If you think you might need couples counseling -- but you're not positive – Kelly Hoffman, MS, says there are sure signs. The marriage and family therapist stopped by to help us figure it out.
How can my partner and I tell if we need couple's therapy?
In a healthy vibrant relationship, both partners feel happy, loved, respected, listened to and understood. They feel admired, appreciated, safe physically and emotionally. They feel like they are in a relationship where they have each other's backs. In these relationships, hurts DO occur. When they occur, they are handled with listening, understanding and a feeling of safety and REPAIR occurs. Repair means that things go back to being healthy again, they start healing, like a band-aid and disinfectant on a cut. Repair does not mean to put a bandaid over an infected wound and pretend like everything is ok.
There are 3 elements of keeping a relationship healthy that happy relationships do amazingly well.
- Don’t do/Stop negative behaviors
- Excessively and delightedly initiate positive connections
- The relationship “heals itself” because partners efforts to connect, empathize and understand bridge feelings of hurt and misunderstanding while building trust.
When you don’t have a vibrant relationship you won’t have the 3 elements functioning well, and you will need some kind of therapeutic intervention to help the happiness and healing happen.
Therapy itself is defined as is an intervention intended to treat a problem after an injury in order to help the client(s) get healthier, happier, stronger
What therapy is not: It's not CPR. It does not resuscitate a dead relationship. Maybe that happens on occasion, but that is not where therapy is most effective.
Therapy works when you have a skilled facilitator who is capable of helping you:
- Stop hurtful behaviors
- Increase loving/safety producing skills
- Helps you learn skills to feel “repair” from each other
- Navigate the “putting to bed” past hurts and fears so that you can spend the majority of time in your relationship happy together
Therapy does not work when:
- Your therapist focuses on problems before your relationship has safety and repair skills
- You or your partner do not feel safe enough to authentically participate
- You or your partner do not feel admiration for each other.
- One or both partners is checked out, not participating
The Bottom Line:
Every couple will benefit from the skills therapy seeks to teach. Forgiveness, gratitude, listening, voicing concerns, addressing issues, creating positive experiences, reducing negative experiences.
You need therapy when you can’t stop doing negative things, you can’t do the positive things, and/or you can’t heal the inevitable little and big hurts that come with a relationship.
The biggest indicator that these things aren’t happening in your relationship will be that you seem to be talking about the same things over and over again, you are always problem-solving and/or arguing. You don’t do fun things together and you don’t enjoy/look forward to being together.