How therapy can support your relationship
Seeing a couple's therapist can feel like a drastic measure in a relationship. But it doesn’t have to be. Couples therapy can be a way to save a relationship that’s on the rocks, but it can also strengthen a relationship that’s already going strong.
Couples therapy can be beneficial for any romantic relationship, including:
- Couples who have recently gotten together
- Couples who have been together for years (or decades) and want to strengthen or reignite the passion in their relationship
- Couples navigating long-standing issues in their relationship
- Couples who want to find new ways to enjoy their time together
Counseling can be helpful regardless of age, sexual orientation, marital status, race, or gender.
When to see a couples therapist?
- Physical intimacy problems
- Navigating a stressful period
- Preparing to get married
- Help seeing eye to eye on finances
- Getting ready to have a child
- Blending a family
- Splitting up amicably
- Considering polyamory or other non-monogamous relationships
This is by no means an exhaustive list. While some couples seek therapy to patch up problems in their relationship, other couples see therapy as a periodic check-in or “tune-up.” Your relationship doesn’t have to be on the verge of ending or in the middle of major upheaval to benefit from therapy.
How does couples therapy help?
Everyone deserves the mental health care they need, but it’s important to consider what you can afford to pay out-of-pocket for your services. Even if you have insurance, you’ll generally still have to pay copays for medications and appointments.
Being realistic about your budget can help inform your decisions about what psychiatrist to see and what medications they’ll prescribe you. You can specifically look for a sliding-scale psychiatrist if you're worried about the budget. If that’s possible, it’s best to identify that need early in the process.
Getting to the root of the problem
In a joint session, think of your therapist as the mediator. If your relationship has a dynamic where you never fight, or you avoid dealing with your problems or find yourselves having the same arguments without making progress, therapy can be a safe space to tackle difficult topics.
Support and structure developing relationship goals and a timeline
Much time spent in a relationship consists of setting goals together, whether concrete goals like buying a house, getting married, and having children, or more abstract goals like cultivating your relationship and understanding each other better.
Learn new skills to improve the relationship
Sometimes couples go through stressful periods where their regular coping skills no longer work. Other times, couples start to grow apart and need help reconnecting. A therapist can help each person learn new skills to keep the relationship strong and healthy. These include:
- Disagreeing effectively
- Being patient with your partner
- Forgiving past hurts
- Cultivating empathy and selflessness
- Managing stressful situations together
Your therapist might also recommend that one or both members of the couple start solo therapy sessions. These can help tackle issues that might arise in couples therapy, but that is specific to one person in the couple. Maybe one person needs one-on-one time to deal with trust issues or past trauma. If the therapist recommends this, be sure not to point fingers.
Try to think of couples therapy not as a punishment for relationship woes but as an opportunity to strengthen your bond.