Why You Should Seek Couples Counseling Sooner Rather than Later

By Callie Feldman

You’re at the neighbor’s house for dinner with your partner when the other couple shares they are in couples counseling. A wave of sadness comes over you as you ponder their imminent divorce. Couples counseling, you think, yikes. You and your wife share a solemn glance, both understanding what this means for the fate of your friends’ relationship. Nevertheless, the doomed couple are laughing and cooking together in the kitchen, sharing a glass of merlot over subdued giggles and nodes of affection. You can’t help but notice that this couple, whose relationship is surely in a worse spot than yours, seems to have more levity in their relationship. How can a couple in such a low spot be happier than me and my wife?

Contrary to popular belief, couples counseling is not just for couples on the brink of divorce. While there are many obvious red flags to seek therapy together–cheating, frequent intense arguments, problems with intimacy, and limited communication–couples counseling should not be put off until a crisis occurs. In fact, couples in healthy relationships can go to couples therapy to further the bond even more. According to renowned couples therapy expert John Gottman, “Couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help.” The effectiveness of couples counseling depends largely on the couples desire to improve their relationship as well as how quickly they get help and their ability to use couples therapy as a preventative measure.

Here are some reasons to seek couples counseling sooner rather than later:

Improve Communication
Maybe your husband is always offering solutions to your problems, when all you really want is for him to hear you. Maybe someone is slightly passive aggressive or shuts down when even minor conflicts arise. Discovering your partner’s communication style and emotional needs is crucial to understanding how to best support your significant other. Through learning what your partner needs emotionally, we can learn to communicate better with them and resolve upset sooner. This will make our relationship smoother as it plays out, as opposed to having to correct our communication style after someone has already been hurt.

Increase Vulnerability
Beginning couples counseling earlier helps couples learn to share vulnerably with each other. This means that the couple can share their deepest, most vulnerable emotions–their sadness, hurt, and fear–and have those feelings be heard and validated by their partner, creating a sense of closeness and understanding. The more willing each partner is to share their feelings and concerns with their partner, the more likely the couple will have healthier communication and be able to sort through the problem as a team, heading off conflicts and hurt feelings that are difficult to resolve. Vulnerability enables us to have a stronger understanding of and empathy toward our partner.

Prevent Resentment
Given that the average couple waits six years before getting help, they often arrive with a reaaally looong list of grievances and resentments. It’s much simpler to work through issues as they come up, before they fester and you sit on the therapist’s couch with divorce looming at the doorway. Getting help early helps couples establish healthy ways to talk about difficult things as they come up.

In other words, don’t wait until everything falls apart to try to save your relationship. Get couples therapy not because everything is going wrong, but because you cherish your relationship and want to preserve what is going right!

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