Many couples who experience relational problems at some point may consider the option of couples counseling. They often do so when they get so frustrated and stymied by what is happening to them that they do not know what else to do. So, unfortunately, therapy becomes the last option for a lot of distressed couples, rather than an aid earlier on, when couples first notice problematic areas in their relationship.
Seeking couples counseling is indeed a difficult decision to make, particularly for those individuals who have never been in therapy before and don’t quite know what to expect. There are many reasons for this reticence.
First of all, it is uncomfortable for most to “spill their guts” in front of a stranger. Relational problems are private, intimate. They touch the very core of who we are. They expose our deepest insecurities and fears. They make us feel naked, with no way of protecting ourselves from the accusations and attacks.
Additionally, or perhaps as a way of avoiding an uncomfortable exposure, there is a tendency to believe that one should be able to address and resolve his or her problems without having to relay on someone else, and that relying on someone else is a sign of weakness.
As a psychotherapist, I often hear couples commenting, “How can someone who knows nothing about me help me feel better?” and “How can a stranger understand why I feel the way I do and help us feel love again for each other?”
The issue of money also can be used to avoid therapy. And, indeed, therapy can create some financial stress for some already distressed couples.
All of this is understandable. After all, we are confused about our relationship, and we believe that, more than anybody else, we know what is going on, so how can someone who knows nothing about it have any advantage over us?
These are some of the reasons why couples, when they finally decide to get to a therapist’s office, typically get there three years later than they should have! This is a shame because, by then, their dysfunctional ways of being together may have caused irreparable damage, changing partners’ feelings so much that they don’t seem to have any love left for one another.
Paradoxically, it is because a therapist is neither a friend nor a member of the family but a stranger that he or she can help. It is by being an outsider, knowing nothing about one or the other partner, hence not taking sides, that a therapist can remain as objective as possible and focus not on one or the other partner, but on their RELATIONSHIP. Also, we know that KNOWING what may be going on is not enough to remove the problems and regain the closeness that was there before. Something else is needed, and a therapist can provide that.
In the next blog we will discuss what this something is.