A recent study found that two-thirds of divorcing couples never sought therapy before calling it quits. This study is shocking because it seems to suggest that many couples would simply rather divorce than face the prospect of therapy.
Indeed, for many couples, the thought of going to therapy is daunting, not just because they will be discussing their most private emotions and thoughts (including sexual ones), but because it feels like admitting failure.
Many people wrongly think being in love shouldn’t take work. After all, it’s supposed to be “happily ever after” not “happily ever after… with weekly therapy.” However, ask any happily married couple what the secret to their marital bliss is and they will admit it takes plenty of work and commitment. Therapy can be a very useful tool in this process, especially if you and your partner continually seem to have the same argument or experience the same issues. The key is seeking therapy before it is too late, before the only thing holding the relationship together is a shared last name and mutual belongings.
The type of therapy you choose is also very important. Sex therapy is a good choice for couples who seem to primarily experience disconnect in the bedroom, such as those who want to reignite their spark or those who want to rebuild their relationship after infidelity.
For those who want to work on other aspects of their relationships, researchers Andrew Christensen and Neil S. Jacobson are pioneering a new type of therapy known as acceptance therapy. Unlike traditional therapy, which focuses on communication techniques and problem-solving skills, acceptance therapy encourages couples to embrace each other’s flaws and learn to understand them (as opposed to trying to fix the flaws).
For example, instead of becoming enraged that your partner forgot to pick up the dry cleaning again, you would learn how to accept and understand that he is forgetful. Perhaps making a list or calling him to remind him would be one way to work around this issue before it even arises. You could also learn how to celebrate this part of his personality, such as by seeing his forgetfulness as part of his spontaneity. Or, if you often bicker because your partner isn’t romantic enough, you could learn how to create romance for both of you, such as by sending him flowers randomly or cooking him a special dinner for no reason. Showing your partner the acceptance and love you desire will go a long way in helping him to return the favor.
Even if you ultimately decide that therapy isn’t quite right for you at this time, you should still make sure to “check in” with your partner every once in a while. Spend some time together without the kids and talk about what you love about your relationship and what you would like to change. Remember, all great romances take work and “happily ever after” doesn’t happen overnight!