Although we’re often instilled the idea that once we find the right romantic partner for us, we will live happily ever after, the reality is that good relationships can take a lot of hard work. Even if we find the “soulmate”, the person who completes our sentences and clicks with us in every way, relationship challenges are simply inevitable. When they happen, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you no longer love each other or that breaking up is the only option. It means that you have to work together to overcome these difficulties, express your emotions in a constructive and considerate way, and decide what you want to do moving forward. Couples therapy can help you with that.
One of the biggest myths about couples therapy is that you should only try it as a last resort – when you’re already on the brink of divorce, and nothing has worked. But couples therapy works best when it is done when problems are still minor. Talking to your partner about scheduling a couples therapy session should not be considered a red flag; it means that you’ve identified a problem and that you want to solve it before it escalates, under the guidance of a qualified professional.
The challenges that couples struggle with are quite similar all over the world. However, the degree to which those challenges affect them greatly depends on relationship dynamics and each partner’s personality, background, and values. That is why reading about how to overcome conflict and following friends’ advice can only take you so far. To truly get to the root of the issue and find a long-term solution, you need professional guidance, someone who understands each of you separately and creates a safe, judgement-free zone where you can both actively participate.
A couples therapist can help you with these common relationship problems, and more:
Studies have shown that money problems are the most common cause of arguments for relationships ending in the UK. A therapist can help when one of the partners feels that the other one does not try to contribute enough financially and prevent this frustration from turning into resentment.
Sometimes, one of the partners cannot properly communicate what they want in the relationship or what bothers them, which leads to arguments or misunderstandings. A therapist will help you express those feelings openly so that both partners understand each other’s perspectives.
When one of the partners cheats on the other, the relationship reaches a critical stage. Although getting back together may not always be possible, a therapist will help you understand why one of the partners was unfaithful and explore possible solutions.
If one partner wants to get married and have children, while the other wants to move to another city to pursue their career goals, arguments may arise. Therapy is important for setting aside differences and working out a win-win solution.
Especially during lockdown, many partners have felt frustrated by the weight of parenting responsibilities, and the increased stress levels led to resentment, conflict, and an unhealthy environment for the child. Therapy can help both partners split their duties equitably and be mindful of each other’s limits.
Lack of intimacy is especially common with partners that have been together for a long time or who have many children and a busy life. If you feel that lately you have been more like roommates rather than romantic partners, a therapist can help you rekindle that “spark” and strengthen your relationship’s foundation.
Conflicts are normal in a relationship, and it’s not the purpose of therapy to avoid them entirely. However, when conflicts happen all the time, and they involve shouting, name-calling, or hurtful remarks, they can become toxic. A therapist will help you navigate conflict in a healthy way that facilitates problem-solving.
A miscarriage, the loss of a loved one, being a victim of abuse, and other traumatic life events can take a heavy toll on relationships. A couples counsellor can help both partners process what has happened and how it has affected them and work out a way to heal together.
Anyone, really. Regardless of your age or the stage of your relationship, therapy can help. Whether you’ve been dating for three months or married for 25 years, whether you’re the same age or there’s a large age gap between you, whether you’re in a straight relationship or a same-sex one, counselling can be an effective way to address conflicts and boost your intimacy.
During the first sessions, the therapist will gain insight both into your emotional background and your relationship dynamics. To do this, they will ask some basic questions, including what your goals are, and establish a schedule and treatment plan based on that. Since this therapy format focuses on the couple as a unit, both partners will have the opportunity to participate, while the therapist will act as a mediator.
They will also use various strategies to change harmful behaviours and toxic relationship patterns, while at the same time teaching you how to express your emotions in a mindful and constructive way, without attacking the other person. Your therapist may also give you “homework”, special activities or games that will help you put into practice what you have learned in therapy and discover new things about each other.
In order for therapy to work (and for you to achieve your goals), it’s important to keep an open mind and be as transparent as possible. Therapy may feel scary, especially in the beginning, because you will have to explore uncomfortable feelings and learn to be vulnerable, but, ultimately, you have to remember what brought you there. It’s also important to keep in mind that the therapist cannot solve all your problems for you; they are there to guide you, but you have to meet them halfway and have a proactive attitude.
Many people want to know how long couples therapy lasts, how many sessions they’ll have to attend before things get better, but that depends on many factors, such as the issues you are facing, for how long you’ve faced them, and how well you respond to therapy. If you talk to a couples counsellor when misunderstandings are minor, then you may not need more than six or eight sessions, but if your relationship is in a critical stage, then you may need over thirty sessions.