Have you ever considered couples counseling? Let’s be honest here, marriages after children take effort! As a mama of three kids under the age of 4, I have seen my marriage change, grow, and evolve with every new season of our crazy life. I also happen to be a therapist in private practice. Going to therapy as a couple can be a great tool to strengthen a relationship, but I often see couples in my office who are at a breaking point. When couples are at this breaking point, the stakes are high in a couples counseling session. Sadly I see couples unknowingly make mistakes when they start the counseling process. Today, I want to share with you some insider information. I want to share 3 of the biggest mistakes I see couples make in couples counseling.
Mistake #1: Deciding an Outcome Beforehand
Sadly enough, this is one mistake that leads to the worst outcome in couples counseling. A couple comes into therapy already deciding the outcome. Perhaps he has decided that sitting on a therapist’s couch for 4 weeks will be the magic cure to a happy marriage. His partner on the other hand, has decided that she is ready to walk away but wants to complete therapy so she can say that she “tried everything.” Rarely do I see both of these extremes within one couple, but they are a good example of the preconceived ideas that exist before the first session even starts. To avoid this mistake, manage your expectations of therapy and be honest about where you are within the relationship. An open mind is key!
Mistake #2: Not Being Willing to Change
Whether or not you ever step foot into couples counseling, this is a relationship mistake we are all guilty of committing. We want to change our partner’s behavior. Our behavior? Well, we aren’t doing anything wrong! It’s human nature to have this bias, but having the ability to look at your own actions and reflect on how they impact your partner is a huge part of success in couples counseling! If you want your partner to make changes, understand that you will need to make changes too. Never in a session have I turned to one partner and uttered the words, “Nope, you are perfect in this relationship, it is your partner we really need to work on.”
Mistake #3: Keeping Secrets
Three of the most common arguments within relationships are over money, division of housework, and extended family issues. These “surface level” arguments are often the first things that come out in a counseling session. Perhaps it is a safe way to break the ice with your therapist but these “surface level” arguments are like symptoms of an illness. If we don’t dig deeper beyond dishes and an online shopping problem, nothing will change. This is where mistake #3 appears, keeping secrets from your partner and your therapist will always cause problems. It can be scary to talk about past indiscretions, problems in the bedroom, or long-held resentments. These tough topics are where the healing begins. If thinking about addressing those issues makes you squirm, it is okay. It is your therapist’s job to help get to the root of the issue!
I know as mothers it is easy to focus on our kids. Let’s be honest, we neglect our own care and sometimes our relationships. Model for your children what healthy relationships look like. Prioritize your marriage. Prioritize your well being and maybe even give couples counseling a try!