Recently we discussed 5 common myths about couples therapy, some of which keep couples in need of help from getting it. Here’s a quick review:
Myth #1: Couples therapy doesn’t help
Myth #2: Couples therapy takes forever
Myth #3: The therapist is going to take sides
Myth #4: All therapy is about is talking about childhood
Myth #5: Couples therapy just involves catharsis
This week we are going to debunk myths 6-10.
Myth #6: My partner just wants to go to couples therapy to break up with me
While some people may find it easier to literally dump you in a therapist’s office, especially if they are concerned about you, let’s face it, when most people are done with a relationship, they are done.
Signing up for couples therapy just to break up isn’t unheard of, but it certainly isn’t the norm. If you are really concerned that your partner wants to go to couples therapy just to break up with you, save each of you the stress of having to go and ask your partner what’s really going on.
If someone’s willing to go to couple’s therapy, chances are, they want help to get closer to you and to smooth out some bumps in the relationship. You might go in with greater confidence knowing that your partner isn’t taking you there to break up!
Myth #7: The therapist is just going to teach silly communication tricks we can read in a book
Here is one nightmare scenario about going into a couples therapist’s office:
Jane says: “You are such a jerk!!!”
Therapist says: “Now practice your “I” statements – say “I feel like you are such a jerk.”
That’s pretty useless, right?
Fortunately, good couples therapy offers much more than a set of communication tools.
When your blood is boiling and you are raging at your partner, all the communication tools in the world don’t matter. Your emotional connection is the undercurrent for the entire foundation of your relationship. When that is strong, it’s of course helpful to speak the same language and be able to communicate, but you don’t need to worry so much about saying the right thing.
A good couples therapist, especially one trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy, will do much more than help you communicate. They will help you get to the heart of what’s really going on for you in the relationship and for your partner, and will help you peel away the extra layers that keep you separate from each other.
No way of speaking other than from your heart will do that, and that’s hard to learn from a book or through a set of communication tools. A good couples therapist will guide you in a way that will help you be more authentic and present in your life and in your relationship.
Myth #8: The couples therapist will keep my partner’s secrets from me
I can’t speak for all therapists, but in many schools of thought, keeping secrets from partners in couples therapy is a giant no-no.
If you’re going to couples therapy together to strengthen your relationship and be closer, and there are these big secrets in the middle of your relationship, does it really make sense for the strength of your relationship to hang onto them? If your partner does have secrets, a good couples therapist will work with your partner to share them with you, however difficult that may be.
If after a certain amount of time, the secret is not shared and your partner refuses to work toward sharing this secret, any progress therapy has a strong possibility of coming to a halt.
The therapist then may call an end to the therapy if it’s not going anywhere.
Therapists may handle this issue somewhat differently, and each situation is unique, but most couples therapists do not encourage secrets.
Myth #9: If you’ve only been together a brief amount of time and you need couples therapy, you shouldn’t be together in the first place
If you agree with the above statement and might be having problems in your relationship, just get married anyway and hope to be in the 50% of couples who don’t get divorced.
No one is given a manual on how to have a healthy relationship in school, and many folks don’t learn from their parents or anyone else. We obviously have a problem with relationships as the divorce rate is so high, so why not address them early on and get some guidance with your relationship?
Couples therapy helps both your relationship and you as an individual. You will learn things about yourself and how you relate to others in ways that you maybe didn’t realize before.
I have seen countless pre-marital couples with real issues in their relationships that get resolved. They come in for couples therapy, not because they shouldn’t be together in the first place, but because they are crazy about each other but find themselves caught in patterns that they know aren’t healthy.
Couples in distress wait an average of SIX YEARS before seeking help. That’s not only 6 years of lost time, tension and growing animosity, but also 6 years of things getting worse, and 6 years of negative patterns becoming more entrenched.
It is refreshing for me as a couples therapist to see newer couples who are willing to look at themselves, relate to each other in different ways, and build a stronger foundation together. I applaud these younger couples who could get by without the help and be fine, but are willing to do what it takes to upgrade and make sure to have their best relationship.
Myth #10: Couples therapy is a waste of money
Couples therapy can be costly. If you’re looking at $250 once a week over 20 sessions, that’s around $5,000. And insurance companies don’t pay for treatment aimed at your relationship. You may not need a full 20 sessions, but if you or your partner have had some trauma in your lives, you might need more than 20 sessions to really get the most out of the experience.
The cost of a divorce attorney up front, however, is right around the fee for an entire course of couples therapy. And couples therapy may be very difficult, but at a fraction of the cost of divorce, it is like a walk in the park.
But what good does couples therapy do?
Research on couples who went through Emotionally Focused Therapy demonstrates that relationships often continue to improves after therapy has ended. By going through a process together that reshapes the way you relate to yourself and your partner, you build a foundation for further growth and connection that will last your lifetime.
What you have to show for yourself after a divorce is greater likelihood of health problems, custody problems and an increased chance of depression.
I’m not saying that divorce is a waste of money and shouldn’t be an option – it should be an option and is the only option for many people in especially toxic relationships. But it’s a lot more expensive than couples therapy.
If your relationship can be saved, improved and can give you what you need, no price tag should be too high.
What do you think? What myths have you heard about couples therapy and what have your experiences been? Please leave your thoughts below (remember, though, nothing is confidential on the internet!)
Cheers to your best relationship,
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