If you’ve reached a place in your relationship that has you contemplating couples therapy, one of the biggest hurdles can be figuring out how to broach this sensitive matter with your spouse.
It can feel risky and uncomfortable — particularly if the subject hasn’t come up before — but there are neutral and non-aggressive ways to bring up counselling that can help your partner understand where you’re coming from and why therapy might be a worthwhile idea.
The idea of broaching couples therapy with your partner can seem daunting, but if approached with care, it can be the first step in a productive and life-changing journey.
Whether you’ve welcomed a new baby into your home or have undergone a stressful career transition, chances are your relationship has weathered some ups and downs.
And you’re not alone.
Couples of all stripes face challenging headwinds from time to time; the important thing is finding ways to manage the storm or better yet, head it off entirely.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about couples therapy.
What is Couples Therapy?
When it comes to defining couples therapy, I usually like to start with what it’s not. Couples therapy is not a sign of failure or the impending downfall of a relationship. Nor is therapy necessarily reserved for times of crisis or as a last resort before breaking-up.
Rather, couples therapy can be an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship that may actually preempt problems down the line and help break the cycle of disconnection — an all-too-common pattern of fighting more, talking less and feeling increasingly isolated from your spouse.
While usually initiated by one half of the couple, successful therapy depends on equal participation from both partners. Sessions generally last around an hour and some, but not all, therapists will assign ‘homework’ for the couple to work on between appointments.
Reasons for Couples Therapy
As much as I wish therapy was standard practice in relationships, realistically I know most couples will only seek counselling when something ‘big’ forces the issue. Here are just some of the reasons a couple may embark on professional counselling:
The decision to embark on couples therapy is a landmark choice in any relationship and like any big step, requires effort and commitment. Thankfully, it can also provide much-needed clarity in the context of a safe and neutral environment that may yield the answers you’ve been looking for.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.