Is it time to seek help for our relationship?
If you are wondering seeking help for your relationship is a good idea, the answer is most likely “yes.” Most couples, whether they are in a committed dating relationship, engaged, or married, can benefit from help with communication, intimacy, stress management, financial conversations, decision making, co-parenting, and many other situations. Strain can be placed on a relationship when stressful circumstances affect the couple as a whole, or even just one of the partners. Illness of one person, for example, can impact the well-being of both partners.
Sometimes, marriage itself can be the issue at hand for an unmarried couple, when one partner wants to marry, or is subject to social or familial pressure to do so, and the other partner is reluctant or feels unready to marry. Couples who are considering marriage may seek therapy for these and other issues.
All couples have disagreements, but not all couples have conflicts that repeatedly cause them to become increasingly distant. Chronic relationship conflict or stress can contribute to other significant issues such as depression or anxiety for one or both partners. Relationship problems can also affect physical health or lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or anger. Sometimes self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse are used by one or both partners in order to avoid confronting the source of the relationship conflict. Relationship problems can also adversely affect family members, such as children, who may repeatedly witness relationship conflict between their parents.
Couples often seek counseling when relationship problems begin to interfere with daily functioning or when partners are unsure about continuing the relationship. Couples often approach counseling with the expectation that a therapist can help in some way—though they may not know just how they expect the therapist to help. Some couples may want to develop better communication skills, enhance intimacy, or learn to navigate new terrain in their lives. Others may expect the therapist to mediate their arguments, or take sides and declare which partner is right. Counselors are unlikely to take sides or recommend that a couple end their relationship. Instead, they will allow the therapy process to unfold naturally without a predetermined goal of “saving” the relationship. Therapists help partners by supporting the goals set by the couple and helping each partner to communicate his or her needs, thoughts, and emotions more clearly and to listen to the other partner more carefully.
For relationship counseling to significantly help a relationship, each partner needs to commit, at a minimum, to the relationship counseling for the time it continues. Each partner should demonstrate honesty, an interest in doing relationship work, and a willingness to accept personal accountability.
- McCabe, M. P. (2006). Satisfaction in marriage and committed heterosexual relationships: Past, present, and future. Annual Review of Sex Research, 17, 39-58. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/225227658?accountid=1229
- Ocobock, A. (2013). The power and limits of marriage: Married gay men's family relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75(1), 191-205. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1324622878?accountid=1229