Many couples who seek couples counseling have needed guidance in how to work together on their finances, sexual issues, growing apart, loss of affection, or reconciling with one (or both) of the partners being unfaithful. Couples also choose counseling to strengthen their relationship and draw closer together. Sharing your life with someone isn’t always easy, and there are certainly challenges that come with any relationship even if you are well-matched as a couple. If they’re honest with you, most couples have encountered rough patches in their marriage or relationship, and how they resolved their issues contributed heavily to their future success together.
Going to couples counseling and therapy can be a good place to start with any long-term relationship especially before there are any problems. It helps establish healthy relationship patterns that you will hopefully return to when you go through a more challenging issue together. Having a baseline to work from will give your counselor or therapist a good frame of reference to use when working with you. Couples who participate in premarital counseling are better equipped and less likely to divorce making it a worthwhile investment in their future lives together.
Some couples worry that relationship counseling will lead to their therapist encouraging separation. Your counselor will not try to recommend splitting up or divorce, because counseling is meant to promote healing and reconciliation. The role of your counselor is to help you resolve struggles in your relationship by teaching you to communicate better with each other, handle your differences, and manage your relationship issues together.
What To Expect When You Start Couples Counseling
When you start couples or marriage counseling, you should expect that the process will require multiple sessions. Plan to commit together with your partner to finish each session and talk with your counselor about how many you will need. Typically, counseling will take between 8-12 sessions, but factors such as substance abuse or mental health issues such as depression may require more time. To get the most out of your sessions, be honest and vulnerable. Sometimes it takes time to feel comfortable opening up with your counselor, so be patient with yourself and trust the process. Taking the step to seek help is a good sign that you are willing to invest in your relationship.
What Do You Want To Get Out of Couples Counseling?
Setting goals for your relationship and your counseling sessions are a crucial part of the process. If you aren’t sure where to begin, having these conversations together with your counselor is a good place to get started. Working together on this will help you and your partner establish better connectedness and positive interactions. You and your partner or spouse may have contrasting goals going into counseling because you have differing perspectives. Perhaps you still think your relationship is worth fighting for, but your spouse or partner isn’t convinced.
Despite this, it doesn’t mean that your relationship can’t be saved. Many couples have successfully used counseling as a way forward together achieving healing and an improved relationship. Whatever your goals are as a couple, your counselor or therapist can help you find a plan that fits your relationship needs encouraging restoration and a positive outlook regardless of the outcome.
Reach Out When You're Ready.
How To Prepare for Your First Couples Counseling Session
There are several ways to prepare emotionally for your first counseling session. You should make certain that both you and your spouse or partner are open to and invested in the sessions. If one of you is reluctant, you should listen to their concerns and address these before attending your counseling sessions together.
Discuss your shared goals for counseling together. Questions to go over as a couple include discussing communication and conflict styles, intimacy issues, or whatever else might be bothering you. It can be anything that’s hindering you and your spouse or partner from connecting. Once you know what you want out of counseling, it can be easier to find a professional counselor who’s equipped to help you meet your goals. All counselors are different, so make sure you find one whose approach and style are a good match for both of you.
It’s ok to be nervous! Unknowns can cause anxiety in some people, and these feelings are natural especially if you’ve never experienced counseling or therapy. Being vulnerable and opening up about challenges you are facing in your relationship is essential to a successful counseling experience. In your first sessions, the tendency is to withhold information because the counselor still needs to earn your trust. Allow yourself to have a conversation with your counselor about any insecurities, embarrassment, and hurt you’ve been dealing with in your relationship without fear of judgment. Your counselor will be compassionate and have your best interests at heart.
It can take time to build trust and become comfortable sharing, but the best approach is to keep an open mind and be transparent with yourself, your partner or spouse, and your counselor. As you continue to build trust, you will achieve better outcomes in your sessions. Strengthening your relationship will take time. Couples and marriage counseling is not an overnight solution, but it can be a much more sustainable approach to help you long term since you will walk away at the end of your sessions with a better perspective and actual tools to use in your relationship that will aid in bringing you closer together with your partner or spouse.
Are Marriage and Couples Counseling Effective?
It takes some effort and hard work to go through marriage and couples counseling with your spouse or partner and there can’t be any way of guaranteeing that it will work to keep you together. It is a wise investment, however, and a good way to see if you can move forward together. If you and your partner are committed to the process and interested in resolving the issues in your relationship you have a good chance at success in couples counseling.
Reach Out When You’re Ready to Talk.
Jim Brillon is an LGBTQ-Affirmative Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Costa Mesa and Los Alamitos, with experience in couples counseling, marriage counseling, and pre-marital counseling. Wherever you’re at in your relationship (even if you believe you are beyond help), healing is possible. Take the first step today and give me a call.