Every relationship has its ups and downs – and when those downs start to seriously outnumber the ups, it’s natural to start wondering whether the relationship is still worth maintaining. But when you’ve been together for a long time and built a life around each other, moving on without first trying to resolve your issues doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you’re not able to address (or even identify) the underlying issues, battle to communicate what you’re feeling, or really hear the other party, then counseling with a professional intermediary may be an option.
Many people are reluctant to embrace the idea of counseling or therapy, or admit that they need help – and this is perfectly understandable. On the one hand, simply considering the idea of marriage or couples counseling in the first place can be seen as an indicator that there are serious cracks in the relationship. On the other hand, a desire and willingness to seek help also indicates that both partners are invested in saving the relationship. So, is it right for you?
What do the numbers say?
Given that it’s often pretty expensive, you can’t blame anyone for wondering whether relationship counseling is worth it – especially as it tends to have a bad rep among the general public. The stats might put your mind a little more at ease. While success rates were as low as 50% back in the 1950’s, as psychologists have learned more about how real and lasting behavioral change can be attained, success rates with Emotionally-Focused Therapy (or EFT) may now be as high as 75%.
Another interesting factor to consider is time. In couples or family therapy, goals are typically reached in a third fewer sessions than they would be in individual therapy. This is because the counselor is able to actually observe the dynamic between the partners in action, spot patterns and draw conclusions which might otherwise have taken longer to unearth.
Dealing with life’s curveballs
One of the times couples counseling can be most effective is in dealing with an event or circumstance which is entirely outside of either partner’s control. The death of a relative, parent or beloved mutual friend, one partner losing their job due to layoffs, diagnosis of a dread disease, or a traumatic event like experiencing a home invasion or car accident are but a few examples. Because it isn’t either of the partner’s “fault”, so to speak, couples counseling can help you get through this new challenge together, support one another, and present a more united front rather than making it harder for your partner without meaning to.
One of the biggest curveballs that life may throw at an otherwise happy couple is learning that they’re unable to have children together. This news can be truly devastating – turning your hopes and dreams for your shared future together upside down. Getting specialized emotional support during a crisis like this really can save a marriage or relationship – which is why many fertility clinics like Wijnland Fertility also have experienced counselors at hand to help.
What do you want out of the process?
Understanding your own motivation for seeking professional help is crucial to getting the best results – but it also means being brutally honest with yourself.
Are you actually committed to saving the relationship, or do you just want to be able to say you tried?
Are you trying to rewind the clock to a simpler time (hint: this is probably not possible!) or are you actually interested in equipping yourself with the tools you need to improve the here and now?
Are you willing to admit to your own failings and hear where you need to improve, or do you just want someone to complain to your partner about?
In short – do you really want to fix things?
Unless you’re clear on what you want out of couples therapy, you’re likely to have unrealistic expectations.
What if your partner just isn’t interested in counseling?
If your partner is the stoic kind who doesn’t like asking for help, it can be tricky to get them open to the idea of couple’s therapy. Try first to understand their reservations, really listen to what they say, and hence get the lines of communication open. Making the first move – like making some of the little gestures you used to when you first started dating, and working on your own weaknesses individually – (i.e. showing you really want to learn how to be a better partner) makes it a lot more likely that they’ll follow suit.