5 Myths About Relationships and Couples Counseling
Michelle Washburn-Busk Ph.D., LMFT
If you are wondering whether you are alone in having difficulties in your marriage or relationship, look no further than a quick open-ended Google search. Enter “Does every relationship….” and you will probably see a list of commonly searched questions that looks something like this:
- Have problems?
- Have issues?
- Have arguments?
- Get boring?
- Need space?
- Need a break?
- Have red flags?
- Have cheating?
Not every relationship experiences infidelity or needs an official break, but the truthful answer to the rest of these questions is, at some point or another, Yes. Hopefully, the fact that these are some of the most commonly asked questions about relationships validates how normal it is to encounter struggles with your partner. The question, then, really isn’t if you will encounter relationship difficulties but when, and, once they emerge, how you will address them. While that might be reassuring, it can still feel defeating if you don’t have an idea of what to do about your relationship concerns.
Most couples could benefit from couples therapy or marriage counseling at some point. Your relationship with your significant other is just that—significant, meaning that it can provide significant joy as well as significant hardship, and, most importantly, that it requires significant effort. Every couple experiences some level of disagreement, disconnection, or disappointment at one time or another. While the everyday problems in your relationship may be normal or even inevitable, they’re likely not unresolvable.
Unfortunately, a range of unrealistic assumptions and expectations about marriage and other long-term committed relationships prevent many partners from seeking the help they need. Let’s debunk a few of the most common myths now.
1. If I chose the right partner, we shouldn’t need professional help navigating our issues.
This is just not true. When it comes to buying an automobile, this logic fails immediately: Even if I buy a brand-new car that I love, that car will, at some point, need oil change, a tuneup, and new tires and/or brake pads somewhere down the line, as well as regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Romantic relationships can be thought of the same way. Couples counseling is a great venue for “fueling up” and being deliberate about maintenance so that your relationship runs smoother and longer—and meets your expectations.
2. Happy couples don’t fight.
The happiest couples aren’t the ones who don’t fight. The happiest couples are the ones that know how to fight. Conflict is inevitable, and effective conflict requires both partners to know how to self-soothe, listen with curiosity and compassion, inquire with care, convey respect, and self-reflect.
Couples therapy can help you identify what aspects of your conflict are effective and what you and your partner may need to change about how you cope under stress so that your love and connection can override the stressor of conflict.
3. No matter how happy we are now or used to be, we are destined to lose the spark; that’s just how relationships go.
In our culture, there is a pervasive belief that the spark of any romantic relationship inevitably dies. This myth leaves many couples feeling hopeless about their future together as soon as the going gets tough. The spark fading is not inevitable, but it can feel that way without the proper skills and knowledge to keep things from taking a turn for the worse.
Our fast-paced, busy lives can make it difficult to maintain a fulfilling connection with a partner, especially because our relationships require a good deal of consistent effort. Relationship experts understand this, and in couples counseling, they can help you gain insight and acquire the tools to promote connection and consistently practice good relationship maintenance.
4. Relationships are either good, or they’re hard.
Actually, if it’s not hard sometimes, then it’s probably not good. The best things in life are those we fight for. But a couples counselor can help you determine if your relationship is harder than it “should” be.
5. We are both happy in our relationship. We wouldn’t benefit from couples counseling.
Back to the car metaphor: Even if your car isn’t broken down on the side of the road smoking from an overheated engine, it’s probably still worth taking it to the shop if the “Check Engine” light comes on. Each of us regularly faces challenges that can lead to personal growth or stagnation. Because life is so messy and full of change, you and your partner also change as time passes. These changes can expose new challenges that can either become sources of contention that drive a wedge between you — or opportunities for you to grow individually and as a couple. A therapist can help you both examine the issues that feel threatening to your connection and approach them in new and more effective ways.