Contrary to popular belief, couples therapy doesn’t have to be reserved for relationships that are on the brink of collapse. In fact, there are a lot of things that can be learned and applied to couples who are willing to go through therapy aside from times of extreme conflict. Relationship therapists can also work with couples who, overall, are feeling mutually content, but who also might be seeking to preserve their bond and enhance their appreciation for one another.
Consider how working with a therapist on any one or more of the following skills could improve your self-awareness and your appreciation for your partner:
Everyone has a different way of communicating their emotions. It’s how we communicate to one another and how we approach our spouse with our needs and desires that is critical to having a healthy relationship. When couples live together for a period of time, they fall into communication habits that may or may not be beneficial to their growth and success. If one partner isn’t feeling heard or seen, negative behaviors like anger, defensiveness, or becoming withdrawn could set in. Even minor miscommunications can put a strain on a relationship. By figuring out why the miscommunications happen, a therapist can help you communicate in a way that is more understandable and healthier for both parties.
Disagreements are a natural occurrence in relationships because each person has their own thoughts, desires, belief systems and routines. Your behaviors and feelings may not always be consistent with that of your partner. Conflicts that escalate into a fight (yelling, screaming, passive-aggressiveness, bringing up old wounds or the “silent treatment”) is where things get problematic. It’s important to recognize when a disagreement is spiraling out of control. Through therapy, couples can learn to resolve conflicts before they devolve into unhealthy and hurtful behaviors.
In the beginning, relationships are often exciting and passionate because both individuals are making an effort to please each other. Over time, scheduled dates and winning each other over slowly gets replaced by the comforts of routine and repetition, especially when there is added pressure from jobs, raising children and endless household chores. Some couples may find that, over time, their relationship feels mundane or uninteresting. When you are your partner make a commitment to attend therapy, you are taking the first step to reigniting the old spark. Just making an effort to create more intentional “alone time” (even if that entails going to therapy) can bring about a deeper feeling of intimacy. Sometimes, recalling how it felt back at the beginning of the relationship with a therapist can result in new and more intense feelings of passion.
Some couples may find they need therapy to process and/or move on from old wounds such as a financial mistake, childhood trauma, the challenges of parenting, or any event that led to feeling trapped in a cycle of resentment. The therapist can help you navigate whatever is making you both feel contentious and help you get “unstuck.” Therapists can also bring about another perspective to help to foster better understanding of the behaviors that led to getting stuck. Couples who gain more awareness may find it easier to forgive and even move away from the feelings of bitterness. The best case scenario is you’ll get a renewed sense of hope and commitment for the future.
Huge life transitions can generate friction and stress on both newer and long-term relationships. A big move, death of a loved one, career change, illness, retirement, adding children, or adjusting to an empty nest are all examples of life changes that can make or break a relationship. Couples can go to therapy for the purpose of restoring the connection they had before a huge life change altered their lives. Counselors help couples learn new ways to adapt and how support to each other as they acclimate to a new “normal.”