Is it Too Late for Couples Counselling?
Does couples therapy work? Can I save my marriage? Should I get divorced? These are the types of questions our One Life couples counsellors and psychologists get asked on a weekly basis. So, we thought it might be helpful to write an article that can help you to decide if couples therapy is the best option for you and your partner.
If you have begun the process of looking for marriage counsellor services in Calgary, there is a pretty good chance your relationship needs help right now. And, it can be a challenging step to seek professional help even though many people find working with a therapist to be a valuable and rewarding use of their time.
Without knowing your specific situation, it’s difficult to actually say whether it is too late or not to repair the relationship. At One Life, we respect each person’s path and believe that you know what is best for you. The real question to ask yourself isn’t “Is it too late?” but rather, “Are you willing to try?” In our experience, one of the things that can get in the way of an individuals’’ or couples’ willingness to try, is being overly focused in what your partner needs to do to change and missing taking responsibility for how you show up in the relationship.
Marriage counselling works best when both partners say to themselves – “I am going to take accountability for my actions/behaviors, while also supporting you in your journey of taking accountability for your actions/behaviors that get in the way of us having a loving relationship.” Obviously, couples therapy does not always begin there, but that is certainly a goal with learning how communicate better and rebuild connection.
In relationship counseling, our counsellors and psychologists will help you discover and integrate the skills we know to be vital for healthy and thriving communication.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to assess some of these skills:
- Am I open?
- Am I easy to open up to?
- Do I share feedback with empathy?
- Can I take in feedback?
- Do I respond when my partner speaks?
- Do I create a sense of safety for my partner to be vulnerable?
- I am curious?
- Do I respect difference? – difference in what we each need to feel good in a relationship, difference in opinion, etc.
Now the question I ask myself with every couple is, are both partners ready to do couples counselling? Because if you have one or both partners who are closed off with invisible walls up and not willing to let their partners influence them, not open to change and are firmly set in a stance of “we can improve, as soon as you change” we will have very slow progress.
This may seem like an easy math equation to understand, but the invitation to change is the first step and it begins by empowering yourself to take accountability for your life and that includes your relationship. A good couples counsellor in Calgary will help you learn how to take on this level of accountability and ownership.
Something I hear a lot is, “What if I change and grow and my partner does not?” What would you do in this scenario?
Individual change can be a huge accomplishment and at the same time, very painful when that change is not mirrored in your partner. Relationships are a two-way street. If you are feeling the burden of trying and growing, but not witnessing your partner joining you, while still challenging for the relationship, it is a big win for you individually.
The question at this point is, how much time are you willing to give or wait for your partner to join you?
Again, only you can answer this question. To be supportive, we have provided you below with some tips for asking your partner to join you in changing to make the relationship better.
- Share the meaning behind the change you are requesting
Example: “It would mean a lot to me if WE could spend more time together without devices, so we can really be connected. When we have uninterrupted time together, I feel closer to you”.
- Be the change you desire
Example: If you want to have a partner that is more engaged, happier and compassionate, then challenge yourself with a growth mindset and really work on showing up that way yourself.
- Timing matters
Example: Wait until you are both in the best possible moods to bring up the conversations around relationship change. I know this is not always possible and so do your best here, but if you can, bring up the conversation when you are in connection.
- Share the perceived impact if change is not achieved
Example: Nobody likes to talk about consequences, but sometimes it is necessary to be clear on what the perceived consequences will be if nothing changes. “If we do not spend time working on us and making changes towards repairing our relationship, it is really hard for me to have hope that we will ever feel meaningful connection again. And that is not the type of relationship I would want to stay in.”
- This is never a one and done conversation
Example: You might have to have this conversation from a few different angles and on a few different days and that is okay. Change is hard to achieve sometimes.
When is couples counselling effective?
Finding couples therapy services in Calgary that are impactful to your relationship can be challenging in itself and knowing if it will improve your relationship can be anxiety provoking.
The short answer is yes. Couples counseling can be very effective for improving your relationship, but the most important ingredient is having two people who are ready and willing to learn and grow.
Couples counseling can teach you communication skills, help you practice being more open and emotionally attuned to one another, leading you to feel in more connection.
You and your partner are in charge of what your personal relationship goals are and it is our job as marriage counsellors to provide a safe space to explore each partners emotions and thoughts.
We certainly hope that each partner will discover new awareness about themselves and their partners. Think of using the therapy room as a space to really open up to one another with the goal of having a new understanding of one another.
How couples counselling can help
The results of investing in couples counselling can be layered in each couples progress. Progress is defining the situation from a perspective of “We use to be like this or do this in our relationship and got very poor results. Now, we catch ourselves and turn things around very easily.
You define what your desired progress is and we aim to help you achieve this in couples therapy.
Here are few of the most common desired outcomes:
- Improved communication
- Closer connection
- More intimacy
- More meaningful moments
- Quicker repair in conflict
- Easier communication
- Deeper trust
When couples counseling may not help
Many people will struggle with the internal debate of “Does couples therapy help”?
It is a common question. Couples therapy may not help if there is an undiagnosed mental health condition with one partner who is unwilling to seek help for it. This includes active addictions, narcissistic abuse patterns and active violence in the relationship.
Not every couple and individuals within that partnership will be ready for couples therapy. The reality is it is hard work and the expectation is that you are willing to go inside yourself and work through your emotions and develop a greater understanding of yourself for lasting change.
If a relationship has been stuck in a harmful cycle of disconnection for a long time, it makes sense that each partner would be closed off and would have strong feelings about opening up and feeling hope again.
If one person is not willing to do the work, take in feedback and allow themselves to be influenced by their partners needs, there is little that couples therapy will do to improve that as long as it remains the status quo.
Why do people wait so long?
The Gottman Institute (leader in relationship research) discover that most couples wait 6 years after the relationship begins to deteriorate before they seek out marriage counselling services.
The reality is that therapy is still stigmatized and perhaps one day everything we teach and work on will be part of the curriculum within our school systems - something I would love to see. Until then, we have to find the courage to ask for others help.
Another reason people wait, is because it can be easy to project that when certain events happen, things will get better. Once the kids start high school, once we take that vacation, once we buy that house, once I get that promotion, and so on. The challenge is that we bring the same harmful dynamics and mindsets into the relationship once those benchmarks are achieved and our relationship hasn’t improved.
Should I go to couples therapy?
Think of couple counselling as an investment in your relationship. We invest in our homes, vehicles, education, professions, health and slowly but surely, we are overcoming the stigma of going to see a psychologist and investing in our psychology, mental well-being and our relationships.
The invitation to show up differently is always waiting for you. You have that choice and ability to take action in different way. Couple’s therapy will give you the space to explore your feelings and thoughts with the intention of growing your self-awareness and also learning more about your partner.
If after reading this article, you are still undecided on if couples therapy is the best avenue for your relationship, give us a call. We are here to answer any questions you may have about the benefits of therapy in your specific situation.