Common Questions for Couples Therapy
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling | Columbia, Mo
These are just a handful of questions we get consistently from people seeking out couples therapy or marriage counseling, so we ‘d figure putting pen to paper (or digits to keyboard) was the right way to go. Make sure you reach out if you have other questions. We’re happy to answer any!
My partner (typically “husband”) is afraid he’s going to get blamed for everything. What should I tell him?
Here’s what I want you to tell your partner (again, this is usually husbands who are worried about this). Tell them that couples therapists don’t see “right” and “wrong” people. They see dynamics, connection, disconnection, escalation, and a whole host of other things. To say that “one person” is to blame for all relationship issues is way too simple of an explanation for something that is immensely rich and complex. To say that one person is to blame is the equivalent of responding with “I used an egg” when asked, “How’d you bake that cake?" You see what we mean? That’s ridiculous. And it’s the same for couples work. We recognize it’s difficult to get in the door, and the very last thing we want to do (in fact, it’s the thing we don’t want to do at all) is push people out by making them feel fully responsible for relationship problems. That’s not realistic.
All of that said, we need to clarify just a little further. Yes, there are actions that are wrong. Infidelity, for example, is a “wrong action” by (usually) one partner, but please know that the point of couples therapy isn’t to crap on that one partner. It’s to heal from the hurt and redevelop a relationship that’s built on solid foundation. If we, as therapists, are belittling, blaming, or rude to either partner, then that foundation is going to be shaky from the start. And, realistically, it’s not going to even be built because one (or both) of you are going to want to leave.
It is absolutely our mission that you feel safe, cared for, and able to face your own mistakes and your partner’s mistakes, and heal and grow together moving forward. Whew! This is hard work, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
What if my partner is just going because I want to go?
Valid fear, totally. It’s scary enough to get in the door, let alone with a person who’s feeling relatively indifferent about it. I would say that it’s pretty common one person is a little more on the fence than the other, and that that’s not necessarily predictive of how couples therapy will go. What can often happen is that people get in the door, they start talking about their relationship to the therapist, they’re presented with a thorough breakdown of what’s going on within their relationship, they start doing the work and actually seeing changes, and the initial fears are basically forgotten.
I know, I know. Easier said than done. And also hindsight is much kinder than foresight. It’s easy for us to write about this and explain it, but it’s still a hard place to be. Ultimately, we like to ask that people just stay with us until they’ve at least been given a breakdown of their relationship. Then we can talk about the indifference (if it’s still there) and what to do about/with it. It’s not uncommon that the breakdown of the relationship leads to a much richer, more nuanced view of what’s going wrong - it gives you understanding and language, both of which are immensely powerful. And then we give you the subtleties for making changes and enhancing what’s already there.
We’ve never done this before. What can we expect?
Gah, this is one of our favorite questions.
First off, you can expect to be treated with care, compassion, and respect. If you don’t feel any of these things and, instead, feel disdain, then you might want to run for the hills. Your counselor will definitely be interrupting things as they come up, but that should still be done in a respectful way.
Second, you can expect to learn some fun factoids about healthy relationships (i.e. affairs are not the number one predictor of divorce). These are crucial. Lots of people have misunderstandings about relationships and have bought into myths about what “healthy” relationships are without knowing the science. Part of our work is helping you learn what’s actually predictive or success or dissolution.
Third, you can expect to have some structure to sessions, especially at first. Basically, the first three sessions are totally gears toward informal assessment and treatment planning. This is to give all of us some clarity on your relationship - what’s going well and what’s going not so well. From there, we have a pretty clear path forward, in terms of what dynamics to interrupt.
Lastly, you can expect to implement new ways of communicating (and fighting) with your partner in front of your therapist. This feels distinctly uncomfortable for people to do, but it’s really important. We have people interact with each other and make sure to help them do it in healthy ways. The purpose is that you can then take what you’ve learned with you, rather than talk for an hour to your therapist who serves as your interpreter for your partner. That’s a waste of time for everybody because it doesn’t translate outside of the session.