I’m not here to tell you what to do. I don’t think you should go to therapy (couples or individual), unless you are open to going. Having said that, marital therapy is an opportunity to lift the hood of the car and see what is happening to the engine. Are all the parts working? Does anything need updating or replacement? (maybe some behaviors for example). Marriage is much like a car-it requires regular maintenance! Sometimes just a simple oil change makes the whole car run better; othertimes, it may need a bit more work. But knowing what would improve your relationship is definitely the place to begin! We can’t fix/change/improve that which we do not acknowledge!
So, if you’re spouse has been asking/urging/threatening that you should join them in marital therapy, here are some ways you may benefit:
- First, it shows your spouse/partner you are invested in making the marriage/relationship work; or at least trying to do so.
- Second, if you have a significant history with your spouse and especially if you have kids, it is critical to be able to say (to your spouse, your kids one day, and to yourself) that you tried everything in your power to try and make the marriage work before walking away. If your marriage ends, you can walk away without guilt, knowing you did all you can.
- Unless you are an auto mechanic, you probably don’t know the inner workings of a car as much as a mechanical expert does. The same is true of marriage and relationships We don’t often learn how to make a marriage work. Instead, we watch movies about how people just fall in love and live happily ever after. This is not reality. Reality is about learning to live with your imperfections and your spouse’s imperfections, without judgment.
- Sitting with a professional relationship expert provides you and your spouse a safe place to talk. Chances are good that you will both act more contained than you might if you were both at home having the same discussion. A seasoned therapist can not only mediate the conversation between both of you so it is more productive but also intervene in ways that can change the course of the conversation so it is more productive.
- Therapy does not always lead to divorce, like many people may think. Many times I have had clients who have said after the first session, “Wow, this was helpful and I thought I was going to be blamed for everything.” Or “I really enjoyed this session and had no idea how helpful it was going to be.” If you’ve never gone, how do you know?
- If, by chance, you and your spouse end up getting divorced after having gone to therapy, it was not the therapy that caused the divorce. Your marriage had gotten to where it was prior to walking into the therapist’s office. The therapy may have just been the flashlight to shine the light on what was happening in the relationship, just like using a light to see what’s happening under the hood of the car. It’s not the mechanic’s fault the car was breaking down.
- Last, couples therapy is similar to going to school. It is a safe place to learn how to communicate, resolve conflicts in a healthy way, and truly how to love each other.
Despite how long you have been married or in a committed relationship, couples therapy can help any couple at any point in the journey of being together; if you are both willing to go.