Every day, mental health is becoming more normalized and mainstreamed in our country.  We are finally talking about feelings and struggles that everyone experiences at some point! Although I couldn’t be happier that we are letting go of the shame associated with mental health, I have found that couples counseling continues to carry that guilt and embarrassment.  Even when I started my own couples counseling with my husband, I found myself holding back from sharing this with my friends and family because I was worried about the judgement. I didn’t want people to think that my marriage was falling apart when really, we weren’t anywhere close to divorce but wanted help learning how to improve our communication and build connection.  Through my own experience, as well as helping other couples improve their relationships, I wanted to share what I have learned about couples counseling.

Your relationship doesn’t have to be in crisis for you to benefit from couples counseling

So often, I have experienced couples come in to my office as a “last ditch effort.” Although I encourage counseling at any point, I have found that it’s much easier to make progress when the problems start to initially impact your life. When you wait until “the end,” you spend most of the time working through resentment and anger before you are able to even touch on the problems that occurred in the beginning.  There is no issue too small that couples counseling can help with. Frustrated with who cooks dinner all the time? Feel like you don’t talk enough? Have you gone through a change and now you just don’t connect like you used to? Time to go talk some of this out in couples counseling.

Couples counseling requires both parties to be willing to change

Michelle Obama recently wrote about her own marriage counseling with the former President of the United States.  In an interview, she candidly shared that “she thought she was ‘perfect,’ and that it was really to ‘fix’ her husband.” It takes “two to tango” in a relationship, therefore, couples counseling means that both parties need to see where they can improve.  Your relationship will not get better unless you both agree that you are imperfect beings and agree to make changes that will make your partners world a happier place.

You aren’t going to trial and your therapist isn’t the Judge

There have been multiple occasions when a couple has come into my office, they both present their “case” and then they wait for me to make a decision on who is guilty and what the sentence should be.  I’m guilty of doing this myself.  Oh, the disappointment when our therapist didn’t team up with me and say “bad boy” to my husband. Your therapist isn’t there to be the moral guide in who’s right, who’s wrong.  The therapist is there to help guide the couple in expressing why a situation was upsetting, teaching their partner to be empathetic to this, and developing a solution.

There’s no specific time to expect for couples counseling to “work”

Just like individual therapy, there’s no specific length of time you can expect to be fully healed.  The same goes for couples counseling; sometimes you are working through small solutions like chores in the household and sometimes there are bigger issues such as rebuilding trust.  Be patient with the process.  Couples counseling is all about trial and error; your therapist may suggest homework that significantly helps or you try it and it’s a big flop.  Even the flops are ok because both partners in the relationship made an effort to fixing the relationship

Your therapist is not going to judge you

A relationship is extremely intimate and couples counseling requires you to bring your therapist into that intimacy.  I find that some of my couple’s censor themselves because they may find that the big fight they had started over something “stupid” or they’re uncomfortable bringing up their sexual intimacy.  Trust me, therapists have heard it all.  We want to hear the real issues so that we can best help improve the relationship.

Couples counseling can help with a variety issues; parenting, opening up communication, healing and repairing, wanting to learn how to better support your partner, preparing for a big change, just to name a few.  Don’t hold back on seeking counseling that can help your relationship.