Everyone can benefit from relationship counseling. Couples counseling unfortunately carries a stigma that it’s only for couples that are on the brink of divorce. When the relationship is in this place, often one partner has already withdrawn from the relationship. Then marriage counseling is the final step before the divorce.
Don’t let that be you. I’ve compiled a list of 7 ways that couples counseling can improve your relationship. Sometimes you know things could be better, but you can’t quite put it into words. This list will help you do that.
Recovering From an Affair or Other Betrayals
Affairs can be incredibly painful, but they don’t have to end a relationship. Affair recovery counseling can help you and your partner recover from infidelity and build a stronger, closer bond. When both people are willing to work on the relationship and look at the conditions that made the affair happen, recovery and reconciliation are possible.
Even if your partner is not willing to participate in couples counseling, individual counseling can help. It can help you feel better and cope with the pain and fall out of an affair. In counseling after an affair, you can get to know yourself better. And you can learn how to create the conditions that make an affair much less likely to happen again.
Improve Communication in Your Relationship
‘We can’t communicate’ is one of the most common phrases spoken by couples when they begin couples therapy. A wise therapist once said, ‘communication is to relationships what breath is to life.’
Relationship counseling helps slow down conversations to know what your partner is hearing. Often one or both people have feelings about the relationship that they aren’t sharing directly. Instead, feelings are coming out in more hurtful ways.
Sometimes communication problems show up in arguments. But they also show up in distance and isolation. Many couples struggle to communicate in the unending demands of work and caring for children. Based on his research, John Gottman says this: ‘Most relationships don’t end with a bang; they just fizzle out.’ Relationship counseling can help you have the conversation you need to have but haven’t been able to have without help.
Take Better Care of Yourself in the Relationship
So many people work so hard to provide for their family and care for children that they put themselves last. This self-neglect often leads to feelings of lost identity. It can also lead to feelings of resentment towards your spouse, particularly if you have tried in the past to ask them for help.
Couples counseling can help uncover some of the unconscious reasons people neglect themselves. It can help both people connect to their needs and ask for help directly from their partner without being sarcastic, unkind or demanding.
Navigating Differences in Parenting Approaches
No couple sees eye-to-eye on every parenting decision. And so it’s no surprise that parenting differences are a common source of conflict in marriages. Relationship therapy can help people discuss parenting differences more constructively.
Couples counseling can create space for partners to share their parenting beliefs and approaches. These are often rooted in childhood experiences and unconscious values. When shared and received, the couple can often come up with solutions for navigating parenting differences they’re both OK with.
Setting Boundaries on Relationships with Parents, In-Laws and Extended Family
Relationships with parents, in-laws, and extended family can be a source of both nourishment and stress in marriages. Couples counseling helps people talk about these relationships and set healthy boundaries. This is especially important early on in the relationship when patterns haven’t yet been set.
But therapy can also help couples with a long history together work through hurt or resentments. Many hurts arose from the way parents and in-laws treated you when children were young – and how our partners responded (or didn’t). As much as we’d like for them to, those hurts don’t go away, and if they’re unprocessed they will continue to affect the relationship.
Navigating Life Changes (Becoming Parents or Empty Nesters, Initiating Career Changes, etc.)
Change – even positive, intentional change – takes energy and causes stress. If you have children, you know how wonderfully rewarding it is to be a parent. You’re also aware of the toll parenting takes on a relationship.
Couples therapy helps couples manage life changes like welcoming a baby or sending grown ones off to college. The ways we may have coped in previous stages may no longer fit for this next stage. Many couples may co-parent well. But they struggle relating to their partner once children are gone.
A new job, a change in travel schedules or even a financial windfall inevitably affects relationships. Marriage counseling can be a great preventative step to create a safe space to explore how these changes affect the relationship.
Deciding Whether to Get Married
Modern relationships look different than they used to a generation ago when being coupled almost always meant being married.
Relationship counseling can help you both discover if marriage is the best next step. Often each person in the relationship moves at a different pace. This can lead to miscommunication and even hurt about where the relationship is headed.