When you have relationship problems with your significant other, it can help if you’re both committed to saving the relationship by opting for couples therapy. A therapist can help couples communicate more effectively with each other, so that both can understand the underlying issues that may be affecting the relationship.
Of course, you can always go online and get advice from well-meaning folks about how to maintain and save your relationship. Most of the time, they offer sensible advice that seems obvious enough to everyone else. But couples therapists have special training and experience with many different types of couples that they can dispense tips that most people don’t know about.
Here are some of these tips that deserve greater recognition:
1. Sometimes It Is Better to Deal with Individual Issues First
In some cases when relationships begin to flounder, it may be because one or both people are having serious individual problems of their own. This can be anything, including substance abuse, depression, or perhaps being in an affair.
In these circumstances, it may be best if the therapist meets with each person individually before dealing with the issues regarding the relationship. These issues must first be addressed so that the individuals are both in a better place to maintain a relationship. If someone is drinking too much, for example, then it’s not an issue with the relationship and a problem that a person must deal with first.
Most people simply assume right off that couples with problems need to come together to get things ironed out. But many couples therapists now believe that such a step is too soon. It’s a waste of energy, time, and money when the problem is with the issues an individual is dealing with. When an individual is having depressive thoughts, then of course there will be problems with the relationship—but the therapy must focus on the individual instead of the two of them together.
2. Admit It If You’re Having an Affair
A disconcertingly large number of people seem to think that what the other person doesn’t know won’t hurt them. On the face of it, it may seem true. You can have an affair that the other person doesn’t know about, and if they don’t know about it there shouldn’t be issues. Right?
But the truth is that therapy doesn’t really work with complete honesty from both people in the relationship. That lack of complete honesty invariably creates some sort of distance. However, the natural impulse of the unfaithful spouse is to lie about the affair. They can be very vehement about their innocence.
Therapists can be very observant and they can suspect people of cheating when the other spouse has no idea. In some cases, the therapist may even arrange for a lie detector test. In general, when this happens the couple goes home and then calls the therapist to report that the lie detector test isn’t necessary—the unfaithful spouse has finally confessed. That’s a good thing, because the honesty is required to help the couple move forward.
3. Couples Don’t Need Total Commitment
Many people (regardless of gender) tend to have overly romantic notions of what couples ought to feel for one another. Many think they have problems because they no longer feel “in love” or passionate about their partner.
But that’s not the point of the relationship. Some people simply have commitment issues and they may be ambivalent about the other person. A typical couple may have an upset wife because the husband can’t honestly say that they’re in the relationship forever. The therapist moved things forward by putting the issue in this manner for the husband: Is your wife the person you want to be ambivalent with? That cleared things up as he answered “yes” immediately, because he can’t imagine living with anyone else. That was enough for the wife too!