Most couples who come to see me in my therapy practice have decided to seek help at the stage when their relationship is starting to fall apart. They are often at a breaking point: if things do not start to change for the better soon, one or both people are going to leave the relationship. Emotions are high, people are hurt, and there is often a piercing pressure to see some significant change.
Seeking help at such times is a commendable choice and one that I encourage wholeheartedly, and I want to suggest to modern couples a possibly unusual idea: attend couples therapy regularly when your relationship is going well. When couples attend counseling when things are going well, they are able to strengthen their bond, deepen intimacy and connection, prevent future periods of confusion or disconnection, and keep the relationship fresh, passionate, and alive.
You might be thinking, why rock the boat when things are going well? Why create problems where there are none? Why stir the pot? Many people discover that couples counseling entails a lot more than simply “fixing” problems between you and your mate. Many people also experience the life-changing benefits that can come from bringing intentional curiosity, attention, and care to the unfolding processes of your romantic partnership on an ongoing basis.
As you know, relationships are not static or motionless. When two people come together, they are each bringing their own unique view of the world, with their own past experiences and their own future hopes and aspirations. Each person is subtly in flux, is changing, is becoming more or less of who they want to be in the world each day. We often forget that our partner is always changing, and that we are always changing as well. Thus, it is very easy to relate to our significant other from an idea we have in our head about who they are, or from who they were yesterday or last week, instead of from who they actually are in this moment.
Within the safe, intentional space of counseling, couples are given the unique opportunity to shine a light directly on the subtle and complicated processes that occur weekly, daily, or even moment-to-moment between two changing and evolving beings. No distractions, no obligations of daily life; instead a third person to help guide the process in a way that is most beneficial for both people involved. The actual experience of shining a light on whatever is happening between two people – whether it is what is going well, not going well, or anything in between – can be an experience of deepening intimacy and connection that many couples are hungry for.
When couples attend therapy on an on-going basis when things are going well, they often report greater satisfaction in their relationship, as well as greater satisfaction in life as a whole. They may feel they are able to take risks in other areas of their lives and show up more fully in whatever they pursue. Family bonds are often strengthened, and people may feel supported in ways they never knew were possible.
I would like to leave my readers with a last thought: against popular belief, couples counseling can be a joyous and uplifting process. While painful and difficult feelings may arise, you can learn to experience these feelings with grace and ease, allowing each experience to bring you closer to your partner, and closer to yourself as well. It can be an enlivening, enriching experience to share yourself with your partner exactly as you are, and to receive your partner as he or she truly is. Whether you attend counseling when things are going well or when things are falling apart, my hope is that you gain more clarity, connection, and fulfillment in your relationship and in your life.