As a therapist, I get to see many relationship miracles happen in therapy…
Well, okay, there are no miracles really. The fact is that “fixing” a relationship takes work. Hard work. It takes two people wanting it to work, getting help, changing their behaviours and then putting in an effort.
Having said that, I have seen many couples go from being on the precipice of divorce to rekindling their love, and developing a new sense of respect and admiration for each other — from resenting to actually liking each other again!
Couples therapy can really be a powerful agent of change in peoples lives, there is no doubt about it. But why do some couples make it while others simply don’t? The couples I have seen recover successfully from a myriad of marital problems/issues usually have certain things in common.
Here are some ways you and your partner can get the most out of couples therapy and set yourselves up for success.
Commitment and drive
Many couples view therapy as a place to make a last-ditch, “Hail Mary” effort, which really makes it all the more important to go all-in and commit to the process entirely. And even if therapy is your first attempt to salvage the relationship, it’s important that both parties give it their time, effort and energy.
This also means that even if nothing else has worked, and even if sometimes it feels hopeless, you still try to leave negativity, past arguments, defensiveness, criticism, contempt, or stonewalling at the door. These negative things are what caused the problem in the first place.
Be Optimistically Open Minded
It’s common to be cynical or doubtful of the therapy process if you have no experience with it. It’s also common to feel sceptical that your particular problems or issues are just way too big to be overcome in counselling. While there are no guarantees or warranties in life, my professional experience has shown me that a great number of relationship problems are solvable. But if you believe that they aren’t, you’re setting yourself up for failure right at the outset.
Real change requires an optimistic open mind
Do Your Homework!
Most people don’t spend tuition money and time on college or university to NOT do any of your homework. The absolute same goes for homework in couples therapy!
During most sessions, your therapist will help facilitate respectful and effective communication and give you some tools to get the same results at home. But it is really up to YOU to actually USE these tools at home!
Your relationship will not be “fixed” every Wednesday from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, it will be fixed from the work you both do on your own time at home and out in the world. The point of therapy is to learn how to navigate obstacles and conflict as they arise in everyday life outside of the therapist’s office — to make the relationship work you have to be aware and present all the time. Make fixing your relationship a priority all the time, not just at therapy. Like tuition, therapy isn’t cheap! Spend wisely and make it worth your time and money! Do Your Homework!
What is your role?
You are totally responsible for 100% of your 50% in the relationship. What are you doing that isn’t working? Taking responsibility for your role in why things aren’t working is crucial to success. It really takes two to tango! Are you really present and available to your partner? Are you really in it to win it? Do you really want to be in the relationship and are you willing to really and truly look at yourself and what the things are you doing that aren’t productive or positive in the relationship?
Couples therapy is a wonderful resource that helps many couples overcome all kinds of difficulties. If you’re really willing to commit to being a part of the process and responsible for your own actions, have an optimistic and open mind, and do the homework, you and your partner have an excellent chance of creating a robust and respectful relationship.
And did I mention, Do your homework! 😀