Dating and Relationship Advice

If Disney movies taught us anything, it’s that you meet your prince, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after with no problems whatsoever. But sadly, real life is not a fairy tale. And you can bet your bottom dollar that every single relationship is going to have problems at some point.

The real trick of a long-term relationship isn’t finding someone you’ll never fight with. It’s finding someone you’re willing to fight for.

Oftentimes, fighting for a relationship means getting a little outside assistance from a therapist.

Thinking about taking that step? This beginner’s guide to couples therapy is here to help.

When is it time to go to therapy?

Contrary to what you see on TV, the best time to start seeing a couples therapist is not when your relationship is at a breaking point. In fact, it’s the opposite! Beginning your therapy journey when you’re in a good place is a wonderful way to help solve problems before they become catastrophic. Think of it like this: you don’t want to wait to see your dentist until you have a super painful cavity—you go for checkups every six months to stop the cavities before they become really bad. Preventative counseling is the best kind.

How do you find a therapist?

There is no easy answer for this one. Finding the therapist that’s right for you and your partner is going to take time. Plan on seeing at least three different people before you make a commitment. Be sure both of you have an understanding of exactly what you’re looking for, whether that’s a tough love style, a specific gender, or someone from a specific background. Also, keep an open mind. You’ll know when you’ve found the right therapist.

What kind of therapy do you want?

While there are tons of different therapy styles out there, most therapists are trained in the big three: the Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy (or EFT), and Imago Relationship Therapy.

The Gottman Method is all about learning to manage unresolved conflicts through proper communication. EFT, on the other hand, zeroes in on helping couples form a proper attachment bond so they can feel each other’s emotional needs. Finally, Imago Relationship Therapy is based on people seeking out relationships that feel similar to those they had with their original caregiver.

Do some research and think about what type of therapy resonates most with you and your partner.

How can you tell if it's working?

Every couple and every therapist are different. Only you can know if the therapy is helping or not. However, it's best to come into the experience with one or two goals that you want to work on as a couple. That way, it’s easier to gauge if you're making progress. Also, progress doesn’t necessarily mean a massive change. Even a tiny shift in behavior or feeling can be a big win.

Keep in mind that, sadly, even the best therapist in the world can’t save every relationship. But if you and your partner are committed to the work it takes to improve, then you will at least learn something from the process.

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