Have you ever been to marriage counseling?

It's never too early for couples therapy

The systemic approach, on the other hand, considers which interaction patterns perpetuate the pair problems. In doing so, the therapist increasingly involves external people such as children and the extended family. The approaches are not always offered in their pure form: many therapists and counselors use techniques from different schools. »In effectiveness studies, these forms of counseling show comparable effects. Couples should therefore take several initial interviews and then decide which procedure suits them best, ”recommends Milek, who works in behavioral therapy herself.

Five steps to success

However, the basic structure is similar for all procedures, as researchers working with psychologist Lisa Benson, then at the University of California in Los Angeles, discovered in 2012. In the first step, couples therapy usually promotes a new perspective on the problems in the relationship, blame is avoided. Instead, everyone should recognize their own contribution to the escalation and look at the conflict more objectively. The therapist communicates that repeated conflicts often arise from an unfulfilled need for closeness, security, affirmation, or autonomy of one or both partners. This should help the couple to have a more constructive and benevolent view of their own relationship.

In the second step, the partners work on their ability to regulate emotions. Here, for example, mindfulness exercises are used, in which you can feel your feelings very carefully without evaluating them. If a partner is unable to control their emotions, this often results in destructive behavior. This includes all forms of aggression, psychological, physical and sexual violence. In fact, couples therapy can sometimes make sense even in cases of domestic violence. The therapist must always keep an eye on the health of both clients and is obliged to call in the police in extreme cases.

How do I convince my partner about couples therapy?

Not only couples can turn to counseling centers and couples therapists. It can also make sense to seek help on your own first. However, for long-term success it is usually important that both parties participate. So what's the best way to convince your partner about couples therapy? If you want to save the relationship, but are at the end of your game, you should formulate it exactly that way. A clear announcement leads to the goal more than blame and egg dances. If the partner continues to hesitate, it is best to sit down and discuss the next step constructively: Which arguments speak in favor of couples therapy, which against it? Often the partner can at least be convinced to take part in an initial interview. If serious problems are involved, it can sometimes be necessary to give the partner an ultimatum. Anyone who threatens to end their relationship must, however, also be prepared to face the consequences.

In almost all couples who see a therapist, there is also a lack of intimacy. Therefore, in the third step, the partners practice revealing their feelings towards the other and responding to him with compassion. This also includes uncovering the particular reaction patterns that a person has internalized in the course of their life and that often shape all of their interpersonal relationships. A deeper understanding of why the partner often reacts so sensitively in certain situations or has seemingly unfounded jealousy attacks promotes closeness and cohesion and makes it easier to respond to the needs of the other.

In the fourth step, according to Benson and colleagues, the couples usually learn to communicate more positively, such as actively listening and openly showing appreciation and gratitude. Sometimes the therapist even gives clients homework for this. “For example, I ask the couple to pay attention to every positive gesture made by the other, no matter how small, until the next meeting and to record it. It could be a kiss goodbye or a meal you cooked yourself, ”says Anne Milek.

The last step is ultimately about highlighting the good sides of the relationship and the partner. What do you appreciate about the other? How did you get to know each other back then? It is often very effective to indulge in beautiful moments together and remember what is worth fighting for. Towards the end of the therapy, the couple works out, in the best case, a hopeful vision of the next stage on their journey together.