By the time you and your spouse or partner decided to try couples therapy, you‘d likely faced your fair share of challenges. Even still, counseling itself can come with a wide array of challenges, some of which you’ve been better prepared for than others. It’s hard to deny that the intervention and relationship advice offered by a qualified couple therapist is a far better way to tackle disagreements or other issues in long-term relationships of any kind than attempting to rebuild a healthy relationship on your own. By preparing yourself and your spouse for these particular obstacles, you’ll be better able to meet them head-on, honing the strength and resiliency of your relationship in the process. Then, with the proper effort, openness, empathy, and measured belief, you can find ways for you and your partner to regain the intimacy and affection you once shared and hope to enjoy once more.
1. Seeing the Problem as a One-way Street
One particular challenge that many couples fall into upon starting couples counseling is blaming their relationship issues entirely on their partner or spouse. For example, suppose your significant other committed a betrayal, such as an instance of infidelity. In that case, it can be incredibly challenging to work through that sense of blame despite whatever relationship advice or individual therapy your counselor might offer. It’s essential to consider the root cause of more severe relationship issues and acknowledge that neither partner or spouse is perfect. Like any other connection, a romantic relationship involves two (or, in some cases, more) people—it takes two to tango, as they say. In any pairing, those two people will contribute to the ups and downs alike. You certainly don’t need to take the blame for your partner’s actions onto your own shoulders, but you must acknowledge that, by default, you aren’t without fault yourself more generally. The converse, of course, is true as well: you aren’t to blame for the entire situation either, no matter if you’ve felt that way through your relationship issues.
2. Not Believing That Counseling Will Work
Maybe some friends or family members had a bad experience with a counselor. Or, perhaps you’re just worried that you’re on the brink of a breakup no matter what a family therapist has to suggest. Or, you might just be someone who isn’t particularly fond of therapy as a practice. Even a relationship expert such as a psychologist, LCSW, or other qualified professional can help fulfill your goal of a healthy marriage if you’re not moving forward with willingness and effort. However, a marriage counselor of any caliber can‘t help couples with even the best advice if those couples don’t want to be helped. Of course, your best friend’s relationship advice or a podcast hosted by a self-proclaimed relationship expert can help. Yet, these little things can’t account for the years of research and expertise a counselor can provide through couple therapy. If you’re attending marriage counseling, you must do so with the belief that these sessions can genuinely support you and your partner.
3. Holding Back
Many married couples are embarrassed by working through couples or family therapy, and that stigma can extend into their therapy sessions. Just as importantly, the efforts of working with a couples counselor can be painful and difficult. Acknowledging your faults, coming clean about negative things you’ve done, and following the emotional rollercoaster between contempt and empathy help you move along that route to forgiveness and renewed intimacy. As challenging as it may be, a couple must be open and willing to follow their clinician’s guidance, be that relationship advice or otherwise. Removing distractions and working with a third party like a counselor can shine the spotlight on these concerns. This focus is vital to effective counseling, yet it’s a challenge that many couples will face. No matter how painful it might be in the moment, a participant must be open about their situation to both their counselor and their partner.
4. Not Putting In Effort
Putting in the effort through these therapy sessions is possibly the most important thing you can do while in couples counseling. And yet, it’s all too often the challenge that married couples struggle most to overcome. Without putting the work in, listening to your clinical social worker or counselor’s guidance, and following through on their instructions, you can’t expect to return to your first date butterflies if you haven’t done the work to move through resentment towards gratitude or new-and-improved communication skills. So whether you’ve fallen into the trap of believing counseling is a miracle or thinking it can’t do a thing, you can face many roadblocks in working through couple therapy—it’s crucial that, for the sake of your relationship, you do so anyway.
5. Having Unrealistic Expectations
Marriage counseling is undeniably one of the most effective tools in your arsenal when it comes to rebuilding your own life and relationship. However, it’s not a magical cure for all relationship issues. The thought that a therapist, counselor, or clinical psychologist can work miracles on your marriage or long-term relationships is a pleasing one but, unfortunately, nothing more than a thought. Couple therapy, for instance, can only help with so much. For example, active infidelity or substance abuse can complicate matters—the former would need to be ended before successfully pursuing most counseling, while behavioral couples therapy, in particular, could address the latter. Even then, it’s not an instant fix and never will be, despite the progress you might make along the way.
Regardless of sexual orientation, marriage status, or other details of your relationship, you would struggle to find a more effective method for reestablishing your relationship for the long haul than working with a professional counselor. However, a retreat or marriage counseling from a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in the United States and beyond can help you rebuild your marriage and the affection that comes with it in the long run. Right now is a good time for you and your spouse to pursue counseling—an asset in any relationship.