If you’ve never been to a couple’s counseling before, what are your first thoughts?
Most people internally debate their misunderstandings about what to expect from the sessions and one or both become disenchanted or frustrated when they realize it’s not what they expected.
If you’re planning on investing money, energy and time on a couple’s therapy session, it’s a good idea to prepare for the process. This means having a clear understanding of what to expect, and what not expect from the counselor.
If both of you want to save and strengthen your relationship and think counseling as the best option in achieving that goal, there are several things you can both review before your first session.
Meet Face to Face
When it comes to troubled relationships, attending a couples counseling session is a big deal. You are attempting to correct things that are not working in the relationship.
It is better when you meet face to face than talking to your therapist individually. But you need to be prepared to handle the ugly scenes that can crop up due to the heated emotions of handling two distinctly opposing sides.
Couples counseling can only work if those involved have a desire to reach a solution. If the desire to fix a relationship is lacking, your counseling sessions will be a waste of time.
If there is a desire to rescue the relationship, even when it appears irreparably broken and faced with insurmountable challenges, the chances for success are there.
Finding a Good Counselor
Identifying a good counselor is a good way to start your therapy sessions. Talk to three or four counselors with a good reputation before making a decision. Counseling is usually a complicated journey that can take a long time and finding a counselor whom everyone trusts can make your journey much easier.
Once you establish a rapport with your counselor, he can more easily lay down the bolts and nuts that will chart a successful path.
If you make a hasty decision when seeking a counsellor, that can lead to valuable time lost.
Attending counseling sessions for weeks only to realize the counselor is not the right fit will only add more pain to an already volatile situation.
Take time to choose the right counselor. Talk to colleagues who have gone through your situation. Make sure that you and your partner are comfortable with the chosen counselor. Then talk to him openly to ensure that he can deliver the best possible services he could.
Why Bother Counseling Couples?
Couples counseling can be tough. Those counselors in the know can attest to this. The main objective is increasing your knowledge about yourself, your partner and the stuff that makes or breaks your relationship.
Counseling then becomes effective as you apply the new knowledge to repair ineffective patterns of behavior and replace them with better ones.
The core objective of counseling should be to increase clarity as regards:
- How best to live together
- The kind of partner you want to be so that you can build the life and relationship you look to create
- Your personal blocks to creating the kind of partner you wish to be
- The knowledge and skills that are necessary to do the above tasks.
What are the Tradeoffs and Tough Choices
When it comes to couples therapy, there will be tradeoffs and tough choices. And to develop sustained improvement in your relationship, you must have:
- An idea of the life you want to build individually and as a couple
- The right attitudes and skills to work as a team
- Capacity to persevere whenever things go wrong
- The motivation to persist when emotions take the best of you
- Time to review progress.
Creating a Relationship That Works
Creating a well-oiled relationship that works is not easy although this is what most couples desire. There will be some tough choices and difficult tradeoffs for each person. Here is a summary of what to expect:
The first tradeoff is time. Time is the best recipe when it comes to creating a relationship that works. You need time to spend together, time to be with the family. Time to relax and time to mature together. Time to plan and hangout. Unfortunately, the same time will encroach on those individual personal spaces. Your professional and personal time. And this is where conflict flares up.
The second tradeoff is comfort. If you’re comfortable with your partner, it means you’re relaxed enough around her to be your true self. This is emotional comfort. Like going out to please your partner, becoming the best listener and being curious at his slightest whim. Speaking out instead of holding back resentment, becoming judgemental or withdrawing.
The third trade-off is how you react to problems together. For instance, if one of you is oversensitive to criticism, and the other partner is averse to being ignored, it will require a huge effort to improve both the partner’s sensitivity instead of hoping the partner will simply stop whining or criticizing.
In all the three tradeoffs, you’re bound to encounter a conflict between the long-term goal of developing a satisfying relationship, and short-term gratification.
The rule of thumb is in an interdependent relationship, the effort is needed on the part of each partner to make a sustained improvement. It is like rowing a kayak in a stormy lake. One person cannot do most of the rowing and still create an exceptional team.
Important Concepts for Couples Counseling
We’d like to share some important concepts for couples counseling that can stimulate a discussion between you and your partner. If you review the list from time, time, you’ll find yourself well prepared for any couples’ counseling session.
Attitude is key
When it comes to improving the relationship between you and your partner, your attitude toward change is the key that can make action happen. What each partner does can be easily identified but the real change is why you haven’t done it in the first place.
There is a need to appreciate that the blame game in a relationship will not help melt away the hot tempers and cold blocks of angry ice deeply rooted in each partner’s heart.
In this situation, both you and your partner are quite limited in your ability to respond to each other. And accepting this is a huge step to maturity.
The definite possibility exists that both of you harbor negative assumptions about each other. The problem is none of the partners accepts they’re wrong.
Focus on changing yourself rather than your partner
Online couples counseling works best if you have more objectives yourself than for your partner. You are at your best when you aspire to reach objectives set by yourself.
The problem will occur when reality departs from your expectations, hopes, concerns, and desires. We want to change the other person first and not ourselves. This is what keeps counselors in business.
Ask tough questions
Asking tough but good questions, about you and your partner, helps uncover causes beneath the problems.
Importance of communication
When it comes to preparation for couples counseling, the importance of communication cannot be ignored. Good communication must show respect, persistence, and openness.
Good communication is much tougher than most people want to believe. To an effective negotiator is even tougher. A good counselor will tell you communication is the number one source of problems in couples.
To communicate effectively in counseling, ensure to pay attention to:
- Handling unruly emotions such as intense anger
- Method of communicating: shouting, whining, blaming, etc
- What you expect from your partner during the discussion
- What problems resonate from your personality
- Your partner’s major issues
- How to help your partner become more responsive to your concerns
- The attitudes and beliefs you have about the issues affecting you
You can still see a counselor even when you’re 100% the relationship is ending
This means that a small part of you still believes that the relationship can be rescued as a result of the change that is brought to be a good intervention.
A divorce is still an option and all you need is to lose the small ounce of faith remaining. But for now, all you need is to stay open to the counseling process and hopes of new possibilities.
In a good counseling session, you’ll be taken through glimpses of a happy relationship early on. You’ll be surprised by the unexpected emotions, but remember this good life is what you told the counselor you’re looking for. Intimacy heals your soul. It feels good to want to love and be loved back.
In any worthwhile counseling session, high levels of anger and resentment will always be expected. Couples don’t visit a counselor if their house is full of laughter. So be prepared to reach the place of owning your role, let alone agreeing to change overnight.
The good thing here is when you consider the facts analyzed above your first session will give you enough time to think about the expected outcomes of the sessions at some point.
Whether you approach a counseling session with the hope of rescuing and jumpstarting your relationship, or with the hope of ending in divorce, the input of a couple’s counselor remains an important sanctuary to turn to.