We have all struggled in our relationships, and we have all heard of couple’s therapy. However, it does not sound all too good when a couple says they’re in therapy. That’s because the first thing that comes to mind is that something must be wrong with them or their relationship. But this is not necessarily the case. We also go to the dentist or a doctor from time to time, even when we are not sick. We often pay the dentist or our doctor a visit because we have some minor problem that we can’t fix alone. And sometimes, we just don’t want it to become a bigger issue in the long term.
What is couple therapy?
Couple therapy is a psychotherapeutic method to recognise and solve conflicts in a relationship. Every relationship involves conflicts. Conflicts and disagreements are normal and natural. If you are genuinely invested in a relationship, if you’re passionate about your partner, there will be differences of opinions and things you want to get right with your partner. So, both the stakes and the expectations are always high in a romantic relationship.
Recognising your conflicts is good, but sometimes it may be difficult to find their origin. And even then, it may be challenging to look at the issue without being emotional or biased. Naturally, everyone has their point of view, and discussions are not always equal. However, discussions shouldn’t be about winning over your partner, but solving the issue together. If you agree that you have a point of conflict, it may be a good idea to look for an impartial mediator.
The advantage of couple therapy
Now, you may wonder why a therapist needs to come into play. A therapist is an impartial mediator and can help find a solution from which both partners benefit. He or she has a more distant relationship with you than a friend or family member and can, therefore, look at your issue without taking sides. Instead, the therapist can look at your problem from a professional point of view and help you identify the origin of your conflict.
Unfortunately, couple therapy is not free of charge, although it has been beneficial for many relationships. Nevertheless, it may still be a good investment, considering you want a healthy romantic life with your partner. There may be options for a free couple consultation. In this case, it can be an excellent way to try and see if you can benefit from such a discussion with a mediator.
But when does couple counseling become necessary? When is the right time to make an appointment?
When is the perfect time to see a therapist?
There are many different stages of a romantic relationship, and every step along the way is important. On your way together, there will be many challenges, and while some can seem simple and occur early, others may appear or be discovered at a later stage in the relationship. Whether you have different opinions about marriage, different needs regarding physical contact, or find it hard to make enough time for each other, there will always be new challenges along the way. You will encounter many of these individually, and you can support each other or solve many of them together.
And of course, this is the primary advantage of having a significant other. You no longer have to face every problem alone. You can try to solve the issues you face together and talk about your difficulties with each other. This is an excellent common goal as communication is always vital. However, when a topic is heavily emotionalized, it can become stressful, especially when talking ends in a fight. Expressing emotion is not easy for everyone. Misunderstanding a raised issue can cause further hurt feelings and disrupt constructive discussions.
When feeling unrecognised, emotionally hurt, or ignored, people often tend to block further reconciliation attempts and may feel discouraged. Conversations can also lead to an even deeper spiral of misunderstandings or disappointments. Partners in a relationship also have their individual lives, and changes may occur without the partner noticing them. The world of emotions is complex, and a therapist, as a new member of the conversation, offers the chance to learn about this vibrant world in a new, unbiased way. However, not only changes and problems can come up in therapy. Therapists can emphasise and shed light on the positive aspects of a relationship. After a long time together, these aspects are often overlooked or undervalued.
So, there are often blind spots in relationships – things the partner can’t see or doesn’t know, or advantages and positives that both parts underappreciate. Often, partners just can’t find a way to understand each other without a mediator. When this moment comes, you know that you need a couple therapy session. In those sessions, you can both sit down and talk about your personal feelings and the issue in the relationship that concerns you the most. Therapists as mediators may then help you figure out the common hopes and wishes and support you in finding a solution to a better future.
Everyone needs help with something at some time. This goes for individuals, for groups, and also for relationships. Needing help or wanting a mediator is not a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t mean that your relationship isn’t working. After all, if you both choose to involve a mediator and you agree to have a closer look at a conflict, you are both working together to fix and improve something. It also means that you take your relationship very seriously. It can help you bond even more and be an essential step to understanding each other deeper. Therapists are trained, but they are also unbiased and can help you emphasise your points of view by helping you express your feelings. They can also help you find a new way where you two alone can’t find one.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.