We often refer to our romantic partner as the other half; however, each person holds his or her own unique and highly subjective perspective on the world and everything in it—including the relationship. So when two people share their home, experiences and lives together, there can be more than enough room for miscommunication, misinterpretation and misunderstanding. And couple therapy is where all of these mis-somethings can get resolved.
A bigger and better toolbox
In an interview for Good Housekeeping, actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard discuss their decision to start couples therapy at the beginning of their relationship. “I thought I had this life thing down pat when I met Dax. I didn’t realize I needed a much bigger toolbox to have confrontations and disagreements with people,” states Bell. “There were hurdles, things she didn’t trust about me, things I didn’t trust about her,” adds Shepard. The two have pretty much summed up a universal problem couples face on a regular basis.
Too often, both people in a relationship are not equipped with the right tools to resolve their problems in constructive and efficient ways. While movies, books, and fairy tales would have us believe that love conquers all, reality is a stark contradiction to this fantasy. Couples therapy can help. The goal is fairly simple: help a couple move from a state of conflict to a state of resolution. The process, though, takes a lot of work.
A recipe for a better relationship
People often wonder about the efficacy of couple therapy. Bell puts it this way: “You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don’t figure out how to cook without reading a recipe. Therapy is not something to be embarrassed about.” It seems that Bell, many years into her relationship and now with kids, has hit the nail on the head. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: “Research studies repeatedly demonstrate the effectiveness of marriage and family therapy in treating the full range of mental and emotional disorders and health problems.”
However, in order for couple therapy to be successful, both partners must learn to let go of all of the negative emotions and resentments that may have built up during their time together. Additionally, the competence of the therapist, as an outsider trained to recognize destructive patterns or emotional triggers, is an important factor. Writing for Psychology Today, author Susan Heitler, PhD explains: “An effective couple’s therapist guides clients with a firm hold on the reins so that no negative interactions lure the couple off the friendly and constructive path of cooperative, shared problem-solving.”
Carrie Miller, a Talkspace therapist, agrees that couple therapy comes with big benefits: “Both parties have the opportunity to be heard in a space that is hopefully non-biased and safe. It can help bridge gaps and difficulties in communication, and reteach couples how to communicate in a productive way.”
But the bottom line is this—yes, couple therapy is highly effective, but only if you and your partner actually decide to go.
Liz Campese Belilovskaya is a freelance journalist, as well as a blogger and content creator at Talkspace.com. She covers health and neuroscience, as well as culture and entertainment for various publications that include Brain World Magazine,The Untitled Magazine and The New York Times. Her personal blog is lizbelilovskaya.wordpress.com