Couples counseling can be helpful for any couple, even if you and your partner are fine

Tara Blair Ball

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The room Beverly led us to was bright. Too bright. I blinked my eyes at the unexpected light spilling through the open blinds and onto the pristine couch and tastefully selected throw pillows.

The room we entered looked like a fancy person’s living room, not the place where my partner and I were supposed to sob our guts out. I eyed the fabric of the soft cream couch and wondered if tears stained.

When my partner selected Beverly as our couples therapist, I wasn’t expecting who we got. I was expecting someone matronly: drab mousy hair, glasses, lots of loose clothing, and patchouli. Instead, Beverly had big frank blue eyes and a mass of curly blond hair. She smelled like summer flowers and wore cowboy boots with her knee-length skirt.

I sat down on the couch and immediately sunk. The couch was beautiful and comfortable. Where did she even get this? I thought. I turned and looked at my partner, who, without me noticing, had already begun explaining why we were in her office.

“…been dating for a few months and things are getting serious. We’d just like some…counseling to know we’re on the right path. Both of our previous marriages failed.”

My handsome partner turned to me and smiled.

“You got anything to add?” he said.

After a pause that dragged on a little too long, I said, “Nope, I think you got it,” though I hadn’t even really heard much of what he’d said.

I took a deep breath and looked at Beverly. She was smiling at me. Her teeth were tiny and white in her mouth. Even her teeth are cute, I thought.

“So, Tara, what do you want out of couples therapy?” she asked.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Have you ever found yourself struck by a kind of déjà vu? Like haven’t I had this same conversation/fight/issue before, but not with this person?

When I started dating the man who became my second husband, I had an overwhelming sense of familiarity, much like déjà vu, after we had one of our first arguments. I stood there, reeling, and thought, Oh my god, I have been here before, and I know where this will lead.

I’ve learned, from both my research and human experience, that unless we heal, we’ll keep dragging our badly warped skills into each and every one of our relationships. Wherever we go, there we are. We can’t escape them. We can’t pretend our way out of them. We won’t do better because the other person is different.

We either heal, or we are doomed to repeat ourselves.

After one failed marriage, the last thing I wanted to do was watch another one slide into the sea before me.

So here we were, in Beverly’s bright office, the man I would later marry, and reticent, fucking freaked out me.

“So, Tara, what do you want out of couples therapy?” Beverly asked.

I opened my mouth and then immediately closed it. My partner put his hand on my back and I gave him a weak smile.

“I…don’t want to keep repeating the same mistakes,” I told her.

She smiled and nodded and wrote something in her notebook with a green gel pen. She even has cute pens. Ugh. I thought.

As the session progressed, I grew more comfortable. Beverly both affirmed and probed. She thought we had a great foundation and applauded our desire to get help moving forward.

As we stood up to leave, she said, “It’s so nice working with a couple who love each other so much. I usually see couples at their worst, and it’s really nice to see a couple at their normal.”

My eyes suddenly felt wet, and I blinked them quickly.

I’d been to couples therapy before with my ex-husband, and we’d still ended up divorced.

Without realizing it, I’d equated couples therapy to relationship doom, but Beverly had assured me that wasn’t the case, that the man who would become my second husband and I had an obviously good thing.

Looking at him in her office, I couldn’t agree more.

Couples end up in counseling for a lot of different reasons, but they’re all likely good and necessary. Many of us need help, and an objective third party can help you get there.

On top of that, there are some benefits you simply can’t ignore.

1. Improved communication and conflict resolution.

It’s amazing how often we think we’re being clear when we aren’t. A therapist can help you frame exactly what you need to say and how to say it to make sure your partner understands you.

2. Deepened intimacy and connection.

You’re sharing feelings and goals and expectations in a SAFE space. You’re bound to have increased connection to one another.

3. Divorce Prevention.

The ten most common reasons for divorce (as listed here) are getting into it for the wrong reasons; lack of individual identity; becoming lost in roles; not having a shared vision of success; the intimacy disappears; unmet expectations; finances; no longer being physically connection; different priorities and interests; and inability to resolve conflicts.

All of those issues could be addressed within couples therapy even before a couple marries. If a couple is then married and these issues arise, then a trained professional could help that couple navigate these problems.

4. Proof of commitment and willingness.

Couples therapy is an investment of time, money, and energy. I wouldn’t be willing to spend an hour on someone’s couch talking about my deepest darkest with just anyone.

The fact that you and your partner are willing to do that is a sign that you’re both invested and committed to a partnership, for good or worse.

It’s time to attend couples therapy when you and/or your partner decide to. Couples therapy will not in anyway harm your relationship (unless you have an awful therapist, so you should choose them wisely). Couples therapy instead has proven benefits that do make it worth your time and energy.

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Certified Relationship Coach and Writer. E-mail: tarablairball@gmail.com

Memphis, TN
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