Many people seem to be under the impression that the time to go to couples therapy is when they are “knee-deep” into the relationship; they are experiencing many challenges and even beginning to feel a bit sour about it all.
The truth is that every relationship hits challenging spots especially the good ones! It is normal to get upset about things that our partners do, and it is even more normal to have arguments. Almost everyone will experience a point where they experience self-doubt about whether they indeed married the right one. While not every relationship will last forever, most people would like to feel that they really gave it their best shot.
When to go for it? The question is when is the “right time” to get a couples therapist involved, and who is couples therapy for? Unfortunately for those who still believe that couples therapy is for people who have a huge amount of problems, when that time actually does come, couples therapy will probably not suffice. A good metaphor for couples therapy is the need to care for our physical health. Imagine the difference between someone who goes to see a nutritionist after just having had a heart attack and wanting to drastically get back on track, versus someone who is young and healthy and wanting to prevent heart disease. The difference between these two people is stark. It is much more difficult to unlearn hard set habits, than learn new ones.
New couples Vs. Long Term. There is a vast difference between a couple just starting out and one that has been together a long time. New couples are just beginning to form habits around how to communicate and live together. They are learning how to negotiate creating space for one another in their lives. Couples that have been together much longer will already have a fairly routine way of talking to one another and dealing with challenges. Often, when communication has not been worked through from the outset, it can become unsatisfying, and stagnant. Unsatisfactory communication will almost always lead to hurt feelings, which often leave one or both parts of the couple to feel unloved.
Couples who attend couples therapy early in their relationship are usually far more motivated to work on their relationship and learn good habits and new skills than those who have hard-wired habits – because they can still remember why they chose to be together. Couples who struggle to remember why they still love one another are going to be far less successful in couple’s therapy because their motivation levels are lowered and they want things to be fixed more quickly than is actually feasible.
So, the timing, of realizing that a relationship needs work and of actively seeking help for it, is of prime importance in strengthening a relationship. And this is the reason that couples therapy is for the strong and not the weak is because it takes a really strong person to admit that there is always more to learn and that relationships are a growth-inspiring experience. The weak, either do not even try, or only seek help when the relationship is so weakened that it feels too hard to bother.
By choosing to work on a relationship from the outset a couple can create a strong basis for survival and learn how to continually enjoy being together for many years to come.