When it comes to even the thought of couples therapy, people often cringe. "We're not that kind of couple, we're not like those people who need therapy to work out their issues." Unfortunately, the idea of using a professional to help encourage communication and deal with issues between two individuals in a relationship is frightening to some. However, it can be a great tool that — regardless of stigma and stereotype — is even for healthy, balanced couples.
That's right, folks: therapy for the entwined can actually work wonders. In fact, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Life Purpose Coach Teresa Maples says that couples should actually "seek counseling at the beginning of their relationship or before," as it's important to work out problems between each other "before developing ingrained patterns of behavior with another person."
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Basically, prevent an issue from developing into a serious problem. It's the same deal as, say, letting a stain set — if you start working on it right away, you have a chance of getting rid of it. If you let it sit for ages and ignore it, by the time you realize it's impossible to ignore, the stain will be totally stuck in your shirt.
So what should a typical couples therapy session be like? Maples says they should last between 50 and 90 minutes, giving pairs a chance to discuss any issues necessary that week. The most common issues, she says, are ones that involve "physical and emotional intimacy issues, all forms of addiction, money, family conflict and parenting issues." Again, when it comes to such serious topics, it's incredibly important to start working out the troubles as quickly as possible.
When I was young and met my partner, I was dealing with a lot of emotional trauma issues. I was unhappy with myself, afraid of the world and incredibly conflicted about sexual and romantic intimacy. Instead of running away or ignoring the issues, he accepted that these were part of me. Not only did he seek out a psychologist who could give him more insight into my problems, he also went with me to a couple sessions with my own therapist. She was a specialist in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (my primary issue), and was much better equipped to intellectually and rationally discuss with my partner the issues I was having with him.
While he and I were already a pretty great couple together, this simple act made me trust him so deeply. Despite having major commitment and intimacy issues, I was able to see that he truly cared for me and wanted to accept everything about me — and we became closer as a result.
If your partner or you, or both, are debating going to therapy, you should give it a try. Maples says that even if one person seems unwilling, the other should encourage him or her to go.
While it may seem awkward or uncomfortable at first, it can also develop your relationship, letting the two you grow together in a safe, communicative environment.
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Have you tried couples therapy? How did it affect your relationship?
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