Are you unable to communicate with your partner?
Have there been frequent fights lately?
Feel like something is missing?
Confused whether to hold on or move on?
A lot of couples tend to seek therapy as a final resort or a last ditch attempt when nothing else seems to be working for them. According to a research by Gottman Institute, couples tend to wait a minimum of 6 years of being dissatisfied before they decide to seek help.
It is a commonly held belief that love is enough to conquer all adversities in a relationship. Love is a core requirement for a healthy relationship but it cannot solely hold the relationship up.
We can love a person and still draw apart due to time, different priorities, loss of job, loved one, financial crisis, distance, emotional maturity, changing needs etc.
Sometimes we can love a person and still be toxic for them due to our past experiences, unresolved insecurities, distorted patterns of thinking, ideas of relationship, anger issues, controlling behavior.
For healthy relationships we need to learn skills of open communication & conflict resolution which we are not taught about and mostly learn through hit and trial while in relationships which can be an uphill task alone and one may face multiple challenges traversing the journey of a relationship.
Couples can feel apprehensive about initiating therapy as it would mean acknowledging the challenges that their relationship is undergoing., some are not able to identify where things might be going south for them and end up shoving the problems under the carpet till a significant event- breakdown in communication, decision to separate, cheating or violence doesn’t occur.
It is normal to have a few bumps in your romantic relationship but are you hitting the rock
We might have read a lot regarding how couple counseling can help, at the same time it is not only a savior when you are hitting rock bottom but it is an opportunity to enhance your relationship at any stage of it.
Let us understand in-depth do’s and don’t while looking for a couple session.
Make Therapy a choice - Autonomy is an individual’s right to self-determination and making his/her own choices and once you make a choice it naturally comes with commitment. It probably means you are committed to working through your relationship. Therefore, step into therapy when it is your choice of commitment.
Take accountability rather than being defensive - Most of the time we can enter couple therapy with the idea of changing our partner, and in that process, we become either ignorant and defensive of our contribution. Any relationship is a partnership of two people and therefore relationship requires equality on both ends to function well. We need to take accountability for our responses and behavior that can result in change, a change that benefits equally to both partners.
Be consistent with session - Therapy is a process, and therefore we need to be consistent with the sessions and also the assignment, insights, and homework’s which are planned by your therapist keeping in the mind the goals that are mutually decided.
Open communication - In a couple therapy open communication and transparency are a must. We go by “WE” including the partners and therapist where your therapist is not a referee in your relationship but a facilitator and a navigator who helps you navigate an adaptive path that is doable and workable. In this process, open communication regarding your emotions and what works and what is not working becomes an important discussion to find an adaptive path!
Rush into Therapy - As couple therapy is a process, we might need to understand that our therapist cannot solve all concerns in one go. Allow some time for your relationship with your therapist to work for the mutually set goal.
Consider your therapist to take sides - The therapist would not take sides but would work on your relationship. The therapist will be non-bias and would facilitate working towards a common goal.
Expect the therapist or from your partner to do all the work - The effectiveness of couple therapy lies in collaboration where the therapist and partners take responsibility for their motivation. It is unfair to expect that the therapy would work like magic that will make the problems disappear. Therapy will help you to learn, adapt and move through the process.
Expect the therapist to be perfect -
Therapists are not God but only humans like you! What you can expect from your therapist is
to be -non-bias and work towards relationship betterment if there is mutual motivation and
consent for the same. If you feel your therapist is not a right fit for you and as a couple you
are not able to see changes, share your honest and open feedback to reach a common
In the words of Abhijit Naskar, “Compatibility doesn't determine the fate of a marriage, how you deal with the incompatibilities, does.”
Therefore, couples counseling will aim for you to deal with the relationship incompatibilities, not towards a perfect relationship!
Causes of Relationship Challenges
Majority of couple concerns fall under the following categories:
Personality Clashes - Be it introvert vs. extrovert, spendthrift vs. saver, differences in religious beliefs, core values etc, fundamental individual differences can often turn into recurring conflicts.
Communication Patterns - Criticism, verbal abuse, harsh, demeaning words or breakdown in communication can be corrosive to a romantic bond.
Love language - Each individual expresses and experiences love in their own unique ways. A mismatch in love language can leave either or both partners feeling uncared for and neglected.
