“Do we need couples therapy?”
That’s a common question we get here at Capital Choice Counselling in Ottawa.
Right off the bat, some therapists and counsellors are tempted to answer that question rather glibly: “If you have to ask, you probably need it.”
Well… maybe not so fast.
While we’re big proponents of couples counselling and its myriad benefits to countless relationships, we’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone. For many, however, even a few sessions of therapy can be a tremendous boost to that marriage or partnership. Others need more work, but know that their relationship is worth saving. Let’s talk about why couples seek our services, why some don’t, and who ought to.
“He / She is Having an Affair”
Let’s dispense with perhaps the biggest reason couples call or arrive seeking our services. The dreaded words that no spouse, partner or significant want to hear – or say. Whether you have been cheating or cheated on, the first conclusion many draw is that the relationship is over. And – we’re not going to lie – sometimes it is. There are those in a relationship who get the news or make the discovery, and immediately pack their bags (or throw the other person out onto the street). Others make the efforts to salvage the relationship, only to find there were underpinning factors that had doomed the relationship before the cheating began. A significant number of couples, however, are able to work through this highly challenging phase. Indeed many relationships last for years afterwards, or even for eternity.
Couples counselling is a major component to the work of healing a relationship. Our therapist or counsellor will work wit you to identify the source(s) of the breakdown in the relationship, the “why” of the cheating. We’ll also help you find ways to work through the events themselves, finding ways to seek and give forgiveness. We’re not suggesting that we’ll help you return to the relationship that was – that’s gone. What we can do, though, is help facilitate a dialogue and process that gets you to a place where your relationship can once again grow and thrive. It will be different, to be sure; better in some ways, awkward at first in others. And in some cases, therapy is the step you need to determine that the relationship cannot be salvaged. At least you’ll always know that you made the effort, and this is of great help in bringing closure and peace of mind. And this is really what people are looking for when they seek therapy after an affair – whether you’re ultimately moving forward with or without the other person.
“The Fighting Seems Like It Won’t Ever Stop”
Does your relationship feel more like a (figurative) war zone or a UFC event? Is it a seemingly endless series of bouts, bickering and battles? Are the sweet days of your relationship sans fighting appearing tiny and tinier in the rear-view mirror of your relationship? If so, you’re not alone. Take solace in that, and in the fact that constant fighting does not have to mean the end of the relationship. Whether it’s a series of smaller arguments, or a few “blowout” fights, this isn’t the end. More likely than not, there are substantial problems at the core of your relationship. Cracks in the foundation, if you will. Communication is probably the biggest one. You’re just “not on the same page” and it feels more and more like you never will be. But you once were on the same page, weren’t you? Something existed – and probably still exists – between you that used to be good, that was once upon a time free of constant fighting and angst. A trained couples therapist can help identify trouble spots in the communication dynamic, and work with you to overcome those faults by developing systems and processes to practice with your partner. It’s also possible (in fact, frequent) that one or both of you are experiencing personal issues that are bumping up against the relationship and causing friction that leads to fighting. We’ll explore this in the next sections.
“We Just Want Different Things”
Here’s that “not on the same page” thing. There’s not necessarily big fighting going on. In fact, you may not be communicating much at all. For whatever reason, you find yourselves at odds over the direction of your relationship. It could be the mundane and everyday things like what you want for supper or what colour to paint the basement; to more structural issues like where you want to live or whether to have children. While “irreconcilable differences” is a phrase cited in many cases like this, it doesn’t have to be! Relationships are, as cliché as this may sound, all about give and take. But both parties have to see and feel that what they are giving is in their best interest, and what they are taking is truly beneficial for themselves (and even for their significant other). If you find yourselves in this situation, rest assured you can benefit greatly from couples’ counselling. A therapist or counsellor can work with you as a mediator of sorts, ensuring that both sides are listening and being heard; getting your priorities sorted; and cutting to the quick of what’s most important to each of you, and what else is really just “the small stuff.”
“The Spark is Gone”
Big one, this spark. It was one there, and now it seems to be gone. So, too, might be gone the hope that the spark will ever return. Do you view your partner or spouse as someone who’s “just there,” who doesn’t seem to look at you the same way, nor do you see them in that light anymore? This is all to common in many a relationship. It’s natural to have that spark extinguished or at least dimmed, for one reason or another – or, more commonly, for a series of reasons that have added up over time. Here’s the good news: More often than not, that spark never really went out; AND, even better, marital counselling or couple therapy can help bring that spark back to life! Your therapist will work with you in multiple sessions (but not endless, don’t worry) to retrace the steps of your relationship. We’ll talk about what attracted you to each other in the first place, and what occurred in your collective and individual lives over time to make you feel the way you do now. While we can’t promise that we’ll get you back to that exact point where the flame was at its brightest, we can assure you that the experience and training of our caring counsellor will help facilitate a path forward towards a closer, more fruitful and loving relationship.
“Wait, when DON’T we need couple therapy?”
Ah yes, fair enough, we did promise that. Before we conclude part one in this two-part series on couples counselling, let’s talk a little about times when maybe therapy isn’t necessary – at least not at first or right away.
“We Had a Fight”
Have you just experienced your first fight as a couple? Or was this an isolated struggle in an otherwise strong relationship? You can be at ease in knowing that this alone isn’t a bad sign, let alone something requiring therapy. All couples experience fights or quarrels at one time or another. It’s actually a healthy sign, one that says both of you care enough about the other person and about the relationship to voice your opinion, express your feelings, and push back when confronted. If it goes on (and on and on) as described above, then you’ve got a different situation on your hands. But from this alone, you’re not there yet (and maybe not ever).
“What Can Capital Choice Counselling in Ottawa Do to Help Us?”
As a full-service network of trained mental health professionals, our experienced therapists and counsellors have helped hundreds of couples in Ottawa and across Eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region. If you are experiencing angst or hardship, we highly encourage you to seek couple counselling before giving up – whether it’s from one of us or elsewhere. You’ve come far in this relationship, and there’s something (probably many things) that brought you together in the first place and carried you this far. Let us help you with the next steps, finding ways for you and your partner to communicate better, to work on the sources of your conflict, to heal the wounds that have been inflicted. Contact Capital Choice Counselling in Ottawa today get started on couple’s therapy and on the journey of healing your relationship.
This is Part 1 of 2 in a series on Couple Counselling – Look for the next installment to appear on our blog later in April!