If someone mentioned “marriage counseling,” how would you react? Is it relieved, eager, annoyed, incredulous, indecisive, embarrassed? These are all valid reactions, considering that this type of counseling remains a gray area for many couples today.
For those that do believe in what it can do, the prospect alone is daunting. For one, marriage counseling involves vulnerability and openness with a stranger. Second, it’s infamous for being the place where marriages go to die. So, admitting you need therapy is declaring that your relationship is taking its last few breaths.
And there’s the sense of “why can’t we solve these problems on our own?” It’s the feeling of shame, piled on top of a feeling of inadequacy. For other couples, they feel a sense of inevitability. The dynamics of the relationship can’t be changed, and no couples therapist can do anything about it.
Given all these reasons, it’s easy to understand why people view couples therapy with some measure of caution and distrust.
Let’s take a look at some misconceptions surrounding couples therapy and why they exist:
“Couples therapy is only for people who plan to get divorced.”
Remember when we mentioned “a sense of inevitability”? That mostly plays into the mindset that people who seek couples counseling are those who have given up. And if they haven’t yet, they’re about to.
There’s some validity to this view. Some couples go to therapy because they want to know whether they could salvage what’s become of their relationship or decide to end it. But other couples do it in hopes of increasing their closeness and feelings for each other, and others want to enhance how they interact. Some do it because they want to improve their physical intimacy, and sometimes, they want to fix issues with their kids.
The bottom line is, there’s a variety of valid reasons why couples go to therapy. It’s not all the time a last-ditch effort to prolong the wait before the inevitable divorce.
“There’s only blame and verbal attack in couples counseling sessions.”
No one can guarantee that this won’t happen. No two therapists are alike. But for all intents and purposes, it shouldn’t happen. The goal of counseling is to create a warm therapeutic connection that enhances not only their relationship with their therapist but also with each other.
Therapists won’t always agree with you. They may ask you to make some changes. But good therapists will make you feel supported and heard, and never treated like the villain for any reason.
“Couples should be able to solve their problems on their own.”
There’s a false notion if you can’t fix something without outside help, you’re weak. The opposite is true. The decision to reach out and ask for help is an act of strength and courage.
People in relationships can be blindsided. They can’t discern that a problem isn’t a problem because they’re too close to it. Without an outsider’s point of view, they won’t ever realize this.
You can also think of it this way: if we don’t hesitate to reach out to physicians, personal trainers, job coaches, nutritionists to better our lives, why should we hesitate to ask help from couples therapists? Why should therapy be any different?
Not all therapists and programs are created equal. What works for others may not work for you. But what’s important is to keep an open mind. Marriage counseling has done well for many, who’s to say it won’t do the same for you?
Meta title: How Couples Therapy Is Always Misunderstood
Meta description: Couples therapy has saved marriages worldwide. But there’s still a slight pushback that prevents couples from seeking help. Find out why.