If like me, you were raised to believe that therapy meant something was wrong with you, you are not alone. I have come to learn by personal experience and witnessing others’ experiences that therapy can be both a path to transformation and a path to learning skills and tools to maintain healthy minds, emotions, and relationships over a lifetime.
Only broken couples go to therapy, right?
Take the stigma against individual therapy and multiply it by two, now you have couples therapy. The common, prevailing belief has been that if a couple goes to therapy then there is definitely, without a doubt, something wrong. How often, when you have heard that a couple was going to therapy, have you thought to yourself, “Wow, things must be going really great between them!” I’ll venture a guess that that number of times is never. Rather, your thought might be something like “Wow, they must breaking up” or “They must really be struggling.”
As a society, we encourage each other to do things for our bodies as preventative care such as workout, eat fruits and vegetables, and see our primary care doctors for annual check-ups. However, we are not often taught or encouraged to give our relationships that same loving, preventative care.
There are lots of reasons couples go to therapy
The truth is couples come to therapy for all kinds of reasons including pre-marital counseling, navigating through transitions such as moving in together, purchasing a home, becoming parents, and yes, to overcome betrayal and affairs. I’d like to make a case for more couples coming to therapy earlier in their relationship when they are still steeped in romance and they still like each other most of the time. The great collusion of romantic love is that it inevitably ends or lessens to a certain extent. Conflict is an inevitable part of committed, romantic relationships. If we know conflict is inevitable, then imagine working on a relationship when you still feel in love.
Don’t wait until things are bad!
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about 40 to 50% of married couples divorce in the United States. Imagine a world where all couples were encouraged to nurture their connection with couples therapy early and often throughout their relationship in order to prevent divorce. Relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman says, “couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help”. That’s an average of six years of unresolved conflict before couples seek to learn new ways to resolve differences and build connection.
The space between you is sacred.
The experience of therapy, especially couples therapy, can be powerful in the sense that “knowledge is power”: knowledge of yourself, knowledge of your partner or loved ones, and knowledge of the tools you can utilize to be the very best partner you can be. In an Imago Relationship therapist’s office, couples check in with each other on the big and small things, to share appreciations, and to deepen their listening and empathy for and with each other. The time between you becomes sacred time to deepen connection and prevent problems in the future. And couples therapy isn’t just for couples. You are in relationships with many people in your life whether they are your siblings, parents, close friends, or business partners. Imagine if we were taught to seek maintenance for all of our relationships in order to increase and strengthen connections.
Maybe you and your partner have something specific you want to work through, or maybe you just want to build tools together to more effectively resolve future conflict, or maybe you want to have more fun and romance in your relationship. Whatever your reason/s, take this as a reminder that things don’t have to be broken to seek couples therapy.