It's becoming increasingly common to see even the healthiest relationships engaging with a psychologist or a counsellor.
But how could hearing "do you want to go to couples counselling?" not mean your partner has had enough of you?
Contrary to the popular opinion being asked this question doesn't necessarily speak of
the end of your union and involves changing the narrative surrounding seeking treatment from a psychologist at the most basic level.
People go to the dentist for regular check-ups to ensure their teeth don't fall out or go to a doctor to ensure everything is working the way it should. These check-ups are not the same as seeing a doctor when we feel physical pain, as we are usually acutely aware of where the pain is and trust the professional to find the root of and fix the problem.
In the same fashion, we might speak to a licensed professional when we're anxious or depressed or find that we're not able to deal with our world in the same way - we're made acutely aware of the mental anguish, a pain that may not go away without professional help.
As we have come so far in the conversation surrounding mental health and the benefits of taking a proactive approach (i.e. the importance of exercising mindfulness, sleep and generally staying healthy) why wouldn't we think about incorporating mental check-ups as part of a healthy routine?
If you're looking to find out more about yourself, how to deal with everyday stressors, have a couple of life events on the horizon, or are generally looking to find out more about yourself - speaking to a licensed professional can be an enlightening experience.
If you're wanting to go from functioning to flourishing, from good to better, or better to best then speaking to a psychologist may just be the key to unlock the potential that you know has been hiding beneath the surface.
Ok, so how might that work for my relationship?
In the same fashion as individual therapy, couples counselling may not particularly paint a positive picture of the state of the relationship between the two (or more, I'm not here to judge) individuals.
This may also be derived from the existent culture surrounding psychotherapy or counselling itself; negative connotations still exist when someone mentions they're seeing a therapist so it makes sense that we apply this same reasoning to couples seeking therapy as well.
Although an overwhelming number of people may seek therapy as a way of fixing something that is broken, pre-emptive counselling can be a very powerful tool in existing peacefully with others and within yourself.
Applying the same thinking to your relationship can be a particularly powerful tool in
retaining a peaceful and positive relationship, as well as possibly providing an avenue for open, respectful, and enlightening conversations that you may not have thought about having in the first place.
A study completed in 2016 also found that couples who took part in couples counselling found that it increased their empathy for the other party which, in a balanced and healthy relationship, can only help you to understand your partner's point of view - allowing for greater levels of respect and understanding. Cue, healthy relationships.
Learning what to avoid matters.
We (or at least a majority of the general dating populous) have been in a situation where your partner has done something to irritate or offend, and you've either told a friend or ruminate on the situation yourself and you've both said the same thing - "just get over it", "move on", "John does this too!", or "it's just one of those things you learn to live with".
In the worst-case scenario, some of those little quirks become bigger issues that can't be ignored, and may eventually spell the beginning of the end for some relationships.
That's definitely not to say that leaving socks on the floor, or not being particularly mindful of leaving toilet paper on the roll, are grounds for a breakup... it's the level of respect and communication in a relationship that should be of top priority, and maybe sometimes
couples may need a bit of help in this area.
If you know that you're not particularly communicative, couples counselling may also provide a non-judgemental avenue in which you can be a bit more open with your partner, also allowing you to find out more about yourself and your story.
You might also find that you learn more about your partner and are able to deepen your connection with them, finding a common interest - or even a common peeve, that you then learn to avoid!
But learning what to avoid is not everything...
Knowing what to avoid isn't the only way to ensure a happy union - the way we show our affection may not necessarily be the way our partner likes to receive it, which is the business of Gary Chapman's book "The 5 Love Languages".
Though Love Languages are not something we will be running through in this blog the sheer knowledge of this alone may provide the impetus to learn more about yourself and your partner.
If you prefer to show your love by showering your partner with gifts and all they
really want is a hug you could potentially be spending money on objects that may be unnecessary, and possibly put you under undue financial strain.
By speaking to a licensed professional they could help you uncover whether you are potentially projecting this behaviour, or how to speak to each other in a way that allows your needs to be met without feeling like someone's feelings are going to hurt in the process.
If you're a little sick of the foot rubs and just want something with diamonds/that barks, there is nothing wrong with communicating your needs in a succinct and respectful way.
A couples counsellor may mediate the conversation in such a way that each individual is able to voice their needs without feeling guilty or selfish for speaking their truth, as you're both there for the same reason and are working towards a common goal.
Setting common goals
Speaking of common goals - speaking to a counsellor may also provide yourself and your partner with the opportunity to discuss what you want for your future and when.
Topics such as children, travel, coping methods, financial stability, family, and marriage may arise, mediated by a professional that will ensure succinct and calm communication between all participants.
As these topics may be confronting or difficult for some individuals a counsellor’s office also provides a degree of safety in case the conversation doesn't go to plan.
Although initially agreeing to speak with a counsellor may allude to a high degree of care and respect from both partners and the relationship you share, speaking with a professional could uncover deeper issues within your relationship - if you're on separate paths, counselling will not provide a quick fix and may confirm some niggling
doubts you may have had in the back of your mind.
You can then use this knowledge and professional support to find a way to work through any issues you may have, in whichever way you and your partner think is best.
In the end, you and your relationship will be better for it
All in all psychotherapy or counselling is not just something to be reserved for those who are
mentally unwell - at times, it can be utilised to focus on how better to deal with basic stressors in your own life so you can focus on taking the next step allowing you to flourish.
By attending counselling with a partner you may find yourself experiencing a deeper connection than you may not have otherwise experienced; understanding yourself, your partner, and how you plan on navigating the world and your future together.
If you're currently located in Australia and Pre-Emptive Couples Counselling is something that has piqued your interest, you may be able to speak to a relationship counsellor or psychologist online with Online Psychologists Australia.