Whether you keep having the same fight over and over again, or you can’t pinpoint what exactly is wrong with your relationship, getting outside help can get you from relationship rut to #couplegoals.Although there’s a lot to look forward to from couples counseling, keep in mind that it won’t necessarily be an easy process. Here are seven ways to mentally and emotionally prepare for therapy with your partner:
1. Make sure you are both 100% invested in attending therapy together
Seem obvious, but your (or your partner’s) enthusiasm for therapy could eclipse the other one’s hesitation.
Quite often it is one partner who has suggested that the couple seek couples counseling, and the other partner is reluctant about beginning this process.
Having trouble rallying your significant other to go? Take time to listen to their concerns with an open mind.
It can be helpful to give the not-so-excited partner an opportunity to have some of their concerns or questions addressed prior to the session.
After all, the more dedicated you both are to the process, the more profoundly your relationship will grow and heal.
2. Discuss shared goals for therapy with your partner
Assuming you’re both on board for starting therapy, it’s time to land on your shared goals for your time in sessions.
Ask each other strategic questions to unveil those goals, such as:
How do we want to grow as a couple?
Do we need to work on our conflict style?
Could we improve the quality or frequency of our intimacy?
Are we abusive to each other?
Do we have shared goals, and what are our goals as a couple?
Do we need to work on listening to and validating each other?
Once you have a clearer idea of what you want out of therapy, it can be easier to find a therapist who’s prepared to help you meet those goals.
3. Start your search for a couples counselor by prioritizing comfort and fit
Every couples therapist will have a different approach and style, so you and your partner should look for someone you both feel comfortable with.
Here’s how to make sure you land on the right fit:
Read therapist bios and watch introductory videos if they have any: A therapist’s professional statement and video can give you a helpful sense of the therapist’s demeanor and how they speak.
Come up with a list of questions to ask the therapist, such as “Have you worked with couples who have [our issue]?” Being honest up front about your challenge will get you further, faster.
Schedule 2-3 initial phone calls with providers. Learn about each therapist’s approach to couples counseling and decide which appeals to both of you.
Consider speaking to therapists on the phone separately to make sure you both would feel comfortable proceeding with in-person sessions.
4. Clear your schedule for your first appointment
When it’s time for your first appointment, prioritize it to the fullest extent possible by making sure you both have your schedules cleared for, and ideally after, the session.
If you have a late-day or evening appointment, for example, consider leaving the rest of the night free so you can emotionally rest and recharge afterwards.
5. Get ready to share personal history
While it is “couples” counseling, your discussion won’t be limited to issues surrounding just you and your partner.
Getting a sense of your family history is important for a couples counselor; it helps them understand your emotional bonds and attachment styles, which can then provide insight into how you relate to others.
Emotional bonds can affect everything from who you choose as a partner, to how well your relationship flows, and even how it ends. Get ready to dive in deep!
6. Decide whether – and what – you want to tell your friends
Having different relationships is crucial for our overall health. We can’t all expect our partner to be our lover, our BFF, our personal chef, and our workout buddy. Those additional roles what friends are for.
What friends aren’t for? Making you feel embarrassed about going to couples counseling.
Whether or not you tell your friends is totally your call – but when it comes to couples counseling, remember that you’re not obligated to anyone but yourself and your partner, and that you respect your partner’s privacy as well.
7. Know that it’s okay to be nervous about your first session!
Many couples who go to counseling together are, understandably, anxious about their first appointment. After all, you may be opening up about certain challenges and intimate issues that you and your partner have only ever spoken about to each other. In some cases, you might be sharing things you’ve never even told your partner.
It’s completely normal – common, actually – to feel anxious about embarking on this new experience. Don’t worry if one (or both) of you is still hesitant on the day of.
Unknowns make many people anxious. It can be helpful to simply be patient and stay hopeful that after both partners meet the therapist, some of the anxieties about going to couples counseling will be put at ease.
And remember: The last thing your therapist is going to do is judge you. They’re there to help you manage and understand your emotions in a way that can help you both move forward.
High fives to both of you for taking this important step towards repairing your relationship! So long as you’re both committed to putting in the work, you’re off to a great start.