Many people feel nervous about couples counseling. Lots of people wonder “Is this even going to work?” Or “what is the therapist going to tell me that I don’t already know?” And you may worry about the sticker price, especially given your reservations. That’s totally legit.
As a marriage and family therapist, I get that many couples have concerns prior to coming in. You are not alone in that. It’s unnerving to invite an unknown third party into the intimate details of your relationship. Add on the stigma, and it is no wonder you’re feeling a little unsure.
As scary as the thought of couples counseling may be, I’ve seen amazing changes in couples who go through it. So here are the top ten concerns about couples counseling and my take on each of them. Hope this helps!
TOP TEN CONCERNS ABOUT COUPLES COUNSELING
- “The couples therapist will just tell us that we need to break up/get divorced”
Many people want to come into couples counseling because they want to fix the relationship. Yes you’ve had some bumps (you wouldn’t be looking for a couples therapist if you didn’t) but you like this person and you want it to work. A good couples therapist is NOT going to tell you to break up.
- “There are other things I want to spend my money on”
Couples counseling is an investment. I don’t know about you, but a weekly charge of $150 is not something that I take lightly. It might take budgeting. It might mean making some sacrifices on other things (those lattes at Starbucks or internet impulse buys) but ultimately you need to decide if you’re relationship is worth the investment.
- “I’m not comfortable with someone knowing private, intimate details about our relationship”
Sharing vulnerable, personal details about yourself can be really hard. When you consider that you are being asked to bare your soul to both a complete stranger AND your partner (who you are often having issues with), it might seem like couples therapy is not for you. If that is the case, I would encourage you to share your reservations with the therapist and to go slow. Trust takes time to build and often couples come in when they don’t even trust one another. Before sharing anything to painful, you need to build trust with the therapist and your partner. That is the first step in couples counseling.
- “What if it uncovers even deeper issues than we thought we had?”
It’s scary enough to deal with the issues that you’ve got, I can understand the fear of having to add to it. If there are bigger issues than you are consciously aware of, they are unconsciously impacting your relationship already. Finding them out so that you can deal with them is the best thing that you can do for your relationship. The important thing to remember is that couples therapy helps give you tools to deal with the challenges that you are currently and might potentially face as a couple. Couples counseling isn’t fixing the relationship problem, it’s giving you the toolbox to be a stronger couple as you face challenges head on, together.
- “If we can’t solve our relationship problems on our own, we shouldn’t be together”
When things are easy we can do it on our own. When things get hard, we often need some outside help. Just like how you can file your own taxes when all you have is one W-2 but you go to an accountant as soon as you have contract work and multiple streams of income. Somehow our society judges it differently and we internalize this idea of “couples therapy means that we need to break up.” This is simply not true. Often we need help because we don’t have great models for healthy relationships or good guidance on how to make them work. That’s what I’m here for.
- “The therapist will pick sides and gang up on me (or alienate my partner)”
If this happens, you probably need a new couples therapist because that person is not qualified to do couples therapy. Occasionally someone will feel misunderstood (therapists aren’t perfect) but you shouldn’t feel like the therapist and your partner are ganging up on you. As a couples therapist, I try to develop trust with both partners because I’m here for the relationship not one partner or the other. My job is to help you have a relationship that works for both of you.
- “My situation is unique. I’m afraid the therapist will generalize things and won’t be able to help us”
Who wants to be lumped in with everyone else? This is your life! You want to see a therapist who gets you and who can meet you where you are at. I specialize in helping parenting couples because adding kids to the mix changes the dynamics. How do we have a modern marriage that meets our needs and those of our kids? A couples therapist should be attuning to your unique needs. No two couples are the same.
- “What will other people think if we’re in couples counseling?”
I wish I could say that they’d think “Good for you! It’s helped us!” but that is not always the case. Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma around couples counseling (and even therapy in general) and you may face some judgment. This is where reframing comes in. You are investing in your relationship. Just like you set aside money for a vacation, a home, or retirement, you are prioritizing your relationship. You are wise enough to know that you need some outside help. In the words of the lovely Kristen Bell “You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don’t figure out how to cook without reading a recipe. [Couples therapy] is not something to be ashamed about.”
- “Couples therapy is only for people whose relationship is really bad”
Many people utilize couples counseling when things are pretty bad but we couples therapists would love for people to know that they don’t have to wait. Proactively addressing issues in your relationship will save you heartache in the long run. Premarital counseling is the best investment that you can make in your marriage. You wouldn’t buy a house without homeowners insurance, why invest in a marriage without premarital counseling? Whether you are dating, engaged, or married, couples therapy can be an amazing investment in your most important relationship
10. “I’m afraid that my partner will manipulate the situation and there will be retributions when I get home”
This is a very real concern when one partner is exerting power and control over the other person. If your partner is controlling the money, telling you who you can and cannot see, isolating you from your friends, forcing you to do things that you don’t want to do, making you feel like crap, and/or physically restraining or harming you, please seek help for YOU first. The national domestic violence hotline is a good place to start. Individual counseling can be very helpful. This is one of those cases when couples therapy is can do more harm than good. If you really want the relationship to work out, it is imperative that the controlling/abusive partner gets individual treatment prior to starting couples counseling. This treatment should be done by someone trained in working with perpetrators of domestic violence.
Hope this was helpful! Looking for more support on your relationship or ready to take the plunge to couples counseling? I’d love to hear from you!