Every year, countless frustrated partners wonder how things got this way. Maybe that’s you, or someone you love, but chances are you know someone who really should be seeking help. At least they should be if they are going to stay in their current relationship. So what keeps people from going?
Although finances or lack of a counseling benefit within an insurance plan can keep people from seeking help, most never get that far. If we fear that telling our partner will cause them to fly into an unreasonable fit, why risk it? If we don’t even think a therapist can help, what’s the point? Besides, haven’t we failed if we can’t make it on our own? Many times there are very important points, the success of your relationships is most certainly worth the risk, and no, you haven’t failed.
People fear bringing up the idea of counseling to their significant other for a number of reasons. A properly trained therapist can guide you through these uncertainties. Do you have trouble being assertive about your own needs? Most importantly, if you are more afraid of your partner’s unreasonable response than your own uncertainties, it is time to seek help. You should never feel like you can’t share what’s hurting you in the relationship. Generally, the difficult partner is acting out because they are afraid the game is up. They feel the relationship is fair – everything’s fine. What are you talking about? …If your attempts to communicate are met with indifference or hostility it is time to seek help. Couples will often wait several years before seeking help on simply the hope that the other one will change. This does not happen on its own.
But doesn’t going to therapy mean we failed? Too many couples bail on their relationships or end their marriages because they feel they have given all they can give. While it is true each person may have done everything they can think of, a counselor is trained to specifically help couples when there seems to be no hope. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I have seen couples at every stage of their relationship. I have seen many who have no intention of ever getting married, others after one of them has filed for divorce, and still others after the divorce was final. I have even counseled couples during the struggles of their second marriage – to each other – and in at least one case, on the morning of their wedding day! Not every couple makes it to the “happily ever after”, but if your counselor is open with you, you can be assured that you will learn valuable lessons at the very least. You can take these with you so that you don’t reinvent the same problem the next time around.
Do I actually need a counselor? There are a number of advantages to seeking a professional. For one, they are trained to help couples deal with the problems they are struggling with. Although everyone’s struggle is a little bit different, remember that a seasoned professional will have experience working with issues similar to yours and they keep up with new research. Finally, a professional has what I call the third-party-advantage. Unlike friends and family who may be inclined to give you the answer they feel you may be expecting from them, a therapist can be more objective. They can help you and your partner see each others’ hard work and effort since people who are hurting don’t always see these changes early on. In fact, because of this, the very person you are trying to grow closer to can undermine your efforts without knowing it. A therapist can shape this into giving your relationship a fighting chance.