Our romantic relationships are often the people we live with, spend the most time with, share property and finances with, and parent with. They are a very significant part of our lives—the happiness of our intimate relationships is a big determinant of our overall happiness in life.
Given their importance, they deserve as much attention as we give to any other area of our lives.
How many people spend as much time thinking about and improving their relationships as they make their careers? Very few of us. Why is this?
Romantic relationships are so important that they bring up really deep feelings. Most of us don’t like to feel these feelings, so we push them away. This is a recipe for relationship problems. Most couples postpone working on their relationship because it’s scary to look at yourself and feel your feelings.
An authentic relationship between two people who take responsibility for themselves feels terrifying sometimes.
When we open our hearts, we open ourselves to the possibility that we can be met and also the possibility that we can be left.
This is not for the faint-hearted.
Advice for couples on couples therapy:
1. Get clear on what you want in your relationship
Often we get relationships confused with other things like societal expectations, family expectations, parenting, and financial stability. Are you after a love relationship where you are both growing together and on the same page? Or are you looking to be able to tolerate each other as you manage the business of life?
These are two very separate things. And require different types of therapy. You need to decide if you are in an evolutionary relationship – which means a relationship where you walk alongside each other in order to grow. Or a functional relationship – in which you both play roles that you negotiate and hopefully are on the same page about.
2. Go to couples therapy the minute you even think about it
Often couples think that there is something wrong if they go to therapy. I can tell you that the strongest couples I know have a therapist they consult as needed. The most successful couples therapies are with couples who are not on the brink of separation. Most of the couples who come to couples therapy are considering separation – I am always sorry it took them so long to reach out. The sooner, the better, the sooner, the better, the sooner, the better.
3. Find a great therapist
Couples therapists are not all the same. You want to see someone you feel comfortable with. Someone who can hold the vision with you of the relationship you want. Someone with great energy.
4. Go weekly at first
I know scheduling is difficult, but it is really important that you go to couples therapy regularly for a period of time. There is a tendency to stop as soon as things are a little bit better. Your conscious mind may think they are better, but you want to see the process through. It’s really important.
Humans don’t like to feel so-called negative feelings of anger, fear, and sadness. So most of us will do anything we can not to feel them – couples therapy is most definitely something we tend to avoid. Don’t avoid it if you want that evolutionary relationship. If you want to have a passionate sex life and a happy flowing household and you are having challenges making that happen on your own – don’t avoid couples therapy!
Your relationship is worth it. Both of you are worth it.
5. Both parties in a relationship need to work on themselves
Both people need to be able to feel their feelings and express them. To understand the context for their feelings – to understand that their previous relationships and their upbringing formed many of their patterns and that their feelings are not all about the other person. From there, each member of the relationship can learn to take responsibility for themselves. They can learn to ask for what they need and figure out what is best for them.
Work on yourself can happen in couples therapy, in your own individual therapy, through self-reflection, reading, workshops, energy healing, body work, walks in nature…what matters is that both members of the couple are taking a self-reflective stance and healing past wounds.
To end, here is a bonus relationship tip: expectations and blame are relationship killers. Make agreements and keep your word. Don’t blame your partner for things they never agreed to do.
Being in a relationship is a huge opportunity for enjoyment, intimacy, and growth. It is not easy. If you are challenged in your relationship – this is completely normal! The only question is how you are going to show up, and couples therapy is one very effective way to do the work of growth for yourself and each other so you can enjoy the sweetness of life together.