Romantic relationships are not a simple thing and, like machines, from time to time they need to be brought by the mechanic to fix what is wrong, or to resort to couple therapy.
True, there are problems that can be solved at home with a little goodwill and patience.
There are, however, phases of a relationship that are a bit like quicksand, as the only way out is to get pulled out by someone outside, possibly someone with the necessary skills.
What is couple therapy?
One of the reasons people don’t resort to couple therapy is that the very concept of therapy in our culture is misunderstood.
As in individual psychotherapy , many think that it is something that only people with serious problems do or that it is a way of forcing their partner to change.
Many people are not aware of the benefits that the comparison with a therapist can have in life, they do not understand that resorting to therapy is not so much a choice against a malaise but one in favor of one’s psychological well-being.
With this due premise let’s see in more detail what couples therapy is.
Couple therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which a professional , qualified and experienced, helps two people to deepen and solve the causes of their relationship problems.
The therapeutic path usually begins with a series of questions aimed at understanding the couple’s history, family origins, values and cultural background.
The therapist can choose the type of intervention based on his orientation: he can actively participate in the solution of the crisis or simply act as a mirror to increase awareness.
During the treatment phase, the therapist helps the couple get a new perspective on the dynamics of the relationship that keep the problem alive.
At the same time, it helps both to better understand their role and responsibilities.
This will help them improve communication and change the way they perceive themselves, their partner and their mutual roles in the couple.
Two objectives: assertiveness and change
An extremely important benefit of couple therapy is therefore an improvement in assertiveness , which is the ability to clearly express one’s emotions without attacking the other.
In addition to this there is also a more practical part, in which the goal is not so much about understanding but about changing behavior.
To this end, the therapist can assign “tasks”, or ask the couple to change something in their routine to establish a new dynamic and obtain different results than in the past.
Many couples end their therapy journey with a new vision of what it means to be together and have a healthy relationship.
They learn to respect / listen more to each other and to keep at bay the bad behavior habits that have created discontent in the past.
When to do couples therapy: 10 examples
This certainly does not want to get the message across that couple therapy is the panacea for all ills and that it can solve any type of problem.
Sometimes, and simply, there is no will to be together.
In other cases, and since the therapist is often considered the last resort, many couples choose to take therapy when their crisis has been going on for several years.
The effectiveness of the intervention is therefore highly influenced by the timing and professionalism of the chosen therapist.
It is worth mentioning that many therapists, both individual and as a couple, offer some form of free first consultation to allow partners to decide for themselves what to do.
So the exploration of the options does not involve any expense.
The most important thing to consider, besides the who , is to understand exactly when to ask for help.
To better clarify the issue, here is a list of problems identified by PsychologyToday common to couples who choose to take therapy.
1. Trust has been broken
One of the most frequent problems in resorting to couple therapy is the need to overcome a deep breakdown in trust.
Perhaps the cause was a sexual betrayal; perhaps an emotional betrayal; or maybe there have been lies about money.
Thanks to therapy, in these cases a safe space is offered within which one can be vulnerable and rebuild mutual trust.
2. Disputes are becoming more frequent
The torque disputes are a normal part of each report, but if the daily life begins to always be oriented more towards the conflict there may be a problem deeper below the surface.
This will be particularly important when the causes of quarrels are apparently trivial.
3. Communication problems
Perhaps it is not a question of conflict but of an inability to understand each other.
Your partner seems distant and you don’t understand what he thinks or what he feels.
Often one of the most tangible results of couple therapy is an improvement in the quality of communication.
4. One perceives that something is wrong but one does not understand what
As previously mentioned, couples therapy, like individual therapy, is very useful not only in solving problems but also in identifying them.
In other words, thanks to it we learn to name things.
Maybe we realize that the problem is not the fact that our partner spends too much time at work but that when he returns home he does nothing to make us feel appreciated.
Or we perceive that something has changed in the way we are together and we cannot find the origin of everything.
5. There is something you would like to say to your partner, but you are unable to do it
The beauty of therapy is that it creates an environment where everything can be said and shared.
The therapist often acts as a buffer between you and the most hidden truths of your mind, and also as a buffer between you and your partner.
It makes you feel protected enough to say what goes on in your head without fear of triggering reactions of judgment and blame.
The smartest professionals then have the ability to paraphrase our words to make them clearer and less prone to misunderstandings.
He or she can therefore act as a translator for our partner, and bring back our point of view in a way that is easier to accept and understand.
6. One of the partners becomes irascible and difficult during conflicts
John Gottman’s studies show that the way a couple handles disputes is an indicator of the couple’s stability and future divorce chances.
Among the signs that allow us to glimpse the danger of breaking up are those that Gottman calls the four horsemen of the apocalypse, that is , communication styles highly harmful to the growth of the relationship.
These styles are:
Stonewalling is an obstructionism technique that adopts those who want to avoid direct confrontation or make the partner nervous.
In practice, it may consist in leaving the room during a quarrel, in assuming an irritating or passive-aggressive attitude , in making a silent scene.
7. There has been a devastating event that has changed the way you interact
There are events in life that have the power to change us from within and, consequently, to change our relationships.
The loss of a loved one , for example, or a long period of unemployment, can break the foundations of a bond and drive two partners away.
The use of therapy in these cases can help to start from scratch and get out of the difficult period together.
8. You are stuck in a series of destructive habits
There are several bad habits that can test a relationship of cohabitation or marriage.
It can be the way of communicating or treating the other, such as the habit of constantly complaining to the partner about one’s work and the inability to do the same for him / her.
Maybe there is an excessive imbalance in responsibilities related to married life or household chores.
The more the habit continues over time, the more difficult it is to change it.
9. Emotional intimacy is gone
It is very common to see a strong passion early on in any relationship followed by a decline in interest over the years.
The cause of this can be the simple eclipse of intimacy in the face of ever more pressing daily family commitments or the symptom of a deeper fracture.
Couple therapy can certainly help to get to the bottom of the matter and eventually find the lost complicity .
10. Physical intimacy is a problem
The problems in the bedroom can be a symptom of other relational problems and frustrations inadequately attenzionate.
The way they present themselves varies from immediate blockage to a gradual cooling of sex life, which can be experienced similarly by both or have a greater impact on either one.
Regardless of the type of cause or problem, an experienced therapist usually manages to shed light on the situation and give advice on a hypothetical solution.
Final considerations on couple and individual therapy
The fact that people who go to the therapist are called “patients” can discourage many people from seeking psychological help.
When we have a physical problem like a pain or a fracture, we have no problem looking for a doctor.
The mental patient , however, is viewed differently than the classic hospital patient.
Mental problems are not as clear as physical ones and, to avoid admitting that we have them, we persist too often in thinking that we can solve everything by ourselves .
Which, when you think about it, is somewhat unfair to claim for yourself.
At school nobody teaches us how to control our emotions or how to face life when problems arise.
Many of us manage to learn thanks to experience and to develop a strong emotional intelligence.
But not all of us learn in the same way and with the same ease.
Faced with a job / school / love disappointment, there are those who roll up their sleeves and get back to work and those who fall to the ground and can no longer get up.
Similarly, in front of a marriage problem some couples develop a natural psychological resilience, others succumb to the obstacle.
All individual or couple therapy does is narrow the gap between self-help and those who need help.
It is an intervention of well-being, of building happiness, of building maturity and personal integrity.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help or admitting that you are in trouble.
Our acceptance of vulnerability is the first step towards strength, just as the humility of admitting that we are unable to resolve a relationship crisis is the first step towards a more mature and solid relationship.