Couples therapists often say things like, “Most couples come to therapy six months too late.” It’s true that many couples start therapy when their relationship is hanging on by a thread. Communication deteriorated years ago, they grew further and further apart, and now they’re making a last ditch effort. What stopped them from coming to therapy when these problems started, or even before there were any problems as a preventive measure? Why does it take couples so long to seek therapy? What barriers get in the way?
In this 3 part series, I’m going to examine several common barriers, and offer some suggestions for how to work through them.
The money and time commitment required.
Therapy is expensive (although, as one couples therapist put it on a podcast I listen to, “It’s cheaper than divorce.”) It’s a big investment of time and money into your relationship. And when you’re a busy professional or a busy parent, setting aside an hour each week to talk about your relationship may not feel like a priority.
How to work through it:
- Remember that the strength of your relationship will impact everything else in your life, including your own mental health and the lives of your kids. If your relationship is stressful or your communication is hurtful, you’re more likely to get physically sick. On the other hand, a strong relationship is a protective factor. The ups and downs of life won’t get you so down when you have consistent and loving support in your partner. And if you have kids, your relationship is the rock your family is built on. Taking care of your relationship is a way of taking care of your kids. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding your priorities.
- Remember that this investment will pay off for years to come. The time you spend digging into your communication, learning to compromise, and coming to understand each other in a deeper way will give you more freedom and happiness down the line. The longer you wait the more entrenched these problematic patterns may become, and the harder to change. But if you start now, you’re basically giving your future self more self-awareness, the ability to more easily resolve conflict, and a calmer, happier home life.
- You might benefit from online therapy, which offers you the flexibility to talk to your therapist from the comfort of your own home. Many therapists offer online appointments through HIPAA compliant platforms that are similar to Skype but encrypted and more secure, including myself. Many employers also understand if you block off an hour each week in your schedule for an ongoing appointment. Some couples use their lunch hours, for example. [edit: this article was written before Covid. Now most people understand the benefits of online therapy; it works, and it’s flexible, which makes it a great choice for busy professionals and parents.]
I hope this post was useful to you. Please check in next week for part 2 of this series. In the meantime, if you have questions, or you’re interested in working with me, feel free to call (585) 294-4776.