As a couples therapist for over a decade, I can tell you that my love for love used to drive everything I did with my clients.
I was so optimistic that I could help them, no matter how disconnected they were, no matter how nasty they were to one another, and even if they didn't do an ounce of work outside of our weekly sessions ...
“I COULD HELP THEM SAVE THEIR RELATIONSHIP!”
Except I couldn't. Not all the time. Not every couple. And I never wanted to talk about that.
You've heard the horror stories of your friends going to couples therapy and things going completely sideways.
They felt like it actually made the relationship even worse.
Or they just thought it was a waste of money to have someone sit across from them, nod, and ask "How does that make you feel?" (barf! I'd hate that, too!)
If this is you, you may want to check out the blog I wrote last month.
It may not be couples therapy that you need right now.
But when do you hear about couples therapy actually working?
It's not every day that people write/sing songs publicly professing how much they love their therapist, like Kristen Bell did. (Omg if you haven't watched/heard this check it out. Now. Seriously, it's hilarious. And come on back when you're done!)
So after a 10+ years of being this Epic LoveGeek, I've started to get real. Not only with myself in how I support my clients, but directly with my clients.
And I'd like to share with you, what most therapists won't tell you.
That there actually ARE things you can (and quite frankly, SHOULD) be doing, in order for couples therapy to actually work for you. And this is the stuff that couples therapist won't tell you... so take notes.
My top 5 tips for how to ensure couples therapy is a success*:
1. Deciding if it's time to start couples therapy:
Most couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. Think about this statistic for a minute. Couples have six years to build up resentment and contempt before they begin the important work of learning to resolve differences in effective ways. If you're unhappy, or confused, or stuck or just tired of having the same fight over + over, it's time to start couples therapy. On the flip side, what most couples therapists won't tell you is this: If you're completely exhausted, can't stand the sight of your partner and being in the room with them makes you want to punch something, couples therapy won't work. Not yet, anyway. Plain + simple. CLICK HERE to read my last blog on what to do instead. (You'll thank me)
2. Getting your partner to attend couples therapy:
Does this feel true for you: "My partner would NEVER agree to couples therapy!" Instead of asking your partner, "Hey, do you want to do couples therapy with me?" (because let's face it, no one WANTS to go to couples therapy) I encourage you to say some version of this:
"I've been feeling really disconnected + unhappy lately. I want to make this better for both of us and I just don't know how to do it on my own. Would you be willing to join me in couples therapy?" And stop talking. Let them complain, get defensive, maybe even blame you for the current state of affairs. You can even validate their concerns about price, making time for sessions, etc. "I know, it's going to suck, but I really want things to get better and I need help. Would you be willing to join me?" (rinse + repeat until you get a yes or no. If you get a no, go back up to Tip #1.)
3. Identifying if you or your partner are NOT ready for couples therapy:
Do you know why you want to go to therapy? Do you know what you hope to get out of therapy? Are you and your partner wanting to accomplish the same thing? Can you commit to meeting consistently until you met your goals? Have you budgeted for therapy? Then you're probably ready for couples therapy. YAY!
Are you confused as to what you'd even talk about in therapy? Do you know that you want out of the relationship while your partner wants to make it work? Are you actively having an affair and aren't ready to end it? Do you get physically violent with partner? Are you struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other mental health diagnosis without being treated by a professional? Then you're probably NOT ready for couples therapy. These can all be addressed in individual therapy first.
4. Using couples therapy to ask for a separation or divorce: Is this allowed?
Hell yes it is. If you know that you're not willing to do any (more) work to revive the relationship, for any reason at all, and you want to use couples therapy to ask for a divorce: Go for it!
Be open and honest with the therapist if they offer a phone consultation before meeting, so they can let you know if that's something they support couples with. And if not, move on and find a therapist who does. You don't want to purposefully keep it from a therapist in the case that they are not comfortable or competent in helping couples to split up - it could make for quite an awkward and possibly even emotionally damaging therapy session for everyone.
5. Feeling angry that there's not been any/enough progress. What the f*ck do I do now?:
Therapy sucks. Ok, maybe therapy itself doesn't suck (all the time) but the reasons why you're there, the pain + frustration you're likely feeling and the sense of "will this really ever get any better or should I just bail?" is what sucks. Here's what your therapist isn't telling you: THEY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR FIXING YOU OR YOUR RELATIONSHIP. You are not paying your therapist to fix you. If you're feeling stuck, like things are going too slow or that therapy isn't helping then you must advocate for yourself. Tell your therapist + get curious about what YOU could be doing different before you consider the support to be faulty.
My therapist suggests weekly sessions: Is this really necessary? It's so expensive!
You're right. Therapy can be expensive. But so is divorce. I know it sounds cliche but it's the truth. And either way, you're suffering. So you might as well suffer with a possibility of a renewed sense of connection + repaired relationship before you suffer (emotionally + financially) to dissolve a relationship that turns out to be unrepairable. Just like any goal you set out to achieve: being able to run a 5k in under 30 minutes or being able to speak a new language, etc. you've got to commit to consistent practice to get good. You’ve got to show up, consistently, without taking too much time off from doing the work to get good. Therapy is no different. And most good couples therapists will require weekly sessions. What I tell my clients is that as delightful as they sound when we talk on the phone for the first time, I don’t wan to see them forever. MY goal is to help them get to a place where they don’t NEED me … they simply need to remember how to do what their relationship needs to thrive.
If you're ready for this support, click the button below + let's talk.
Let me guide you to a place of replenishment. Let me be your coach, your mentor, your guide.
*Disclaimer: Couples therapy does not work for everyone. Especially if you don't follow all the suggestions above. And even when you do follow them all, it still may not work. Attempt at your own risk.