So, you’re interested in couple’s therapy? First of all, huge props that you are ready to improve, tweak, upgrade, and transform your relationship!

How do couples counselling and marriage counselling work?

Couples who are having challenges in their relationship will often seek out the help of a couples therapist or marriage counsellor. With couples counselling or marriage counselling, both individuals in the relationship will typically attend therapy sessions together. It usually starts with developing an understanding and awareness of the issue from both sides, followed by some action items and strategies. Many of the interventions in couples therapy revolve around improved communication skills and abilities and managing conflict.

On average, couples tend to wait about six years before seeking out help. That means they’ve been struggling for six long years without any interventions. A lot of the time, couples go in for a specific issue (infertility, gambling issue, infidelity, etc), but as you can imagine, this issue becomes complex and intertwined with other issues and challenges.

The problem with couples counselling

What we talked about above probably sounds great. So what’s the issue?

We used to do couples therapy, and here’s what we noticed:

  1. Couples sometimes need some minor adjustments and education on how to more effectively communicate or strengthen their connection. However, most people actually have a good idea about what they want to say and how they would ideally say it. What stops them from opening up to their partner is fear of conflict, or pressure to be “perfect”, or incessant worries about how it will play out.
  2. One (or most often both) of the participants in the relationship are feeling the activation or triggering of their own individual internalizations (i.e. limiting beliefs)

Here are some examples of these internalizations, or limiting beliefs, as well as their associated dysfunctional needs, and how they play out in a relationship:

These are landmines that live within the individual and often, couple’s therapy has a hard time getting at them. It is also tough to utilize helpful techniques when our emotions are involved because of that lovely pent up resentment that then results in our own, individual internalizations being activated.

A better way to improve your relationship

As we’ve seen, we carry our limiting beliefs and dysfunctional needs into our relationships. Essentially, our love life can be a billboard for our dysfunctional needs that we broadcast to the people in our life. You have probably been in a situation where that one couple is so awkward to be around because they bicker or get drunk and blow up. Or, we may have the friend who completely disappears when they get into a relationship. Or maybe, you’re that couple.

There are certainly couples who can benefit from improving their communication skills through couples therapy, or workshops for example. For the majority though, we strongly believe that the best way to improve your relationship is to first work on yourself. Therefore, we would love to see both partners attend their own individual therapy to address and understand your own limiting beliefs and how your partner may be triggering them. From there, we would work to neutralize these beliefs, stripping them of their emotionality, using bilateral stimulation. At that point, some couples may no longer feel the need to attend couple’s therapy because they are no longer activating each other. 

Some additional resources for you…

  • On episode 27 of The Shift Show Podcast titled Limiting Beliefs in Relationships, Zac and Dr Lindsay go into detail about how different limiting beliefs show up in relationships.
  • 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman is a book we have based much of our couple’s approach on. It is a fantastic book for you or your partner to work through together as it has many great strategies for communication and rebuilding the connection.
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is another great resource. Sometimes the way we show our partner love is not the way they need to receive it. This book will help to better focus your love efforts on what you both need in your relationship.