How can your relationship get better?
People often cringe when they consider couples’ counseling. Some people are afraid it will make things worse. Others may fear it will cause a divorce. Many fear they will not be successful at couples’ counseling.
But there are many reasons why couples counseling is a good idea!
Here are 10 reasons why couples’ counseling is a good idea to help you create a healthy relationship:
1. You’ll learn how to have a better relationship whether you stay together or not
You simply don’t know what you don’t know, and therein lie all of the possibilities.
Relationship skills are not taught in school, so how are you to know how to navigate a relationship through the ups and downs? Simple — you’re not!
Unless you happen to come from incredibly healthy parents who already knew how to have a healthy marriage, then you’re learning as you go.
I’m not talking about parents who chose to stay together for the sake of the children. It’s really tough to know which will be better — to divorce and move on, or to stay together and continue to be miserable.
Couples’ counseling teaches the skills to deal with difficult conversations, to overcome unexpected life issues, and negotiate differences.
2. You’ll learn how to talk through especially difficult conversations
Relationships are complicated! Two people normally come together (in part) because of their differences in strengths and personality. Couples may not know this, but it’s true!
Some people need to talk through things in order to feel better. Others need to avoid difficult conversations in order to escape feeling worse.
By learning how to communicate with one another, you’re also learning about yourself and what works for you. Couples’ counseling allows for differences in each partner. A therapist will learn how each partner functions, and will be able to help each navigate a conversation in a manner they feel comfortable doing.
If couples continue to avoid difficult conversations then things can’t get better. On the other hand, if a couple can’t find a healthy and productive way to talk through things, they will eventually avoid trying.
3. It helps build and maintain the connection in your relationship
In healthy relationships, couples feel connected to one another; they feel close. They seek out their partner because they want to be with them. Connection results from caring for your partner and valuing who they are as a person.
It comes from building an understanding of each other, and what makes each happy or sad. What fills them up, and what makes them frustrated.
When partners feel connected, they feel emotionally close, valued and loved by their partner. It’s an amazing feeling!
And when partners feel angry at one another, which is normal sometimes, it is so much easier to reconnect when a couple is used to feeling connected with one another. When you feel connected over time, you have more compassion for your mate and more understanding of each other when things get a bit bumpy.
A therapist will help a couple learn how each partner feels connected to their mate. What makes them feel loved and valued. They will also help you to learn more about your mate in ways that you never knew.
4. It can improve your intimacy and sex life
I bet you didn’t see that coming! But yes, it’s true! When you feel connected more often, you want to share a closeness that is not shared with anyone else. You reach for your partner to feel that intimacy you experience with only them. It enhances and nourishes your connection and your relationship.
In your sessions, the therapist will help you both find comfortable ways to reach for each other for sexual intimacy. She can help you learn how to ask for what you want and what makes you feel good.
But please understand, guys, most women need to feel loved and valued in order to reach for her partner sexually. Guys seem to feel more loved and valued by their mate through sexual intimacy. So each partner needs to compromise and come forward in the way that fits their mate.
However, this isn’t always easy. But that’s where your couples therapist can help you both find a way that works for each of you.
5. You’ll model positive relationship skills for your kids
Kids watch everything! It’s how they know what to expect in the household and later in their own lives.
If there is tension, the kids may want to stay low and out of sight. If they pick up on positive and loving energy between the two of you, they are more likely, especially at a younger age, to want to participate in family activities and conversation.
Demonstrating a healthy relationship with your mate will encourage those behaviors with your kids. And in turn, they will be learning how to positively communicate with you and with their future mate.
Couples’ counseling teaches more than communication. It teaches how to enhance relationships between you, your mate, and your kids.
The new skills will help you model how to connect, talk through difficult conversations and to show your kids that you can be upset at times. But like you and your mate, can make up and will reconnect with them, even after an argument. That is what a secure relationship can look like.
And, as they get older they will see that they actually can come to you to talk about what bothers or worries them. Even if you get angry, you will soon reconnect and forgive them.
6. You’ll develop a good marriage, which is important for the whole family
When the marital relationship is nourished and works well, everyone benefits! For example, when Mom and Dad are feeling connected, the kids see this as “things are good” in the house. They will tend to feel more relaxed.
When tension arises between you and your mate the kids tend to stay in their rooms or leave the house if they are old enough.
Conflict frightens younger kids. They worry about Mom and Dad leaving each other or at the very least, getting very angry with one another.
They feel that you could get mad at them as well, which is frightening and can make them feel unsafe and insecure.
A couples’ therapist can help you model good communication for your kids, regardless of their age. This is how kids learn about relationships in the future.
7. It may help prevent a divorce
When couples wait too long to get professional help, sometimes one partner becomes more resistant to making the marriage work. Sometimes I will get a new couple coming in for sessions only to find out that one mate announces in the first session that they are “done” and wants a divorce.
Often when this occurs, the mate who is leaving doesn’t want couples counseling even if they’re in separate residences. So much time has gone by that their hurt has become unbearable to manage. They feel hurt that their mate let things go for so long and feel they didn’t matter to their partner.
Sometimes the therapist can help each express their pain and sadness in such a way that the couples can hear and understand the other’s pain without judgment getting in the way. This encourages them to do the work to repair the marriage.
By having couples’ counseling earlier in their troubled relationship, it’s easier for both partners to feel more hope that their marriage can be saved and actually improve with professional assistance.
8. It can also help while you’re going through a divorce
I very much believe in avoiding court as much as humanly possible. When you go to court one person, the judge, has all of the control! In addition, with each partner having their own lawyer, the cost can skyrocket.
I always recommend using a collaborative lawyer. These are lawyers who will absolutely not go to court. They believe in working out decisions together, between the lawyer or lawyers if each has their own.
Even if the couple agrees to use one collaborative lawyer, it’s not cheap. Another option is to seek out a mediator, but often this is still not inexpensive.
So, hear me loudly and clearly: If there is any chance at all to stay together and work on the marriage, please take it! Find an experienced couples’ therapist and do the work!
9. It can soothe the pain of divorce for your children
Regardless of the kids’ ages, divorce is incredibly painful for them. Often the kids will feel that they will have to choose sides between the parents. Or that they will be forced to hear negative and hurtful rants by one or both parents about the other.
Kids often hear from their friends’ horrendous stories about their parents’ divorce.
They fear they will be forced to choose to live with one parent. How does a child do that, especially when it may involve separation from their siblings?
They worry they’ll have to change schools and lose their friends. Kids worry that something bad will happen to a parent because of the divorce.
Divorce teaches kids that divorce is likely to occur if they choose to marry one day, and couples’ counseling can help give you and your spouse the tools to guide your kids through a difficult time.
10. You’ll know that even if the marriage doesn’t work out, you did the best you could
Any way you look at it, without trying to save the marriage you will never know what could have happened if you attempted couples’ counseling.
A couples’ counselor can talk about the process with you, even when it is at a later stage in the marriage. They can explain what can happen in the marriage when each partner learns how to more fully understand the pain in their mate, and how to heal within the marriage.
Even if you try and your marriage still ends, you will each know you did the best you could to save it. No regrets!
Susan Saint-Welch, LMFT is a licensed marriage, individual and family psychotherapist practicing in Manhattan Beach and online anywhere in California. Susan also provides Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding life issues on her website Life and Relationships.com, as well as on YourTango.com and MSN.com.”
This article was originally published at Life and Relationships 101. Reprinted with permission from the author.