is because, even for a perfectly healthy marriage, couples therapy or counseling can dramatically improve an already-strong relationship. Repairing a marriage may not be as simple as repairing an older water heater, but it can easily be done if both partners are on board. There’s always more that you can learn about being a better person for your lover, and no matter how much you improve, you will always end up with new problems to resolve now and then. In a way, going to couples therapy is like continuing your relationship education; on the other hand, it’s like a checkup for your love life.
If you’re curious as to what benefits come from going to couples therapy, you’ve come to the right place. But before we discuss the advantages that come from getting couples therapy, it’s important to be aware of what can happen if you postpone counseling for too long.
How Tragedy Can Follow Inaction
Most people would agree that a loving relationship is more valuable than diamonds. Yet there are many people who stay in unhappy relationships until resentment starts to build. Once that happens, they often feel they have no choice but to file for divorce. Rather than voicing their unhappiness, they go with the flow, hoping things will eventually change.
Other people in committed relationships take the opposite approach, going overboard to try and please their partner and make their marriage happy.
Whether you’re a natural problem-solver or you’ve just been trying to wait things out, what you may not have realized is that building a healthy relationship takes certain skills. And unfortunately, they’re not skills that you learn in school. You probably didn’t even learn them from your own parents. They’re unique skills and ideas that most people only discover when they try going to couples counseling for the first time.
If you keep waiting to seek professional help with your relationship, you run the risk of letting things go too long, at which point one of you will finally throw in the towel. Many people don’t bother seeking counseling before hiring a divorce lawyer, probably because of the negative associations people have around therapy.
But you wouldn’t seek out a diamond buyer for a ring you were completely happy with keeping. Likewise, if your relationship is important to you, you should do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be. If nothing else, you should learn whatever you can from your current relationship before moving on — and the best way to do that is with a good therapist.
Keep reading to find out what you can learn, and how things can improve, when you start going to couples therapy with your partner.
The Benefits of Going to Couples Therapy
Couples therapy is one of the best ways to learn about yourself, your partner, and love itself. But instead of being the dry, repetitive type of learning like reading books, it’s highly interactive, and leads to greater feelings of connectedness with your partner and your own feelings.
As a side note, if you’re in any danger of any kind, such as dealing with a sex offense, you shouldn’t wait and try to resolve things with your partner. You must take care of yourself first, even if that means leaving a relationship.
With that said, the following are some of the most significant benefits of going to couples therapy.
Get in Touch With Your Feelings About the Relationship
Relationships are always challenging, no matter what people they involve. But sometimes the most difficult thing about them is that they cause us to experience feelings we don’t always understand. Even worse, these feelings can cause us to act in certain ways, such lashing out or being withdrawn. But because we don’t fully understand what it is we’re dealing with, we can’t make our partner understand, either, which results in pain and hurt feelings on both sides.
Trying to express yourself to your partner one-on-one may only lead to outbursts, things are different in the safe, constructive environment of a counseling session. A good therapist will be able to determine what you’re trying to express, and help your partner understand.
Discover and Predict Roadblocks Before They Become Walls
Most people think arguing is bad, but unless it’s in court with child custody lawyers, it can actually be a good thing. It’s incredibly helpful and healthy for two people who love each other to argue, because it means they’re each expressing their unique views on a subject that’s important to them. The problem is, even simple arguments can lead to pointless bickering and backbiting if they aren’t approached deliberately and constructively. That’s one of the best ways that going to couples therapy can help.
As you and your partner mature in your relationship, different topics that weren’t relevant before start to become important. This might have to do with the topic of having children, or deciding what to do with an aging parent. Naturally, you’re probably going to have different views on the idea, whatever it is, and that can lead to arguing that’s less than constructive. By seeking counseling regularly, you can detect and respond to these sorts of issues early on, before they become serious hurdles.
Learn How to Resolve Conflict Properly
In addition to uncovering sensitive subjects and tapping into your own feelings, in couples therapy you’ll learn conflict resolution strategies that are healthy and effective. Marriage counseling provides a safe, controlled environment where you can express any unhappiness you feel, as well as learn about anything your partner may have been holding back from sharing with you.
Getting these feelings out in the open, especially in the presence of a trained therapist, may be all you need to move forward. Even in occasions when there is still more work to be done to find a resolution, couples therapy is the single best way to work through lingering, unresolved issues. Most of the time, you don’t need to go through family court to resolve conflict.
And if your partner is simply unwilling to do the work to make your relationship work, at least you can leave the relationship knowing you did your part.
Successfully Repair Conflict
It’s one thing to know when your partner is unhappy, just like it’s one thing to tell your partner when you’re upset by something. But actually having the knowhow to repair conflicts like these is very rare. If all you did was tell each other when you weren’t happy, without knowing what to do about it, it wouldn’t be very constructive.
