I always say that every couple would benefit from therapy. As a couples therapist myself, I am privy to the benefits of therapy both after problems begin and as a preventative measure. As some brilliant person once said, “The best time to fix a leaky roof is when the sun is shining.”
But the truth is, most people aren’t entirely enthusiastic about the prospect of couples therapy. Who wants to voluntarily do something that conjures up images of a woman in a beige sweater looking over her glasses, asking, “And how do you feel about that?”
One husband I worked with even summed up his expectation of couples therapy as: “Misery. Just misery.” Who would voluntarily sign up for that?
Myths about what goes on in couples therapy abound. And I can imagine that some of those myths prevent many couples from picking up the phone and making an appointment.
For those who are a little bit curious about what happens behind the therapy door, I would like to begin to dispel some of the myths about couples therapy.
Couples therapy is not:
- Going over fights with someone to tell you who is right and who is wrong.
- An opportunity for your wife to use a female therapist to gang up in you and tell you what a bad guy you are.
- An opportunity for your husband to use a male therapist to gang up on you and tell you what a horrible woman you are.
- Simply airing out your feelings and complaints while someone nods and asks you how you feel about that.
- A place where the therapist takes sides. Suggestions are made for both partners as relationship issues are generally viewed as a function of a cycle in which each person participates.
- A place where you will be put in the hot seat, judged, and ridiculed for the things you admit and things you have done.
- A place where you are forced to stare at each other, hold hands, and compliment each other when you are flaming angry.
Couples therapy is:
- A place where you will be heard and understood by your therapist and your partner.
- A place where you will identify how your relationship style, personality features, and past experiences influence your current feelings and behaviors. You will also learn this about your partner.
- A place where you will learn how to avoid and manage existing and hypothetical relationship pitfalls based on what you find out above (such as mistrust, fears of abandonment, fears of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, resentment, and sexual challenges).
- A place where you will learn to communicate constructively and receive suggestions for more constructive behaviors.
- A process of personal accountability and owning your part, not blaming or changing the other person.
Couples therapy, when engaged in willingly, can increase emotional connection and hope. It can be hard, uncomfortable and emotional, but it is not all about venting and talking about feelings. For the most part, couples therapy is focused on increasing understanding and offering solutions.