How Couples Counseling Can Help Repair a Relationship
January 22, 2024
Courtney and David decided to try couples-counseling in an effort to strengthen their relationship. Through trial and error, they discovered that not all therapists will be the right match for them, individually and as a couple.
“Couples counseling might seem scary at first. You have to go into the experience with an open mind and acceptance that not all therapists will be the right fit for you,” says Courtney.
Still, she encourages couples who are struggling with their relationship to give the therapeutic process a try.
In the following lived experiences story, Courtney shows us where she and her husband David were getting stuck, and how their relationship transformed with the guidance of an experienced mental health professional.
The following story results from a candid conversation with a real individual. The names in the story have been changed to protect everyone’s privacy.
What wasn’t working
By the time Courtney and David walked into Mary’s office for their therapy session, a series of patterns had already been set.
They got into arguments and their efforts to reconcile weren’t working. One partner would walk away to collect their thoughts, while the other would fester in their feelings. When it came time to make up, they didn’t know what they were apologizing for, let alone what was upsetting them in the first place.
To add to the thorny dynamics of their relationship, they felt discouraged by their previous experience with a couples counselor, who wasn’t the right fit for their personal needs.
Courtney and David knew that their relationship needed mending, especially before having another child, and they were encouraged to try another counselor.
Discovery in session
Their first few sessions with Mary involved a general overview of their relationship followed by deep dives into their personal histories. Mary left it up to each of them to decide if they wanted to do their personal sessions alone or together.
By the third session Mary immediately could relate their expression of emotions with each other to their early childhood experiences. She explained how their upbringing influenced their romantic relationship, like how they were able to give and receive love from each other.
Courtney says that Mary’s observations were obvious but it was difficult to be aware of them in the relationship.
For instance, Courtney realized that her habit of checking in on David and talking everything out stemmed from a lack of communication and healthy problem resolution in her family. Meanwhile, David discovered that his parents divorce contributed to feelings of fear and inadequacy in their relationship.
Effective emotional communication
Mary introduced Courtney and David to the concept of full disclosure, which involves being honest and transparent with each other to deepen the trust and integrity of the relationship. Instead of keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves, afraid of how the other person will perceive them, Mary encouraged David and Courtney to reveal more of their personal experiences.
Courtney says that she’s learned how to effectively express her emotions before unleashing them onto David. When she finds herself feeling frustrated, she takes a deep breath and pauses before speaking. She’s learned that in many situations, the little annoyances that come up in the relationship are influenced by challenges she’s facing in her personal life.
Both David and Courtney have learned that staying silent for too long can escalate feelings of resentment and damage their feelings of closeness. Harmful feelings will always find a way to express themselves.
Courtney says that through learning how to effectively communicate with each other and understand each other’s triggers, they’ve been able to prevent extreme arguments and navigate disagreements when they come up.
For couples considering counseling
Courtney understands that couples counseling can seem scary at first. But she says that the
willingness to expose yourself with your partner can transform your relationship, and lead to greater communication, better conflict resolution, and a deeper understanding of each other’s feelings and needs.
At Handel Behavioral Health we understand that relationships can be one of most fulfilling and eye-opening experiences a person can have in their life. We also understand that despite this, they can often be challenging and stressful. Many couples find the support and guidance of a mental health professional extremely helpful and transformative to their relationship.
If you and your partner are considering couples counseling, or searching for a professional couples counselor in Massachusetts, we are here to help.
Our team of providers offer couples counseling in our offices in Amherst, West Springfield, Franklin, Natick, and Wilbraham. Many of our couples counselors also offer online counseling across Massachusetts.
Contact us today at (413) 343-4357 and we will help you find the right counselor for your relationship!