Leanne Allen is a psychologist and life coach at Reconnect Wellness Centre in Sydney, Australia. This article was republished with permission from Your Tango.
There are several reasons why couples counseling might fail to improve a relationship. Sometimes people don’t want to work things out, the therapist isn’t a good fit, or the relationship has just been in trouble for far too long. But more often than not, couples therapy can be extremely beneficial.
Here are the important things therapy can teach you that will dramatically improve your relationship from the get-go.
It may sound simple, but it really isn’t. Learning how to actually talk with your partner, not at your partner is a wonderful thing. It’s a small tweaking of the language you use that allows you to be heard and makes all the difference. I’ve seen many couples for whom simply changing the tone of voice they use with each other has a great effect.
Have you ever realized that your partner is talking—but you don’t understand what he or she is trying to say?
Do you nod your head or utter a noise that indicates you are listening, and then the other person says, “So what did I say?” and you have no idea?
Obviously, this is not listening. Learning how to pay attention when your partner is speaking seems so simple, yet it’s a major issue pretty much every couple I’ve seen struggles with.
Intimacy is not just sex. It also includes cuddling, laughing together, or sharing your feelings. Imagine if you really could see into your partner’s mind and heart (and they could see into yours). A good couple’s therapist can help you do this.
The problem with sex is that people don’t usually have wild, rip-your-clothes-off sex on a regular basis. And we’re made to believe that if that’s not happening, then we’re missing out.
Therapy can help you get real about what’s preventing you from having good sex. It can help you figure out if it is an emotional or physical issue (and if it is physical, you’ll be advised to see your doctor or a sex therapist for specific treatment).
Differing libidos are a very common complaint in the therapy room. Therapy can teach you how to manage this in a way that does not degrade or belittle either partner and gives you back a sense of sexual equality.
Many couples struggle when they have different parenting styles. As a result, one parent does everything,
and the other parent does nothing. An independent observer who has some training (a.k.a. your couples therapist) can help create a balance that honors both parenting styles. Again, it is not about who is wrong or right (unless someone is putting the children at risk, of course); it is about teaching parents how to come up with an agreed plan of disciplinary action and showing parents how to manage different opinions in a respectful way.
6. Balancing Power
If one person is too pushy about a particular thing (whether it be cleaning the house, parenting rules, or sex), the other partner is going to pull back. And can you blame them? No one likes to be told what to do.
By giving both people in the relationship permission to change the way they handle these situations, change can happen almost immediately. One pulls back, the other has the space to step up. Just like a dance.
7. Healing from an Affair
An affair is usually a symptom of problems that already existed within the relationship. If someone has an affair, it’s because they aren’t happy.
If the person is truly sorry, the affair and all contact with the other person has stopped, and the wounded partner can learn to forgive (with help), then a relationship can actually get stronger after a crisis like this. The Couple can learn what went wrong and get to know each other on a much deeper level.
There are so many more areas that can be addressed in couples therapy: past traumas playing out within the relationship, work stress getting in the way, injuries or illnesses. The secret to the process going well is to find the couples therapist who is right for you.