If the Olympics had an arguing competition, you and your partner could win a medal, and it’s not getting any better. You sleep in the same bed every night but have forgotten what intimacy feels like. What now?
Couple’s therapy might sound drastic, but it can be extremely useful. Think of it this way: what do you do when your car breaks down? Chances are you probably can’t fix it yourself, so you have to send it in for repairs. Once it comes back from the workshop, you’re told how to handle the car so it won’t get damaged again. Couple’s therapy is a similar concept. It’s used to increase the understanding of yourself, your partner and the patterns of your interaction (like arguments).
The problems within your relationship are then explored with a third party and you are taught how to move away from negative feelings, thoughts and actions. You are shown how to change them into positive ones to enhance your relationship.
One of the most common mistakes that people make before starting couple’s therapy is going in with the mindset that their partner needs to change. Just as it takes two people for a relationship to work, it takes two people who are willing to change their behaviour and actions - to improve their relationship.
The role of the therapist
To mediate: A relationship counsellor’s job isn’t to diagnose you or your partner. The counsellor would act as a go-between and may point out underlying issues between you two.
Provide neutral ground: When you’re in your apartment arguing, it’s almost as if you’re on a battleground and you don’t feel completely safe. A relationship counsellor provides level (and neutral) ground for you and your partner to argue or talk through your problems without either one feeling as if you’re being bullied by the other.
Listen and suggest: You might think that it’s the counsellor’s job to tell you what needs to change and how to do it, but it’s not. She’s there to hear you both out (fairly), make suggestions and give advice.
You should consider couple’s therapy if:
- You keep having the same arguments. It usually starts out as something small and then it blows up into the blame game.
- You’re both aware that you have problems, but no-one cares enough to say or do anything.
- You’ve stopped having sex and there’s no physical affection between you. A lack of emotional intimacy often leads to lack of physical intimacy.
- There’s no kindness between you anymore. Nearly all your exchanges are used to be nasty towards each other.
- You and your partner are leading different lives.
- You can’t understand each other’s viewpoints about things like fidelity or money.
To get the best from therapy:
- Work together as a team.
- Be motivated to change, even though it’s difficult.
- Speak about what’s on your heart and mind.
- Try to be non-judgmental towards each other.