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Did You Know You Should Consider Couples Therapy?

Steven Losardo, AMFT

The issues you have with your partner are the daily elephant in the room. You are both aware of them and realize you need some help as they are not going away. While you have heard about couple therapy or couples counseling, you have not taken it under consideration when there is an issue in your relationship. You have listened to the common reasons couples seek therapy, and they do not seem to line up with your relationship. Additionally, your view of treatment comes with a lack of trust and a negative stigma. If you read no further, hear this: depending on the data you may find, you have about a 50% chance of divorce the day you marry. Even that new car you just bought does not depreciate that much the day you drive it off the lot! Unlike a car, you can decrease risk if you choose.

In this blog, I will explore some reasons that may make couple therapy essential for you.

The blog will focus on married couples or couples in preparation for a marital commitment. Although mentioned above, the blog will not seek to discuss how to navigate what might cause you to view therapy as unhelpful due to trust or negative stigma issues. I hope to cover that in another blog or one of our audio blogs on the app SoundCloud. 

Consideration One:  “I am not in love anymore:” The Soap Opera Syndrome

Suppose you have thought that you are not in love anymore as there is no passion, enthusiasm, or romance. These ideas make it especially hard for you as the loneliness has set in a bit and your motivation to work on the relationship is not very high. At this moment, you have not shared your experience with anyone and are hoping it will pass. If you think you are falling “out of love,” couple therapy can help. Psychoeducation highlights that this is a soft issue for couples and many people resolve it in couple therapy. Meanwhile, not addressing the dilemma is problematic, notably when a couple lacks commitment, patience with their marital issues and can seldom work through their challenges. 

Often a couple “falling out” of love is experiencing a shift in the relationship’s intimacy. This occurrence is normal for a relationship.  Using therapy will allow you to unearth the cause as you develop communication skills. It is an opportunity to learn how each partner defines love, intimacy, passion, and experience romance. It may be that you are not lining up with the same shared meaning and need to reset. It is not uncommon that this was never a topic of discussion because communication skills were lacking. A couple therapist can serve as your guide during this time. 

Another common example is when a couple is intensely connected when first meeting. The couple “was always together and madly in love.” Indeed, they have found the love of their life. “THE ONE” that they have always sought, and they move to the marriage. Eventually, the reality all couples face has become familiar. You are two distinct people that need to differentiate or have a balance between self and couple in the relationship. Both may lose the sense of self in the relationship.

When losing oneself to a relationship, at some point, a part of you will begin to look for a way out as you are two separate people after all (Dougherty, 2021). If not careful, you may use an emotional detachment. This approach “is a way to kind of cover oneself from the fusion in the relationship” or find what you lost as you burn out at a high level of intensity (Dougherty, 2021). If you recognize you are here, couple therapy can help you process and avoid losing sight of the person in front of you. Most often, they are still “The One.”

Caution: If you are working through this dilemma on your own in individual therapy, be careful here. You may be increasing divorce risk in individual treatment as this is a relationship problem.

Consideration two:  Premarital counseling: Is A REQUIREMENT

In a previous blog, data highlights that 59% of U.S. couples cohabitate. Many utilize the living arrangement as a form of “free” premarital therapy. The data also suggests this is approach is not nearly enough. A couple needs a path to understand pre-commitment, evaluate finances, and “test” the relationship’s health. The process will foster better relationship quality, communication skills, compromise, accepting influence, and planning future developments. Premarital education helps guide this process and catch blind spots.

Premarital counseling also assists by navigating how to improve work and personal life balance in relationships, sharing meaning and sex. The education may also help partners from lapsing into unhealthy cohabitation decisions leading to marriage. Perhaps most importantly, the therapy allows you time to discuss the issues with an independent party and make wise relational decisions about marriage (Lebow, 2008). 

Consideration Three:  Know the path to divorce

While there are many, what is your path to divorce? Below are a few examples.

In case you did not know, divorce is prevalent. Divorce is also so very painful to the family, friends, and community systems. Although the rate of occurrence is going down, this is not because of better relationships. Instead, it is because people want to avoid a divorce. As a result, fewer couples are getting to the alter. There are some common predictors you should be familiar with and be proactive about to guard your marriage. There are behaviors such as contempt, belligerence, and stonewalling you need to consider and review (Gottman, 2017). This solution is a better option than merely avoiding marriage altogether due to a fear of divorce and its costs. There are other reasons as well. 

There are soft reasons such as “falling out” of love, not paying enough attention to each other, and financial disagreements. Hard causes such as affairs, abuse, and addiction are prevalent. Are you aware they are in your relationship? There is also divorce ideation, which is expected as well (Olson et al., 2008). While it is typically not an indicator of divorce when discussing this, less than 20% of couples discuss the topic (Crabtree & Harris 2020). Keeping the topic private and isolated causes depreciating thoughts that can bring a relationship to its end (Dougherty, 2021). This process is especially true when one’s beliefs about divorce begin to sound like “it’s too late even if my spouse were to make changes.” In all these cases, therapy can be of value.

Finally, while there is no guarantee therapy helps the couple, not even the couple knows what is possible until they get to work. If you use therapy and this relationship does not work out, it is still beneficial individually. You will walk away understanding your contributions to the problems and the areas of change you need to make (Dougherty, 2021).  The therapy can serve as a gut check to see how you navigate conflict and ensure you bring your whole self to relationships. As you learn about yourself in this relationship, you become aware of your issues that may need attention. Working through the problems will be a need in all present and future relationships. If not, they will repeat in this relationship or the next. 

References

Crabtree, S. A., & Harris, S. M. (2020). The lived experience of ambiguous marital separation: A

phenomenological study. Journal of marital and family therapy, 46(3), 385-398.

Dougherty, W. (2021). Discernment Counseling. Retrieved from Anger is Toxic. Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j on February 3, 2021.

Gottman, J.  (2017). Level 1 Clinical training manual: Gottman method couple

therapy. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.

Lebow, J. (2008). Separation and divorce issues in couple therapy. Clinical handbook of couple

therapy, 4, 459-477.

Olson, D., Olson-Sigg, A., & Larson, P. J. (2008). The couple checkup: Find your relationship

strengths. Thomas Nelson.

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