Is it Time for Relationship Counseling?
BY ANITA MARTIN
Relationships are one of the most difficult tasks in which to succeed, but they are also one of the most valuable opportunities life presents. Still, many couples will face challenges. Beyond romantic partnerships, others face difficult family dynamics, unfriendly work environments, and even unbalanced friendships. As I refer to marital or couple’s counseling in this article, remember the principles are relevant to any relationship context.
Couples begin marriage or relationship counseling for many reasons. One or both partners may be dissatisfied with some area of the relationship or individual behaviors. Sometimes, the couple has waited too long to address concerns and counseling may focus on how to end the relationship in a healthy way. Other couples commit to counseling, work to improve communication skills, and are able to repair and rebuild their connection.
Ideally, couples considering a long-term commitment or marriage may benefit from counseling. However, the initial romance and emotional intensity of proposals, engagements, and wedding planning can cloud weaknesses and early communication problems. It may sound contradictory, but this is an important time to spend time alone. Taking time apart may allow clearer perspective and highlight areas to be strengthened before marriage. I’ve even heard stories of those who were uneasy about getting married, but did so anyway in an effort to fulfill the expectations of family, friends, and their partner. Eventually, the relationship ended because there were unaddressed issues from the beginning.
However, if you did not have the opportunity for pre-marital relationship counseling, your partnership can still benefit. The most important thing you can do is to begin counseling at the first sign of problems. Don’t wait for a better time or for life’s busyness to slow. Depending on the specific concerns, you may consider individual counseling first especially if your partner rejects couple’s sessions or is otherwise dismissive of your needs.
How do you know when it’s time to begin couple’s counseling? Of course, there are many issues that can be improved through therapy. I’ve included a few below:
1. Communication Problems
While communication problems may be straightforward, I believe the extent to which effective communication is vital to relationship health may be misconstrued. Poor communication skills leave room for misunderstandings and unintentional hurt. Ineffective discussions may result in unresolved arguments and built-up resentments. Even if your overall relationship is healthy, most couples can benefit from improving communication skills and learning to share true intentions and feelings.
Any form of addiction can be destructive and create significant difficulties in a relationship, especially if your loved one is unaware of the impact on you and/or your family. Family members of those facing addiction need support. Your therapist can suggest additional family support groups.
3. Mental Illness
If a loved one has a mental health diagnosis, you and other family members can benefit from therapeutic strengthening to provide education and offer a safe space in which to address personal needs.
4. Blended Families
Just as relationships sometimes end, families begin. Couples with children from previous marriages or relationships may benefit from marital or family counseling as they learn to relate in a new family system.
Counseling can improve relationships at any time. Sometimes, life presents major events or transitions that leave us feeling confused or just in need of outside understanding and perspective.