You know to see a doctor for an ache or cough that won’t go away. But where can you turn if your relationship needs a shot in the arm? For some couples, professional counseling is the answer. We don’t see our relationships and ourselves objectively. Most people are far more aware of how their partner is contributing to the problems in the relationship than they are. When we can’t ‘fix’ ourselves, sometimes we need a third party’s perspective.
Relationships require work and are bound to face challenges large and small. Simple, everyday stressors can strain an intimate relationship, and major sources of stress may threaten the stability of the relationship. As long as each partner is willing to address the issue at hand and participate in developing a solution, most relationship problems are manageable, but when challenges are left unaddressed, tension mounts, poor habits develop, and the health and longevity of the relationship are in jeopardy.
Couples often seek couples or marriage 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.
Relationship 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. Trained 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.
Whatever the cause, it’s best to treat relationship problems sooner rather than later — just as you would an illness. Many couples wait too long and after problems develop or not improve to seek counseling. The sooner you get help, the better your chances of success.