In any relationship, there are bound to be some kinks that interrupt the bliss of the happy couple. Some friction is to be expected when two individuals with distinct family histories, personalities, desires, goals, fears, and hopes join their lives together. Each couples’ story and circumstances will vary, but what is true of all couples is that their relationship is perfectly imperfect, and they will have to weather storms together.That’s part of what “being together” is about – when sickness, joblessness, stress, and strain are present, the couple wade through those rough waters together, just as they sail together past sun-dappled shores in the good times.
In a perfectly imperfect relationship, the couple may have the capacity, skills, and knowledge to handle what life throws at them. It takes work to get there, and it takes even more work to continue growing together. Every couple needs help now and then, whether they are well-adjusted or dysfunctional. The question that couples will often ask themselves is “When does it make sense to see a relationship therapist?”
People have different ideas about this, just as people have different ideas about when to take the car to the mechanic. Some people take the car in regularly, whether or not there are any apparent issues. Others wait until an obvious sign like the “check engine” light is on before they look for help.
For still others, the “check engine” light is merely a suggestion, or a nuisance – ignore it long enough, and it’ll just fade into the background. If the comparison can be made, that’s how a wide swathe of people think about going to a relationship therapist.
When is It the Right Time for a Relationship Therapist?
There are upsides and downsides with each approach, and below we’ll explore when it’s best to make use of a relationship therapist.
It’s not when you think
For one thing, the right time to see a relationship therapist may not be when you think it is. Far too many couples think that relationship therapists are for people who are in deep trouble. In other words, to use our car analogy, they believe that relationship therapy is for those couples whose “check engine” light is blinking at them, or the car has broken down entirely.This isn’t entirely true. There is such a thing as relationship maintenance. There is always a need for a couple to keep learning things such as conflict resolution skills, goal setting, developing skills to cope with change and issues that may arise like mental health concerns. You don’t have to wait until the wheels fall off before you and your partner visit a therapist.
Seeing a therapist before any crisis hits your relationship can help you nip issues in the bud, and it is a valuable way to invest in your relationship on an ongoing basis. One of the major concerns that a couple may have about therapy whether they feel they need it or not is the cost.
Often, having access to a trained and licensed relationship therapist will cost money, and that can be a barrier to entry for most people. However, there are a few ways that you can try to employ these services without breaking the bank.
Instead of going for couples therapy weekly, consider every other week or once a month. The two of you can decide what relational issue to bring to the session and work on it that way. Also, there is the group therapy option, where it’s you and other couples working through questions and gaining skills together. Not only is group therapy often cheaper than individual therapy, but you’re getting access to the same skillset while also being exposed to other couples on the same journey. You may even find some couples interesting and helpful outside of the group therapy. Group therapy is great for accountability and bouncing ideas off others who are going through what you’re going through.
Apart from going to group therapy, another way to have access to therapy is through online counseling. Online therapy will vary in cost, but it has the advantage of being convenient, as you can do it from home. The flexibility it affords you also means that you don’t have to let go of work shifts to get to it, nor do you have to commute to get there, which can save you on gas. If cost is a huge factor for not being able to go for therapy, you can also investigate therapy that’s offered via a church or local community center, as they sometimes offer professional counseling services at a lower cost.
It’s exactly when you think
If you’re trying to decide on the best time to go for relationship therapy, it’s exactly when you think. When things are going south, that’s as good a time as any to go for therapy. When the “check engine” light is glowing, it may be time to check the engine and see what’s going on there.
If you find that you’re being snippy with one another more often, you’re not being as affectionate as usual, or you’re simply drifting apart, it’s as good a time as any to go for therapy. Relationships that are in crisis need intervention, and therapy can help a couple see the issues clearly for what they are, assist them in recognizing the resources they have at their disposal for addressing the issues, and begin steering things toward relationship health.
Obstacles to Going for Therapy
We’ve already mentioned how the cost may be an issue for a couple going for therapy, but there may be other concerns at play. Part of what a couple may have to overcome is the stigma toward seeking help through therapy. A couple may feel that going for therapy is an admission of weakness and that they aren’t strong or savvy enough to work through things on their own.The feeling of shame that may accompany a desire for therapy can be an obstacle for some. In therapy, though, your therapist will not shame you; instead, they will create a safe and constructive space for you to explore and begin resolving the issues in your relationship.
Another potential obstacle is that there may be a reluctance to go for therapy due to mistaken beliefs about the relationship itself. Some people believe that when it comes to love, if you must work hard at it, then it probably wasn’t meant to be. So, they’d rather just let the relationship die than try to save it. This is a mistaken understanding of relationships because every relationship needs work of some kind.
An additional mistake that one may cling to is avoiding therapy because you believe you’ve already diagnosed the issue, and it’s rooted in your partner.(!) It feels like a waste of money and time to try and resolve a problem you’ve already identified. However, what therapy often discloses is that there is rarely a situation in which problems stem from only one partner.
Therapy is challenging because it will unearth unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior in both partners, and that will be uncomfortable. That discomfort, however, should not make you shy away from seeking help, as it will help reinvigorate your relationship.
Some couples that are going through a tough time might not make use of this resource even then. They may feel that things are too far gone to be remedied, the wheels have begun to fall off and far too much water has gone under the bridge, etc. This may explain why according to some studies only 37% of divorced couples worked with a therapist before signing their divorce papers.
Instead of letting the descent continue, you can begin changing the trajectory of your story right now. The average couple waits for around six years before seeking professional help for marital problems, and by that time some unhealthy patterns of behavior have already set in.
Far too few couples have a thorough education of what marriage will be like through premarital counseling, while according to some statistics, around 19% of couples seek out some form of couples’ therapy. If you didn’t receive training in how to manage the difficulties of marriage before getting married, you can still get that education in a difficult season of your relationship.
When is the right time to make use of a relationship therapist? The right time to go to therapy is right now. Of course, you must consider such things as cost and time, but there are ways to get around that, such as using group and online therapy. There may be some other obstacles to going to therapy such as stigma toward it, but the process of therapy is private and confidential, it is safe and non-judgmental, and your relationship will be better for it. Life is hard. Relationships can be tough. There is no need to figure it all out on your own. Take the time to be kind to yourself and your significant other and step into the counseling option. You don’t have to do it alone.
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