In recent years, the overall perception of therapy has become more widely accepted as a form of self-care and mental health maintenance. Unfortunately, the idea of couples therapy continues to stay reserved for those relationships in serious trouble. Dr. John Gottman’s research shows, that the average couple waits six years before seeking help with their relationship problems. However, couples who can seem to separate themselves from the societal chatter, are starting to open themselves up to a deeper connection with their significant others. A proactive approach to couples therapy can help ensure that couples are on the same page now and can continue to be throughout the years of their future together. Couples often are so caught up in the stressors of everyday life, kids, work, in-laws, you name it, that they don’t even recognize their destructive patterns becoming ongoing second nature. While some may believe couples therapy feels like a last resort before a divorce, the truth is, that couples should always be seeking out new ways to emotionally connect through practice in communication and vulnerability.
The foundational goals of couples therapy are to disarm conflicting verbal communication and increase intimacy, respect, and affection. With the help of a trusted therapist, partners can remove barriers that may be creating a feeling of stagnancy and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding for one another. The goal of preemptively seeking couples therapy before feeling like we have hit rock bottom with our partners is to practice introduced exercises both inside and outside of the therapy room. This can set a solid foundation for reinforcing the skills learned in therapy through consistency and mindful attention and prevent the ease of moving right back into old undesirable patterns.
Couples who seek out couples counseling often experience a significant reduction of distress and are more easily able to find a resolution of specific ongoing relationship problems in hopes of experiencing a stronger relationship bond overall. Prevention over intervention has the capacity to move couples from doubting their longevity with their partners to recommitting to it in new ways through the lens of a different relationship with one another.
Similarly to other forms of therapy that provide us the opportunity to hold a mirror up to ourselves, oftentimes, our partners in these moments provide a whole new illumination of self-accountability, which can cause some feelings of discomfort. The common reluctance to begin couples therapy is met by a societal stigma leading to potential feelings of shame regardless of the commonality of these problems most couples face. Because of this, couples often avoid learning how to really talk about these issues and instead resort to conflict avoidance as they push off these problems which eventually worsen years down the line. It is at this point, that these problems feel much larger than they need to be without the proper tools and practice to work through them effectively together.
When choosing to first engage in couples counseling, difficulties between the partners may feel temporarily amplified, but, with a good faith effort from both partners to meet each other with trust and honesty, the partners will often find themselves motivated to want to keep engaging in this process. Each individual’s willingness to introspect and take accountability for their role within the relationship will illuminate new patterns with the potential for positive change and relief.
Sometimes, therapy may feel harder before it feels easier, but the relief comes with patience, trusting the process, and learning to turn inwards toward your partner instead of our knee-jerk reaction to turn away in times of difficulty. The more and more couples start to seek out therapy earlier in their relationship making this the norm, the more the stigma can dissipate slowly over time, creating additional space for shared love and emotional closeness.
Monica Cazes is a provider in the greater New Orleans area, working with clients of all kinds and ensuring ethical and empathetic services for couples. Monica offers marriage counseling, premarital counseling, and relationship therapy inclusive of trauma-informed practices, addiction recovery therapy for spouses/family members and comfortable access for those in LGBTQ+ communities. Learn more at https://www.fullcirclecounselingla.com/