Pitching the idea of going to couples counseling to your partner is uncomfortable, to be sure, maybe even scary.
It can be difficult to address getting counseling because, once the fight is over, you don’t want to rock the precarious boat that finally feels somewhat okay. Maybe you don’t think couples counseling will help because you can figure it out on your own, without talking to a stranger. Do you think that asking your partner to go to therapy with you means that you’re falling apart?
A really common belief is that a couple shouldn’t go to counseling until something is very wrong, and they’re on the verge of breaking up. Have you ever seen a couple on TV who are talking to a therapist for any reason other than tragedy or heartbreak? There’s not many cultural examples of couples who go to counseling before they’re falling apart.
In reality, waiting until you’re falling apart to start couples counseling makes it much more difficult to repair a relationship.
Couples might stay together for ten years trying to make it work without the tools to support their partner. They don’t really know their partner’s needs, how to meet those needs, how to repair with them or calm down with them. They’ve been bootstrapping and repairing as best they can, but by the time they get to couples counseling, they are in over their heads. They’re fighting more than they are enjoying each other, and a deep resentment has taken hold that makes it difficult to address anything without defensiveness and anger.
Unfortunately, all these things must be cleaned up before basic issues can even begin to be addressed.
Much of the work of couples counseling is done in listening deeply and becoming an expert on your partner, so if you’re starting from anger and resentment, it can be much more difficult (but not impossible) to access the soft-heartedness needed to feel like you’re a team again.
That’s why going to couples counseling BEFORE you’re resentful and falling apart is so helpful!
The most successful couples are a securely attached team, both of you experts on the other person. If you get to therapy before there are major problems, you can start building your knowledge of your partner’s “instruction manual” so that when arguments and disagreements inevitably arise, you know how to expertly navigate them before they become huge battles.
Instead of thinking of couples counseling as major surgery that happens only when there is a gigantic wound, think of couples counseling as an investment in your future togetherness, like going to a gym to learn how to get and stay healthy and fit together.
Don’t wait until you’re both wounded, angry and falling apart. Couples counseling can be an incredibly important tool for learning how to avoid falling apart altogether, and will ultimately make you a stronger, more secure couple in the long run.