Cheating - A betrayal and breach of trust can damage the relationship extensively, however instead of letting it be the end of the relationship, therapy can help using this experience to give the bond a new leash on life
Behavioural Issues - Anger outbursts, emotional volatility, smoking, porn, gambling, mastubation tend to snowball into bigger concerns if left unresolved and begin to strain the relationship.
Past Baggage - When personal experiences have not been unpacked and worked on, it seeps into the couple dynamics which therapy can help unravel and explore
Sexual Incompatibility - Differences in libido, frequency of sexual activity, lack of sexual urges, low interest, varying sexual needs can lead to unmet needs leaving partners feeling undesired and disconnected.
Conflict Resolution - Inability to convey concerns, shutting down or aggressively attacking partner while bringing up a conflict leads to more emotional damage to a bond leading to build up of resentment and bitterness towards partner.
Trauma - External events like loss of a loved one - parent or child, accidents, major injury, financial ruin or internal events like physical, sexual abuse within relationship can suck the life out of a relationship leaving two estranged people in its wake.
Social Media - Believe it or not most couples prefer cradling their phones rather than spending quality time with each other which is bound to bring emotional distance and loneliness within a relationship.
Couple Counseling Session Structure
Counselor might take individual sessions with both partners to understand their perspective and then proceed with a joint couple session to integrate that information to help the couple understand how it shapes their couple dynamics and resolve their challenges.
Individual sessions are conducted to understand the partners separately and their take on the relationship, their partners, concerns, origin, triggers, maintaining factors, past relationship history, patterns in relationships are identified and discussed in detail.
Couple therapy is conducted via telephone or video call sessions only at BetterLYF. Certain ground rules are laid out. The primary objective is to explore the relationship in a collaborative manner and to understand how the couple views the challenges of interpersonal intimacy they are facing and the factors involved, barriers for a positive change to get to the root of the issue. Their interactions with each other and the couple dynamics are highlighted and goal setting is carried out.
Follow up sessions are conducted to understand how therapy sessions are progressing and to keep a track of the individual and couple goals, developments and impediments faced. Therapist checks whether couple is able to implement what is discussed in therapy into their relationship.
Couple Counseling Outcome
"She had become so cold overnight, I couldn't believe she wasn't coming back this time. I didn't know what to do, what to say to make things okay anymore. If only I could say the right things maybe Preeti would have stayed."
With this book, we bring you several real stories. Few are a reflection of first-hand or vicarious experiences, others are inspired by break up cases helped by the counsellors at BetterLYF.
We all know that a relationship demands effort and it can't go on without an equal share of effort from both the partners. We can’t not take our car or regular maintenance and expect it to work smoothly, right? Similarly, it is often required for couples to repair and rework on their relationship.
Couples therapy can help them work on this and resolve the conflicts in a pretty much understandable manner.
“Couples therapy can address a wide range of relationship issues, including
-says Brian Mueller, PhD, a psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center who specializes in couples therapy.
In other words, it helps individuals resolve couples conflicts, improve their level of satisfaction from the relationship and get comfortable with the partner.
In the words of Dave Meurer “A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couples’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couples learns to enjoy their differences.”
Conflicts are a natural part of any relationship and the more you get to know someone, the more flaws become apparent in them. This is the harsh truth of any relationship but this proximity with another person is also one of the reasons to make the relationship work and resolve those conflicts which never seem to go away. This is where couple’s therapy comes into play. When we talk about couple therapy, it’s as simple as it sounds but there are some misconceptions associated with it wherein people think they only need therapy when something is wrong with them or if they’re too weak to deal with a situation. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. If you value your relationship and feel that you’ve tried everything then why not try one more time with a professional help? It might be beneficial for you and your partner. People spend big lumps of money to make their respective partners happy but what do they do to strengthen their relationship when it hits a bump?
Many issues can hamper a relationship whether they are trust issues, problems in communicating with each other, intimacy issues, etc. But these are the things a therapist can help you with to understand and heal from better.
