Because relationships are so fraught with emotion, couples therapy can be quite misunderstood. Expectations and perceptions are skewed. Not to mention, there’s all the stuff you’ve heard about it. Your co-worker hated couples therapy. Pop culture presents it in a very unrealistic way. All of this can add up to some unproductive sessions — or perhaps no sessions at all.
Couples counseling is a big responsibility. It requires as much focus and attention as your relationship itself. If you enter into therapy without commitment, you’ll sabotage an incredible opportunity to learn and grow. With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper on the subject.
Major Underlying, Unexplored Issues
If emotional obstacles exist and are being ignored, couples therapy will certainly not be able to set you on a better path. What kind of obstacles, you wonder? Here are few examples:
- Infidelity: One of you is having an affair and will not end it.
- Substance abuse: Any type of addiction can put your relationship at risk.
- Loss of hope: One of you is already set on leaving — regardless of what happens next.
- Abuse: If you’re experiencing physical or emotional abuse, your top priority is getting away from your partner.
It’s important to note that, in some cases, some of the above issues may eventually be healed. Even when a relationship is ending, there can be value in counseling to find closure. However, outside of these extremes, there are some less obvious reasons why couples therapy can be sabotaged before it even starts.
4 Reasons Why Couples Therapy Isn’t Working
1. You Need Individual Therapy First
One or both of you may have mental health problems of your own. These issues will impact your relationship. They will also impact any attempts you make to improve your relationships. Consider the possibility that individual therapy may be the more logical first step.
2. You’re Not Doing the Work
You go to the sessions and, well… that’s it. You don’t really contribute to the discussions. As for carry-over between sessions, it’s non-existent. Emotional changes take time and effort. You don’t get any points for showing up.
3. No Shared Agenda
No two people are ever going to be completely on the same wavelength. Still, there are examples where couples are miles apart when they arrive at counseling, e.g.
- As mentioned above, one might be already seeking a divorce
- Only one of you is doing the work
- You’re holding back while your partner is honestly sharing
You may not mean to do it but here are two huge, common ways this plays out:
- You started counseling to change your partner: Some people read out a laundry list of complaints and expect the counselor to agree that their partner must change. The only person you can change is yourself.
- You just want to tell your side of the story: Yes, of course, your perceptions and thoughts must be shared and validated. But the flip side of that coin is listening. The goal is not to convince the therapist that you’re “right.”
Finding the Right Counselor
There is also a distinct possibility that you and your partner have not yet found the therapist who feels right for you. You want someone who is:
- Experienced in your specific issues and needs
- Unbiased and makes you both feel comfortable and safe
- Makes both of you feel seen, heard, and validated
If you don’t feel these basic needs have been met, let’s connect. Let’s set up a free and confidential consultation. Couples therapy can be a powerful tool of recovery if all three participants are in synch. Let’s work together to make that happen.