Julia Flood, LCSW
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Who's Afraid of Couples Therapy?

Couples counseling has been shown to have great benefits. It leads to better relationships, solutions to problems, or reductions of feelings of distress. But if therapy is so helpful, why are people often reluctant to begin?

For one, there's a certain stigma attached to therapy, and you may worry about becoming “the talk of the town”. It can be difficult to admit—even to yourself—that your marriage has a problem and that you might need help. Even if you have a positive attitude towards therapy in general, you might be wary of letting down your guard with your partner, and giving him or her a platform to say uncharitable things about you. Perhaps you don't want to face the confrontation that comes with hearing that your partner dislikes some of the things you do or say, as that may evoke sadness, guilt, frustration, loneliness, or fear of giving up something important to you. Or maybe you would be the one raising these difficult topics to your partner, and you don't want to hurt him or her by the way you feel.

You're not on your own

Fortunately there are great benefits to the counseling process, which you'd miss out on if your anxiety about it stops you from taking the leap. For one thing, you're not doing this alone. A couples therapist is a neutral party who does not have a stake in the outcome the way friends and family do. Additionally, therapy will provide tools that empower you as a couple to share your thoughts and feelings effectively. Couples therapy teaches you how to listen and talk about difficult topics with your spouse. You will learn how to stay grounded when hearing something that floods your body with strong emotions. Effective marriage counseling coaches you to speak up for yourself and negotiate for your needs and desires, while empowering your partner to do the same. It gives you a forum to practice making the stretch of putting yourself into your partner's shoes, which is especially difficult when you disagree. There will be many skills to be learned and practiced under the supervision of a skilled couples therapist, and the end result will likely be both personal growth and an increase in your intimacy.

Your best bet

Whether you're dealing with infidelity, daily duels, or the threat of your partner walking out, your marriage may already be deeply troubled, and going on as you have been is not a sustainable strategy. Ignoring your problems and hoping they get better on their own can be a risky decision. So while the process of counseling sometimes hurts, it is worth the effort. While it is important to stress that even with a very skilled therapist there can be no guarantee for a cure or a specific outcome, it may be either facing your fears or losing what you have altogether.