-Studies have shown that couple therapy has been effective to repair a relationship 75% of the time. So, it’s worth giving a shot, right? It’s also important to note the impact of a relationship on the wellbeing of the person as a healthy relationship is imperative not only for a healthy society but also for a healthy individual. Studies have revealed that people who are in healthy relationships have lesser production of cortisol which is the stress hormone, have faster healing from diseases, have a greater sense of purpose, and have a longer life. As Victor Frankl in his renowned book, Man’s Search for Meaning’ pointed out that one of the three main sources of meaning in life is love as it can keep our spirits up, look for positives even in an adverse situation with the hope of reconnecting with a loved one as he did thinking about his wife when he was in the concentration camps.
-Many times, couples are unable to unearth and explain the emotional meaning behind their stance and end up bickering about things. No matter how close we are with someone or how long we’ve been together, some things need to be said out loud to be understood as at the end of the day we’re all human beings capable of making mistakes and not getting everything right.Different things can mean different things to each partner such as going out might be one partner’s way of exploring and doing something new together whereas for the other partner staying in together might mean being cozy and comfortable in each other’s presence. However, when the internal meaning is not expressed then externally it can turn into criticism and feeling not understood by the other. This is something a therapist can help you with along with making both partners realize what exactly is bothering them about a particular behavior or pattern of the other. As Esther Perel rightly points out, underlying each criticism is a wish. For example, if one partner blames and criticizes the other for never washing the dishes then what he/she wants is their partner to do the dishes and help them out with the household chores as it might be getting too much for them to handle everything but this is not how it is communicated, therefore, it creates problems.
-Couples therapy can help draw new contracts between the couple, throw out some of the redundant scripts they grew up with owing to their negative past experiences and learn to listen and understand their partners and themselves better eventually realizing that the other person is not their enemy. It’s never You Vs. Me rather they’re the team and it’s Us Vs. The Problem. It’s about learning to love even when it gets difficult because it’s a process.
-Couples therapy can help you realize a lot of things that you didn’t know before even if you’ve been with your partner for years. Therapy is your safe space where confidentiality is maintained and you know that everything you share will remain between you and your therapist without any judgment. It’s possible that you had these essential skills at the beginning of your relationship but over time you forgot how to use them or your patience wore out or you got too comfortable and didn’t use them again. Remember that it’s never too late to start afresh and the important thing is to use those skills outside the therapy sessions as well. When you learn any new thing it’s essential to try it out outside your classes whether it’s Math or driving or anything new you’ve learned. You’ll get better at it only with practice. Therefore, try to do the homework and tasks assigned by the therapist and if you’re not okay with something then be honest about it too. The key is to be open and honest about whatever you share in the sessions.
The goal is to make your bond stronger and help you successfully deal with any problematic situation which arises in your relationship outside of the therapy session.
Couple counseling can address a wide variety of relationship issues ranging from recurring internal conflicts to external stressors, from emotional disconnect to issues around intimacy. The idea of the counseling process is simple: you go to a couple therapist, unload your share of problems with the partner in front of the therapist, they help you with an informed advice and you are done. Is it that simple? Unfortunately, it is not. Couple therapy requires a lot of willingness, dedication and sincerity in both the partners to make it work. It is not about an individual, it is about the couple as a unit. Because, every relationship is a 50-50 equation.
The scenario a couple of decades ago might have been completely different than what it is today. Back then, the awareness for couple counseling was less, resources were limited. The turn around rate was somewhere around 45%-50% out of the very few who actually came up for it because there is a lot of societal pressure as well. Therapists were able to better the relationship and help the couple get on better terms but most of it was short lived rather than any long term solution. Things are changing now. People are coming forward to talk about their relationship issues, their concerns around their marriage and want to solve them. Multiple new approaches to couple counseling have increased the success rate manifolds. Emotion-Focused Therapy, or EFT, and the Gottman Approach, are achieving much better results. EFT, for example, has a 75% success rate. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists reports an overall success rate of 98%
Success rate for couple counseling is dependant on TRACK:
As Terry Gaspard says “Timing is everything when it comes to marriage counseling”. The sooner the better.
