Self-help is all the rage with hundreds, if not thousands, of social media accounts dedicated to learning how to become the best version of yourself.
But what about when your problem is not “me”, but “we?”
When it takes two to tango, literally and metaphorically, couples counseling can benefit both the individuals and the relationship. Despite its long, undeserved stigma, being in couples counseling doesn’t mean your relationship is bad. It’s a tool for improvement.
So how do you know if it’s time to take it to a professional? Mary Jo Rapini, M.Ed, LPC is a psychotherapist, speaker, and author who encourages healthy relationships. She’s provided a list of red flags that may signal the need for professional help.
You notice an escalation of arguments.
You are angrier after arguments.
You’re not sleeping as well.
You start feeling disconnected from your partner.
Your partner is not the first person you go to when you’ve got big news or something important happens.
You no longer reach out to your partner for help with certain things, for advice, or in areas where you used to elicit their help.
If you need something quickly or something more intimate, you go to other friends.
Rapini recommends having a therapist ready to go on speed dial as soon as the relationship progresses to marriage or an equivalent serious stage, someone who “they can actually turn to when they go over bumps that they’re unable to address. Or when, if they do address them, the issues don’t end the way they thought they would or should to benefit the health of the marriage.”
Rapini shares that couple’s therapy is a place where people come to learn more about themselves. “The most important person that you have to focus on in a marriage is you. What makes you stall in changing? What do you resist changing?” She also emphasizes the necessity of learning why a partner’s action hurts so deeply and using that knowledge to grow.
“The reason our spouse often has so much influence over us is because we’re working out some pain from our childhood, and this partner is another person with whom we usually will try to resolve these issues,” she says.
Rapini warns that some couples won’t benefit from counseling. “If you are in a relationship and there’s already been infidelity and neglect on both sides of the relationship, going to therapy as a last-ditch effort will probably be unsuccessful,” she explains. “My biggest fear is it’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth for going to therapy in your next relationship.”
You ask, we answer. Send your relationship questions to [email protected], and one of our experts may just answer them in an upcoming column.
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