Conversely, a skilled therapist can help you both learn ways to make repairs to your relationship. There are lots of strategies for finding solutions, and they can be much simpler than you might expect. Sometimes, financial concerns are as simple as reaching out to an experienced bankruptcy attorney, but that might not always be so simple. Besides helping you come up with ideas and solve problems together during sessions, your counselor can give you these tools to resolve conflict on your own between sessions.
Enhance Feelings of Intimacy and Connection
Maybe instead of seeking counseling because you argue too much, it’s because you don’t argue at all. For people who’ve been together for a long time, it’s easy to become socially and emotionally disconnected from one another. Maybe you never talk about anything, except what to have for dinner and how to care for the kids. Or maybe it’s been months since you last had sex.
If the spark in your relationship has fizzled out, going to couples therapy can be just the solution you need. This is because setting time aside to focus on one another and your relationship has a significant healing effect, all on its own. Even if you didn’t come up with any specific problems to solve, simply being together and talking about each other for once can make you both feel more attracted to the other, and more excited about your relationship. Your therapist can also help you come up with ways to keep the passion alive in your relationship from now on, through strategies such as weekly or monthly date nights.
Learn How to Be Assertive, Not Offensive
When you allow your voice to be heard and express your needs and desires openly, without resentment or anger, your relationship will prosper. And when you and your partner do this together, each acknowledging one another’s feelings, the effect is doubled.
In relationship counseling, it’s important for both partners to be able to talk about their issues, without worrying about hurting the other person. Your counselor will be there to coach both of you so you learn how to get what you need, without making demands or engaging in conflict.
Finally Understand Your Partner
You’ve surely had the experience of feeling bewildered by the way your partner is acting. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably felt that way many times, especially if you’ve been together for a long time. Understanding the feelings and thought process of another person is always challenging, and when it’s a member of the opposite sex, it’s even more complicated. Different people think and react in different ways, so it takes training to fully understand someone else.
In couples therapy, you’ll get a front-row seat to all of your partner’s secret thoughts and inner feelings. With the help of the therapist, you’ll learn how to interpret your partner’s words and actions, so you’ll better understand them in the future. Better still, you’ll even learn how to understand yourself. Sometimes the best thing we can learn is that we and our feelings are completely normal and acceptable.
Discover Your Partner’s World
How well do you know your partner’s inner world? Discovering someone’s world means learning about their wishes, desires, fears, motives, and joys. Once you know these things about your partner, you can use the information like a map to figure out what will make your partner happiest, and what will make them feel most loved.
Having this “map” of your partner’s inner world goes a lot farther than simply making them happy. When you and your partner are clear on each others’ ways of approaching things, you’ll be much better at dealing with outside conflict, from times when you need a new roof to facing the death of a family member. It’s an integral part of being in a relationship, and it allows you to navigate life together in a way that truly serves both of you.
Learn Your Partner’s Love Language
Christian marriage counselor Gary Chapman revolutionized the world of couples therapy when he wrote his book, The Five Love Languages. Even if you haven’t heard of the book, you’ve most likely heard about the concept of love languages. A “love language” is the way that someone naturally perceives and expresses love. For some people, their love language is gifts, which means they show their appreciation to others by giving them gifts, and they feel most appreciated when they receive one. Others naturally express love by doing favors and helping those they care about, and feel loved when someone else helps them.
As you can imagine, when two people have different love languages, trouble can result. If you express love by doing things for your partner, but your partner expresses love by giving you gifts, then you’re both likely to misunderstand the message. Because your love language isn’t gift-giving, you’ll just feel frustrated that your partner is spending money. And since your partner’s love language isn’t acts of service, they won’t realize that you doing things for them is how you express love, and they may feel unappreciated.
There are five distinct love languages in total: physical touch, affirming words, and quality time, as well as acts of service and gifts. You and your partner can discover your love languages by reading Gary Chapman’s book or taking a quiz, but you’ll get best results by learning about it together with a therapist.
Increase Self-Awareness and Promote Personal Growth
Going to couples therapy doesn’t just impact your romantic relationship. It also affects every area of your life. This is because going through therapy trains you to be more self-aware, which will make you a more sensitive and intelligent person in just about every context, from hanging out with friends to going to work. Everyone knows that physical exercise is important for maintaining your body’s health, but it’s just as true that personal growth is necessary for maintaining the health of your mind and spirit. Going to couples therapy is a great way to improve yourself.
These are some of the top benefits of couples therapy. As you can see, you and your partner have a lot to gain, and nothing to lose, by seeking therapy.