Couple’s therapy can sound daunting to some people as it needs acknowledgment and acceptance that there are a few things about their relationship which need to be fixed and worked upon unless it’s the end of their relationship and for most, it might seem the last resort to save their relationship. Whatever one may think, couple’s therapy should be treated as any other form of therapy such as regular therapy where we get to know things about ourselves by gaining awareness and insight into our patterns, couples’ therapy does the same but with two people at the same time. And, instead of considering it as the last resort, it’s better to go for it early on to be equipped with the necessary skills to deal with things if they arise in the future.In couple’s therapy along with becoming aware of our patterns, we get to know not just ourselves better but our partner as well and this could also be a way of bonding for the partners to show that they care and are willing to make their relationship work. And, it’s never too late to start again.
The sooner you start with couple therapy the better it is for your relationship. Some engaged couples get premarital counseling which helps them once they’re married. Having beneficial knowledge and the appropriate skills which can be used later on in a romantic relationship can help prevent many issues which might arise in the future.
All relationships have conflicts and this is normal and healthy for any relationship. The closer you are to someone, the more you get to know them, and this can at times lead to conflicts too in a relationship due to various reasons and a couples therapist tries to smoothen the relationship, increase satisfaction amongst the partners, rekindle the romance, healthily resolve conflicts, improve communication between partners, feel more secure in the relationship, embrace the changes, and have a healthy relationship by understanding each other better.
The couple’s therapist employs many different therapeutic interventions in the therapy. A therapist’s theoretical orientation can impact the type of therapy they use but the goal remains the same which is to help couples in the best way possible so that they do what is most suitable for them and their relationship.
Research conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family found that over 97% of the couples who were surveyed benefitted from couple’s therapy. Couple therapy provides some effective tools and skills to the couple to work with and this can help the clients deal with their issues in the present and the future if they arise again, or if something new comes up. It’s always useful to have some tools at hand to deal with any kind of situation, it makes one feel less afraid, more empowered, and confident to face adverse situations.
In the first few couple’s therapy sessions, the therapist might have one on one sessions with each partner and then after getting the necessary information through interview questions and observation the therapist takes sessions with both partners together. Treatment goals are made after identifying the issues which need to be dealt with and understood at a deeper level. A structure is then prepared based on the goals for each session or a few sessions depending on the seriousness of the issue. In couples therapy both the partners feel heard and understood which many times is missing during conflicts with each partner feeling misunderstood and unheard. We have to understand that no matter how long you have known a person, a relationship involves two imperfect people coming together therefore problems are natural to arise. Hence, understanding the relational dynamics and becoming aware of the role that each partner plays in dysfunctional interactions is extremely crucial and helpful. The therapist also helps both partners take the perspective of each other, communicate effectively with each other, understand the situation better to resolve conflicts and this can be done through reflective questioning, role plays, communication training, and other techniques.
One important aspect of any couples therapy is the homework provided by the therapist. Doing well in therapy is great but the impact and change can only be observed if it is followed outside of the sessions as well when the licensed professional is not present. Hence, applying the skills learned at couple’s therapy is incredibly important otherwise there’ll not be much of a noticeable difference. It’s how we learn something in college and then apply it at work, if we’re unable to apply those skills then how is that knowledge helping you? Applying what you’ve learned in therapy sessions is essential in couple’s therapy for a behavior change to be conspicuous and this is the aim of a couples therapist.
Married or unmarried, any couple can avail the opportunity to have a better relationship.
Couple counseling can help a couple to have
Couple counseling helps us navigate the relationship better. The bottom line is that any type of couple, at any point in the relationship and with any living arrangement can benefit from couple counseling.
Furthermore, within the Indian context, married couples can have very different dynamics as compared to unmarried couples. The families are also involved and impact the relationship of married couples in the Indian context. These are the nuances that our counselors at BetterLYF understand very well and more importantly, the challenges, roles, and responsibilities that follow in such a setup.
Seeking counseling for couple-related issues does not mean that a relationship is doomed and needs “saving.” Couple counseling helps a couple understand their conflict patterns, the nature of the relationship the partners share, and their overall dynamics in the relationship. Yes, a couple can seek counseling when they think they need intervention from outside too. However, it can also be a way to understand how to make a partnership better. A therapist’s job during the counseling sessions is not to take sides or favor one partner over the other. A therapist would always attempt to understand the situation from the perspective of both the partners and would treat the relationship. A job of a therapist is not advice or even coaching, but to guide and give a perspective. More often than not, the suggestions from a therapist are rooted in research evidence on relationships and psychological theory.
There are a lot of things to gain from this process of couple counseling:
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