Every relationship has it’s issues, but when is it too early for couples counseling? Really never.
Summary: You get to decide.
My ex-husband and I had been dating THREE months when we ended up in couples counseling.
I can hear your collective what the fuck? You’d been dating THREE months?!?
But, hear me out.
It was the best thing we could have done.It was the only way we made it. We didn’t make it forever.But we made it through a lot.
Prior to attending couples counseling, we’d both had a poor track record of relationships, and we‘d both wanted to do something different with this one.
But the real event that sent us crying to a counselor’s office was that he thought he was expecting a child with another woman. Four months before dating me, he’d dated another woman for about a month. After that month, she told him she was pregnant and that the baby could be his or another man’s. She then promptly disappeared.
We started dating. Things were all roses. I knew about her. I knew about her pregnancy. But out of sight, out of mind, right?
She popped back into the picture when we’d been dating two months, and she was very pregnant. My ex-husband wanted to be there for his child, regardless of the fact he didn’t know if it was his or not. He went to her ultrasound appointments. He was there at the hospital when she delivered.
We, of course, fought bitterly during this time. He told me “his” son would always come before me. I told him he was an asshole and still in love with his ex-girlfriend.
We reached out to our friends, who had similar conversations with the both of us:
“Do you want to stay with him/her?”
“Do you want to keep fighting like you are?”
“Then maybe you should go to couples counseling.”
We went, and we learned enough to help us get through that first event and many more after.
When the paternity testing came back to prove he wasn’t the father, I was relieved, yes, but I also felt like we could have handled it. We would have been okay. And that was all due to couples counseling. To having someone coach us on how to be in relationship with each other, on getting down to what we really felt and how to say what we really meant.
Anytime we had a problem in our relationship and then marriage, we knew couples counseling was a resource for us.
Now, again, I’m looking at attending couples counseling for my newrelationship, which reminds me of a phrase that I hate to repeat, but always need to repeat: Wherever I go, there I am.
My boyfriend has some jealousy issues. These issues have nothing to do with me or anything I’ve done. They are entirely his shit. But they affect me negatively, and we/I need some tools. I’m also willing to put the work in because I’m invested.
I’ve talked with my friends who think I’m fucking nuts.
“This should still be the honeymoon phase!” my friend screamed at me on the phone. “He should still be holding his farts in and trying to make you love him!”
And my friend is right. Normally the first few months of dating are that time to get to know each other slowly, investing one piece at a time.
But that’s not exactly how we started this relationship. Brian and I immediately identified we had similar values and were looking for the same thing — a long-term relationship — so we jumped right in. I’m not saying that was something I’d go and repeat in my next relationship, but it felt right. And, to be fair, my ex-husband and I had taken things oh oh oh so slowly and that relationship had ended up pretty badly anyway, so I was all about trying something different.
As a millennial, I feel assured by the statistics for seeking out help while in a relationship. 51% of millennial couples are likely to seek out some kind of relationship counseling.
I also feel assured by some of the literature out there for attending couples therapy in the first place:
“In a good relationship you push each other’s buttons. We tend to pick mates who have many of the same qualities — positive and negative — as our parents. The unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between past, present, and future and is always trying to heal old wounds in current time. As a result, in relationships, we tend to trigger each other’s old wounds. Therapy is a great opportunity to heal that pain.”
I also know from my own experience that couples therapy helped prevent some and work through other bad communication patterns.
While my marriage ended in divorce anyway, I learned a lot of healthy relationship tools that I have used as my ex-husband and I co-parent and I then brought these tools into my current relationship.
If you’re wondering about whether you should attend couples therapy, think about this short list of benefits:
- Improved communication and conflict resolution.
It’s amazing how often I think I’m being clear. “I TOLD you that it hurts my feelings when you pick at me!” “Nooo, you just said not to make jokes in front of your mom.” A therapist can help you frame exactly what you need to say and how to say it to make sure you’re understood.
2. Deepened intimacy and connection.
You’re sharing feelings and goals and expectations in a SAFE space. You’re bound to have increased connection to one another.
3. Divorce Prevention.
While my previous relationship ended in divorce, it did because of catastrophic reasons that couples therapy couldn’t have helped (think: a divorce lawyer saying, “you HAVE to get divorced to protect yourself legally.”). I don’t fault couples counseling for that one bit.
The ten most common reasons for divorce (as listed here) are getting into it for the wrong reasons; lack of individual identity; becoming lost in roles; not having a shared vision of success; the intimacy disappears; unmet expectations; finances; no longer being physically connection; different priorities and interests; and inability to resolve conflicts.
ALL of those issues could be addressed and resolved within the rooms of couples therapy.
4. Proof of commitment and willingness.
Couples therapy is an investment of time, money, and energy. I wouldn’t be willing to spend an hour on someone’s couch talking about my deepest darkest with just anyone. The fact that my partner is willing to do that with me is a sign that we are both invested and committed to a partnership, for good or worse.
To answer my own title question, I’d say it’s up to you and your partner. Couples therapy can never hurt. And some of us need more help than others in creating and defining healthier relationships. I, for one, know I do.