Preparation Is Key - Both Practically and Mentally
The process of couples therapy or marriage counseling can be emotionally draining, life altering and, quite simply, sometimes frustrating and ultimately rewarding. When couples come to Eric & Erica, Husband & Wife Team of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, they often have different goals, expectations and tolerance levels. Almost all couples, whether resulting from a short-term or longer-term relationship or marriage, involve having shared parts of one's life with another person that you loved, respected, cared about, shared life’s experiences and memories, and sometimes raised children together. Realizing that the relationship is struggling or that challenges and obstacles have risen that seem harder and harder to overcome is emotionally overwhelming.
Here are some useful tips on preparing for a Co-Therapy Couples & Marriage Counseling With Eric & Erica so that the experience will be as impactful and successful as possible.
Think Deeply & Honestly About Why The Relationship Is Struggling
Often times during therapy sessions, each side is quick to tell us: “well, John’s actions is why the marriage didn’t work” or “Susie had an affair – it’s all her fault” or “If only Pedro did or didn’t do ____, then everything would have been great.” Blame and being defensive are the two most common emotional reactions that cause couple's therapy and marriage counseling to fail. Instead of coming into the process ready to attack your partner or spouse for “causing” the problems, focus instead on the present situation and how best to put yourself in the position to resolve the issues in the relationship.
Don't Just Sit-Back And Wait For Your Partner To Change!
Focus On Communication
It's common sense that couples seeking therapy have issues with effective and honest communications. In fact, it's the #1 reason why couples choose to work with Erica and Eric. However, if there was ever a time to use your best-efforts to communicate more effectively, it is when you both have decided to invest your hard-earned money and time in repairing and healing the relationship or marriage. Telling your spouse “you’re always acting sneaky and I don't trust you” is very different then telling them “I am sensitive when I see you on your phone texting people I don't know. However, I know you love me and aren't trying to upset me. Let’s find a way to accommodate one another needs and sensitivities.” Remember the old saying: “it's not what you say - it's how you may say it.”
How You Say Something Is Often More Important Than What You Say!
Focus on Clear Thinking
When emotions are running at all time highs, and your life and relationship feels like it is changing in a unsatisfying way, it's easy to react first and then think afterwards. But what generally happens from this pattern is that the result is not what we expected nor desired. When you hear your partner say something that your disagree with, or that angers or upsets you, stop and ask yourself: (i) why am I getting angry or upset? (ii) will my reaction help or hurt our chances of growing our relationship? and (iii) would just listening intently be better than speaking right now?
Think. Think Some More. Then React!
Focus On Our Shared Goals
When we being our work with couples, we always have them complete separate questionnaires which provides us basic background information. More importantly, we always ask each partner to articulate three goals that they have for couples therapy or marriage counseling. We have found that while sometimes there may be different goals listed by each partner, more often than not, the goals are the same or very similar. Perhaps they may be ranked in different orders of important (for example, parter 1 may have communication ranked as #2 while the other partner has it ranked as #1). Regardless, Erica & Eric address the issue of goals in session #1 so that both partners agree on co-created goals.
You Don't Need To Win & Your Partner Lose - Focus On Your Overall Goals!
Focus On Trusting The Process
Couples might enter therapy wanting a quick fix to their "problems." They may have an expectation that the therapist will agree with their view of the relationship and just tell their partner that they need to change and are the cause of the problems in the relationship. They may expect immediate change or quick and easy changes.
Many clinicians want to keep their couples happy and coming back for more sessions. That is their goal - to keep the customer happy. Erica & Eric take a different approach. That is mainly because we view the "relationship" itself as our client or customer. We are always focused on creating an environment and process that meets the shared goals and needs of the "relationship" regardless if that is inherently identical to the specific needs of each partner.
To improve your relationship, it’s important for couples to trust the therapy process. You both created the "relationship." Now it time to meet the "relationship's" needs and to do that, you must start to be vulnerable with one another, express feelings rather than just thoughts, acknowledge your role in the patterns of interactions in your relationship or marriage, and learn how to hear what you partner is truly saying.
Eric & Erica Can Help Your Relationship To Prosper!
Focus On Being Honest & Transparent
Some partners start couples therapy with secrets — such as an affair or hidden activities — and they intend to keep those secrets. If you’re keeping a secret from your spouse, consider its implications for your relationship. Secrets are the cement holding-up the dividing walls in your relationship which prevent intimacy, trust and security.
In couple's therapy and marriage counseling with Erica & Eric, we make it clear to both partners right at the outset of therapy that we will not keep secrets from either partner. For example, when we meet separately with each partner as part of our beginning stages of therapy, if we learn something relevant in those individual sessions, we may choose to share it with the other partner when we resume joint sessions. This is consistent with our "no-secrets" philosophy and approach to couple's work.