It is normal for all couples to go through a rough patch from time to time, but sometimes sustained, persistent conflict arises that threatens the very existence of the relationship. If you and your partner find that you have unresolved issues or disputes that have reached a stalemate, couples counseling may be able to help.
How Does Couples Counseling Work?
According to the American Psychological Association, couples counseling is effective in 75 percent of cases, including in couples that have a high degree of stress:
- Infertile couples
- Parents of chronically ill children
- Military couples
- PTSD patients
However, it is important to qualify what it means to be “effective.” The effectiveness of couples counseling is measured in a reduction of relationship distress, i.e., complaints against the other partner. Whether or not the couple stays together is not necessarily a measure of effectiveness. The goal is to have a mutual understanding of the situation.
Couples counseling uses an approach called emotionally-focused therapy. With the help of your counselor, you will be able to identify the patterns of interaction in your relationship that are not working and make an effort to change them.
What Can You Do To Improve Your Chances of Success?
Your counselor is a guide and coach who can provide the tools to improve your communication with your partner and teach you how to use them. However, a counselor is not a mechanic performing repairs, and both you and your partner will need to put in effort to see results.
- Be Open to Change
Many people go into couples counseling hoping that the counselor will take their side and tell their partner to straighten up and change his or her ways. That is not what a counselor is supposed to do. Rather, a counselor is intended to be a neutral mediator listening to and making suggestions to both partners equally. You cannot modify your partner’s behavior, but you can modify your own. Going into counseling willing to make these adjustments is a giant first step.
- Be Willing To Listen and Share
Counseling is an opportunity for you and your partner to listen to one another in a safe environment. You may learn things about your partner that you never knew. Listen with understanding and openness, and don’t feel that you need to hold things back if you think they may be helpful to share. Communication is a two-way street.
- Be Compassionate
Your partner may share past emotional traumas or feelings of vulnerability in counseling. Having empathy for what he or she is going through is a critical part of the process.
It can be difficult to admit you need help, but many couples find it worthwhile to make the effort.