There are many benefits to Couples Counseling besides repairing a relationship. You can build stronger communication skills, learn how to manage a family budget, work through difficulties, build deeper connections and lead to a greater self awareness that makes you a stronger partner and parent. When I first met my future husband, I was nervous to date a father with kids. I had never involved children in a relationship and wanted to make sure I incorporated them in a healthy and respectful manner. I asked my boyfriend to enter in to a couples counseling session with me fairly early in our courtship, when I knew we would be spending more time together involving his children. We were able to talk through our different parenting methods and how to incorporate the kids into our relationship in ways that were age appropriate for them and that let them feel involved and not intimidated by a new important figure in their father’s life. We found the use of a counselor very helpful in expressing ourselves to each other and really reaching a new level of vulnerability. Our counselor helped us navigate moving in together and how to establish healthy boundaries without carrying any baggage from previous damaging relationships into our current relationship. Both of us felt safe to work through past traumas with a professional guiding us in a way that may have been less productive between just the two of us. We have avoided the pitfalls of other relationships like jealousy, betrayal, money concerns, and overcome past abuse we’d experienced that were affecting our current relationship.
The year of our wedding, we faced massive Covid shutdowns cancelling our big Scotland wedding and changing all of our family plans. We kept connected to our counselor virtually to work through those disappointments and to create a new plan for our family. As we struggled through infertility, our counseling was a guiding path through the ups and downs of various treatments and the affects on my body and self worth and my husband’s feelings of this being out of his control. When we miscarried our first child, counseling helped us through the various stages of grief and reconnected us when we felt at different points. We learned to validate each others’ feelings, to step back and really listen, and to control our impulse to interrupt each other. We learned healthy communication tools for avoiding big conflicts and how to be good role models to our children about handling adult disagreements respectfully and with grace for one another.
When our oldest came out as Trans, our counselor helped us find resources for support for our daughter. She helped us with the language and tools to let our daughter know we accept her, love her and will continue to support her for who she is. She talked us through our fears on trying to conceive again after our loss, and of the recent upheaval in the Texas legislation that will affect our Trans teens’ rights.
Couples counseling can help you build your relationship tool box. Understanding your parents past, knowing your own communication styles and how others may perceive you, and discovering if either of you has any underlining trauma, issues or diagnoses that affects your relationship are all powerful guiding paths to a healthy, happier and more fulfilling relationship. Having a neutral third party who’s not only a good listener, but who’s willing to give you both “tough love” is an invaluable gift to your relationship. Make sure to interview a few counselors or ask around for referrals. Finding a counselor who is a good fit will make all the difference in your success. There are many types of couples counseling that you can find defined online.
Several examples of different types that may be good for you and your partner are:
1. Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) Identifies destructive patterns in a relationship that begin to interfere with attachments and can prevent two people from bonding. This is one of the most popular forms of couples counseling.
2. Reflective listening (for example learning about focusing on “I phrases instead of you statements”
3. Narrative Therapy. This involves both partners describing their relationship in narrative form and then being encouraged to rewrite their stories together to gain a greater perspective while learning how the stories they tell themselves affect the way they treat their partner.
4. Solution-Focused Therapy. This works best for specific issues in a relationship with a short term goal of creating a solution to avoid dwelling.
5. Gottman Method. This is about creating a deeper understanding of each other during times of conflict in their relationship while aiming to give couples specific problem-solving skills to enhance intimacy and friendship.
6. Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) This helps couples identify childhood experiences that have created an impact on their adult relationships like commitment issues or relationship anxiety.
7. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on treating communication difficulties and conflict resolution by starting with understanding what each partner is thinking about the root cause of their conflicts and challenging those thoughts.
8. Discernment Counseling is short term counseling when one person is wanting to end the relationship and the other is hoping to rescue it. This counseling helps the couple explore all of their option by bringing clarity and helping them engage before making any ultimate decisions about the fate of their relationship.