What Nobody Tells You About Couples Therapy

November 6, 2015  |  
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Are you and your partner going to a couple’s counselor, hoping to resolve your issues? Or, perhaps, you’re just going preemptively? Either way, no one is ever prepared for what they encounter in this unique experience. Here’s what nobody tells you about couple’s therapy.

Your counselor won’t take sides

No matter how nasty your significant other is being right in front of your counselor’s eyes, the counselor will not take a side. Even if you say, “Do you see how mean he’s being?!” your counselor will try to stay neutral.

Don’t get mad at them

A counselor is there to help your relationship—not just cheer on one of you while blaming the other. That’s not productive.

You’ll cry a lot

When you go to individual counseling, you talk about things you’re afraid of losing or ruining, but those things are not sitting right in front of you. In couples therapy, your partner is right there to hear all your thoughts and your pain. You’ll end up crying a lot.

Keep your schedule light

Don’t schedule anything for at least two hours after each session. You’ll be pretty rattled leaving the therapist’s office and need to regroup.

You’ll have to share your history

Yup—the whole history. Your first session might feel long and cumbersome. It might feel like you’re getting nothing done as you rehash the past.

Every second matters

You may think you know the stories and events that are important, but clearly, you don’t—that’s why you’re seeking therapy. Your counselor can pick up important details from stories that you didn’t think were that monumental. So start from the beginning and tell them everything.

Nobody gets to be silent

You know how at home, if you’re tired of fighting about something, you can go to your separate corners? You can’t do that in therapy. If you try to go silent because you’re frustrated, your therapist will make you divulge what you’re thinking. Otherwise, nothing will get accomplished.

…And that’s the scary part

You might be forced to say something you’ve always feared would stir up more problems. But that’s why your counselor is there: to help you tackle those problems. So get ready to face them.

They won’t give you their opinion

You’re going to want to ask your counselor, “Do you think we have a shot at making it work?” You’re going to want a straight answer. You most likely won’t get one.

Everybody is different

Sure, your therapist has a pretty good idea of whether or not the two of you will make it work. But they would never tell you this, for fear of self-fulfilling prophecies. Maybe you two do have a shot, but if your therapist said they didn’t think you did, you might fall apart. Maybe you shouldn’t be together, but if your therapist says you have a shot, you might stay in a relationship that is wrong for you.

It will feel awkward

Going to a counselor to work on your relationship can feel a bit like you and your significant other have been sent to detention. You feel as if you ended up on that couch because you messed up—because you’re guilty of something.

That shouldn’t last long

With a good counselor, that feeling of being scolded will go away. Your counselor will become a source of comfort for both you and your partner.

Your partner might reveal something scary

A lot of people use couples therapy as an opportunity to reveal a secret they’ve been holding on to for a long time. Be prepared for that—this may be the first time your partner feels comfortable telling you about a shocking secret.

It might change things

If your partner reveals a secret that you find unforgivable, you might need to tell your counselor, “I’m going to need to take a break from sessions to see if I think it’s worth it for me to work on this relationship.” Don’t worry: counselors deal with this all of the time.

It might not be quick

Typically, the longer you wait to go to counseling, the longer you’ll need to be in it. A couple who has only been unhappy for, say, a few months, may only need a few sessions to work out their issues. Meanwhile, a couple who has been harboring issues for years may need years of therapy to recover.

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