In most cases, couples go to therapy seeking professional help after a triggering event such as infidelity, as a last resort when the relationship is already significantly deteriorated or simply because conflict and lack of understanding are so high. Between the couple members, therapy seems to them the only possible solution. The truth is that we should not wait for the couple to be about to break up to improve it.
When unresolved problems, misunderstandings, or discussions that lead nowhere to accumulate, a lot of suffering and wear and tear occurs in the relationship, leading to great detachment and hopelessness, giving us the feeling that there is nothing more. What can we do And it is this feeling generates in us an attitude of helplessness and passivity in the face of resolving difficulties, causing us not to try hard enough or to expect our partner to be the one to do all the work for both of us.
While it is true that there may be many reasons to seek professional help, it is essential to take into account what we can and cannot expect from couples therapy.
Couples therapy is not a magic wand or an instruction book.
Sometimes the therapist, like a witch or wizard, is expected to provide a series of miraculous formulas or guidelines that work instantly. However, each relationship is different, and we are not all the same, nor do we need the same thing. So therapy seeks to be a guide and accompaniment so that the couple learns to manage, get to know each other, and understand each other by developing their own “manual” where both are involved. They work collaboratively with a common goal.
Work must be done both inside and outside of sessions.
It is essential to keep in mind that the factor that has the most weight is the effort made outside the consultation to maintain the changes and improvements. If we pretend that the few hours that the sessions last are enough, we will be placing ourselves as passive subjects of the solution when it is the work that the couples do once they leave, which helps them to internalize the changes.
Couples therapy is not individual therapy.
Sometimes, many people seek to solve personal difficulties during the sessions. It is undoubtedly essential to know each member to reach a deep understanding. However, the therapist works on the relationship, not on the individuals, so individual therapy is sometimes needed and working together. In addition, it is recommended that different therapists carry out individual and couples therapy to avoid misunderstandings or that one of the two feels that they are at a disadvantage compared to the other. In this way, the couple therapist will always be seen as working solely to seek common well-being.
The goal of therapy is not to change your partner.
As we have mentioned, the objectives must be standard and improve the relationship. If we only pretend that therapy makes our partner change, we will be excluding ourselves, and we will believe that we do not have to do anything. We are all difficult, and we all have a hard time changing. If we think that we are perfect and that the other must adapt, we will not do our part, and the therapy will not be effective. After all, if the relationship isn’t working out, it’s usually because there are problems or errors in the interaction, which always involves both of you solving it.
It is not possible to know the exact duration of therapy.
It is normal to know how long it will take to solve our problems, both in terms of time and the economic part. The truth is that the duration of the therapy will depend on the difficulties that the couple presents, the frequency with which they go to the consultation (if we space the sessions a lot, it will give us the feeling that it is going more slowly) and, above all, the effort and involvement.
Couples therapy not only helps the relationship continue.
The therapy will always be based on the objectives that are set. If the mediation in separation is not the reason for consultation, the break will not be considered the first option. When this happens, it is usually due to going to the talk as a last resort or dragged by the other when really what is needed is to end the relationship. Since it helps to improve mutual understanding, communication, empathy, and knowledge, the therapeutic process will discover and bring to light what is happening to the relationship, working to maintain it or end it from care.
Couples therapy seeks to achieve safe functioning.
Typically, people bring up particular topics of discussion and disagreement as they cause conflict over and over again. It may be that we do not know how to reach agreements, or we are not able to understand each other regarding, for example, coexistence, money, parenthood, sexuality, families of origin…, and we want them to be addressed during the sessions. The therapy will take these themes as tips of the iceberg (what is seen), seeking to find what is not working below the surface. In other words, they will try to put on the table the dynamics and erroneous operating patterns that cause the couple to end up in the same situation repeatedly. Thus, work will be done so that the couple learns to manage each other in the face of any obstacle that comes their way.
In short, couples therapy is a process by which each becomes an expert on the other, taking responsibility for the part that corresponds to them. Thus, the relationship will not be a battlefield where we are enemies but a haven where we take care of each other and form a team.