What is Couples Counseling?Couples counseling is a type of counseling reserved for individuals in a romantic relationship. It is an opportunity for couples to have a space that focuses specifically on how to work together to improve, manage, and create a healthier relationship. While in counseling, couples may focus on a variety of topics such as communication issues, infidelity, financial issues, lack of respect, grief, loss, boundaries, etc.
It is a space where couples can learn healthier patterns, more effective ways to communicate, conflict resolution, honesty/transparency, and how to manage their own emotions and thoughts which can lead to more understanding in the relationship.
Individuals often believe that in couples counseling the therapist will tell you who is wrong and who is right. But the therapist is there as part of the team – almost like a coach. The couple (the teammates) and the therapist (the coach) work together to achieve their goals.
The therapist is there to lead the couple in many ways of thinking, understanding, and perspective switching to create a space of care, curiosity, and compassion. In couples counseling each person works on their own challenges, biases, traumas, and patterns, to create a healthier space for themselves and their partners.
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
“Trustworthy relationships are built on a foundation of goodwill. Couples with solid trust are able to give each other the benefit of the doubt in conflict, and they weather conflicts more easily because of it.” – Gina Senarighi
What is Premarital Counseling?Pre-marital counseling is a type of counseling that focuses on helping the couple to prepare for a life of marriage. Couples counseling can focus more on a specific problem or set of issues. While Pre-marital counseling helps to create a deeper sense of understanding in preparation for what marriage may look like. For individuals leaning toward marriage, premarital counseling can help assess areas of strength and areas for improvement.
In premarital counseling, the therapist may begin with an assessment to get a better understanding of everyone’s goals, challenges, ideas about marriage, family history, past/current trauma, and relationship history. Most pre-marital therapy sessions are short-term 6-12 sessions depending on the type of facilitator (therapist, clergyman, etc.).
Within that time, you will learn conflict resolution, effective communication skills, active listening skills, discuss various intimacy topics, how roles and individual perspectives impact marriage, financial discussions, and more. It is based on what the couple may need as it relates to their relationship.
5 Reasons You May Need Couples Counseling
1. If infidelity has impacted your relationship, you may want to consider attending counseling before marriage. Infidelity can be challenging for a couple to heal from. Whether it is past infidelity or current infidelity, the couple experiences a break in trust, emotional intimacy, and respect.
Infidelity can occur in several diverse ways: sexual, emotional, ongoing, one-time, etc. Either way, the survivor of infidelity may feel several different emotions and not be able to communicate what they’re experiencing in a healthy way.
On the other side, the perpetrator of infidelity may feel regret, guilt, and not want to discuss it because it continues to bring up their wrongdoings. Having a safe space for the clients to be educated about the impact of infidelity and how to properly work through it can be done in couples counseling.
2. If you feel like you and your partner are not understanding each other’s perspective, couples counseling may be needed. Often in relationships, due to our triggers, traumas, and tragedies, we can operate from only our point of view. We enter arguments with readymade points instead of listening, giving our partner the benefit of the doubt, and trying to truly handle their thoughts and feelings with care.
It becomes a cycle of hurting one another instead of caring for one another. In couples counseling, you learn how to be aware of your patterns and the cycles presented so that you can identify, assess, and work through them.
3. If you constantly fight over large and small issues, there may be a missing link in the way you and your partner communicate. In Couples counseling, we may teach skills in active listening, “I” statements, the four horsemen, the antidotes, and how to be aware of your own triggers before firing them off at your partner.
With this kind of knowledge, individuals have more effective tools to manage their conflicts and/or disagreements. If you find that you and your partner are consistently having these issues without the tools to properly cope with them then couples counseling may be a necessary step.
4. You would like to get married but have never been married before. Marriage is not just a commitment to live life together until death. Marriage is an agreement to always strive for growth, understanding, care, and hard work. If you or your partner have grown up in households where you either did not observe marriage at all or did not observe healthy marriage, couples counseling may be necessary.
5. You want to learn more about each other in a safe space. Sometimes things may be going well in a relationship, but you find that you want to make sure that are sustainably sharing your life with your partner. Couples counseling is a great space to work on what is already working and discuss areas of improvement.
Even if you don’t believe you and your partner are having issues that require counseling, having a safe space to continue to collaborate and create a plan if you and your partner ever do experience some of these issues is preventative. Why not focus on preventative measures instead of needing interventions and other methods if something were to occur within your relationship?
God and Couples Therapy
God creates hope and healing and cares about all parts of your being – especially your relationship to others and how you treat them. God wants you to be whole and healthy and has equipped people like doctors, pastors, teachers, and mental health therapists who all work in some capacity to teach and heal all of you – whether it be your immaterial part (soul, mind, or spirit) or material part (body).
In couples counseling, we look for God to move during the sessions. Focusing on learning, understanding, listening, and compromising with your partner as it relates to marriage is your part, and allowing spiritual progression and surrendering yourself to God so that He can impact your relationship and marriage is God’s part.
Framework for Working with Couples
When I work with couples, I start with a foundational history of their relationship and what is currently bringing them to therapy. Each couple may have its own goal and each spouse may have individual goals. I focus on several distinct categories that impact the health of a relationship including intimacy, trust, communication, finances, conflict resolution, parenting, family history, and individual trauma/triggers.
Although you may believe you know your partner well, they are daily changing, learning, and adopting new perspectives every day. Marriage isn’t just about becoming one, it is understanding that there are two separate people with their own backgrounds who have decided to create a life together. We are promised challenges and tribulations – why not do the work now to prepare for the future?
If you are interested in participating in couples counseling or pre-marital counseling, I would love to be part of your journey. Let’s take a walk into care, compassion, and curiosity because that is where true intimacy is created.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – 1 Corinthians 16:14
“Down the Garden Path”, Courtesy of Alvin Mudmudov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple Standing on a Rock”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bible and Sky”, Courtesy of Jessica Delp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Group Therapy”, Courtesy of Leon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License