Hands down, my biggest frustration as a relationship therapist is that SO many of clients come to me y-e-a-r-s too late!
People often seek therapy when things are so bad they can’t stand it, and it makes my job so much harder and their chances of success so much lower. Many couples come in once they’re past the point of no return, after they’ve had a lot of time to accumulate hurt and let it fester.
Sometimes we can unearth this pain together and look at it from a different perspective or with more compassion, and help the relationship return to its previous, flourishing state. Sometimes trust can be rebuilt, empathy reestablished, “the spark” reignited. But sometimes, the pain and dysfunctional ways of relating to each other are just too ingrained.
The relationship has become intertwined with hurt, frustration, emasculation, devaluation, rejection…and there’s just no untangling it all.
Why do people wait so long?
If you think about it, it really makes perfect sense. Telling your significant other that you want to go to couples therapy takes courage, and a lot of people are afraid of the backlash that could happen if they bring it up.
Couples therapy is still synonymous with “serious problems”, “infidelity”, or “divorce”, and since so many people wait so long to come, it’s also synonymous with “the last chance”.
Some of the things you might fear will happen if you suggest therapy:
- Your partner may express that they’re unwilling to work on the problems in the relationship.
- Your partner could dismiss your feelings, or say that from their perspective, the relationship is fine as it is.
- The suggestion explodes into a huge argument.
- Both people have to admit that they’re not able to reconcile the problems in the relationship without the help of a trained professional.
- Couples therapy helps them discover that their differences are irreconcilable, and they’re better off apart.
Of course, other possible outcomes of this conversation are that if you go to therapy and work on your problems, you might find:
- A more fulfilling relationship.
- A more peaceful and happy home.
- Improved communication that will see you through challenges that, inevitably, arise when two people share a life.
- A rekindling of feelings of mutual love and respect.
- Developing a better, more mature type of relationship with your partner.
360° Relationship Performance Reviews
Sometimes, you don’t know what the problems are.
You just know you’re unhappy now and you weren’t before. I was talking about this with a friend, and he suggested that part of the challenge is that most couples don’t have any tool in place to help them regularly check in about the health of their relationship.
“Like an annual review at work?”, I asked.
“That’s right. In a workplace, you have an annual performance review to tell you how you’re doing – where your strengths are, and what you need to work on.
Relationships don’t have anything like that. Julie…you should make one!” he said.
In that spirit, I’m creating a 360* Performance Review for your relationship. You’ll review your partner, your partner will review you, and you’ll each review yourselves.
Watch here for it in the next few weeks…and feel free to email me anything you’d like to see included in it. I’m taking all suggestions!