This stuff really works!
So, you're wondering if couples therapy would help your relationship. There are many articles that discuss how sometimes couples counseling helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. There are several reasons therapy doesn't improve the situation — for example: Sometimes people don't want to work things out, or the therapist is not a good fit, or the relationship has been in trouble for far too long.
But more often than not, couples therapy can be extremely beneficial. Here are 7 important things therapy can teach you that will dramatically improve your relationship:
1. How to communicate in a way that brings you together
It may sound simple, but in fact, it really isn’t. Learning how to actually talk WITH your partner and not AT your partner is a wonderful thing. It’s the small tweaking of the language you use that will allow you to be heard that makes all the difference. I've seen many couples in which simply changing their tone of voice with each other has a great effect.
2. How to truly listen to each other
Have you ever realized your partner is talking but not understand the words? Do you nod your head or utter a noise that indicates you are listening, and then the other person says “So what did I say” and you have no idea? This is not listening.
Learning how to truly pay attention when your partner is talking seems so simple, yet it's a major issue pretty much every couple I've seen struggles with.
3. How to create and sustain intimacy
Intimacy is NOT just sex. Intimacy also includes cuddling, laughing together or sharing your feelings Imagine if you really could see into your partner's mind and heart (and they could see into yours). Good couple’s therapy can help you do this.
4. How to have a healthy sex life
The problem with sex is that people do not generally have wild-rip-your-clothes-off-or-porn-style sex on a regular basis. And the media makes us believe that if that is not happening then we are missing out. Therapy can help you get real about what's preventing you from having good sex. It can help you figure out if it is an emotional or physical issue (and if it is physical, you'll be advised to see your doctor or a sex therapist for specific treatment).
Differing libidos are a very common complaint in the therapy room. Therapy can teach you how to manage this in a way that does not degrade or belittle either partner, and gives you back a sense of sexual equality.
5. How to negotiate parenting differences
Many couples struggle when they have different parenting styles. As a result, they fight about who is wrong, who is right, who is too tough, why the other isn't tough enough, one parent does everything, the other parent does nothing. The list goes on.
Having an independent observer who has some training (a.k.a. your couples therapist) can help create a balance that honors both parenting styles. Again it is not about who is wrong or right (unless someone is putting the children at risk, of course); it is about teaching parents how to come up with an agreed plan of disciplinary action and showing parents how to manage different opinions in a respectful way.
6. How to balance power
I like to describe this as a dance. If one person is too pushy about a particular thing (whether it be cleaning the house, parenting rules, sex, or anything else) the other partner is going to pull back more and more. And can you blame them? No one likes to be told what to do.
By giving both people in the relationship permission to change the way they handle these situations, change can happen almost immediately. One pulls back, the other has the space to step up. Just like a dance.
7. Healing your relationship after an affair
An affair is usually a symptom of problems that already existed within the relationship. If someone has an affair it's because they aren't happy.
If the person is truly sorry, the affair and all contact with the other person has stopped, and the wounded partner can learn to forgive (with help), then a relationship can actually get stronger after the crisis. The couple can learn what went wrong and get to know each other on a much deeper level.
There are so many more areas that can be treated in couples therapy: past trauma’s playing out within the relationship, work stress getting in the way, injuries or illnesses. The secret to the process going well is to find a couples therapist who is right for you.
Having trouble in your relationship? Leanne Allen is a Psychologist and Life Coach at Reconnect Wellness Centre in Sydney, Aus. She can work with you in person or via Skype to restore your relationship and learn about yourself. Want to know more? Contact her at www.reconnect-psych.com.au