27 Sep Not Sure Whether Marriage Therapy Is A Good Idea?
Knowing when to accept relationship challenges as normal consequences of relationship life, and when to sit up, take notice, and get help, isn’t always easy.
If you and your partner are not sure whether marriage therapy is a good idea, at least you can start by making sure you’re not relying on bad reasons to avoid getting help.
Here’s a few reasons why couples delay or avoid getting marriage or relationship therapy (even when they actually need it):
1. IT’S GOING TO HURT
When you think of marriage therapy do you see a couch, a box of tissues… and a free-for-all between yourself and your partner: tears, accusations, anger, blame…?
If so, you’ve got the wrong picture of what it’s all about.
Yep. Emotions can hurt. And relationships are emotional things. But the whole point of marriage therapy is to help you create a relationship where painful emotions can’t survive: to turn what’s not currently working into something that does.
Being proactive rather than reactive is the only way to stay really truly happily married. A good marriage therapist won’t leave anyone wallowing in painful emotions. Anyway, whether you’re admitting it or not, you’re probably doing enough of that already, even though you’re trying to bury your head in the sand. It’s time to stop the pain.
2. THE THERAPIST IS GOING TO TAKE SIDES
You know you’re not perfect. Maybe your partner is already in the habit of telling you so. So the last thing you need is another person with licence to do the same.
Let me assure you: your partner isn’t perfect either. Each of you is complicit in the cycles and patterns that are playing out in your relationship, the good ones and the bad. And each of you is big enough to start understanding and accepting responsibility for your role in it.
Trusting that marriage therapy isn’t about blame starts with you being big and brave enough to look at yourself in honest ways. A good therapist will help your partner do the same.
3. WE DON’T HAVE TIME
Work, kids, after school activities and weekend sport and parties: you’re flat out just getting through the week. And Christmas is coming, so there’s an opportunity for socialising in the coming months that’s going to swallow up every skerrick of your spare time.
But can your relationship survive indefinitely in its current state? Are you and your partner doing what you pledged to do at the start, moving towards each other day-by-day, week-by-week… creating a lasting love and happy future together? Or are the inevitable frustrations and differences of married life driving a wedge between you? And how sketchy are things going to get when the busy times bring even more stress into the relationship and family system?
If you are aware that your relationship is somewhat broken, don’t wait until it falls apart before you get help. When it comes to relationship health and happiness, and stitch in time definitely saves nine.
4. EVERYONE HAS MARRIAGE PROBLEMS
True. But the happily married people only have them rarely, and when they have them, they don’t say and do hurtful things, plus they recover and repair really quickly. Also, they actually get closer after a relationship problem, rather than closing off a little chunk of their hearts every time their relationship is challenged, like partners in unhealthy marriages do.
It’s not the problems themselves, but the way partners deal with their problems that determines whether a marriage will survive, thrive, or fail.
As a relationship therapist now for almost 25 years, I have witnessed this so many times and know it to be true. Everyone has marriage problems, but it’s up to you how you are going to deal with yours.
5. OUR CONFLICT ISN’T HURTING THE KIDS
I don’t believe it. If you are in conflict and you have kids, your conflict is hurting your kids.
So in summary, if you can relate to any of the above reasons to avoid reaching out for expert help with your relationship, please think again. Hopefully you’ll get really good at knowing when your relationship problems are a normal part of an otherwise happy marriage, and when they are alarm bells: signs that what you both share and cherish really needs attention and help.
Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For over 20 years she has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive. Contact Pamela here.