Famous writer Leo Tolstoy once said the truest words of all, “What counts in a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”
Fun fact: Couples therapy isn’t only for those on the brink of divorce; far from it. It has been around for some time in India, but relationship counsellors have now become more acceptable to couples who want to put their relationship back on track.
“Nobody should feel ashamed or embarrassed when seeking out couples counselling. But better yet, they should feel empowered that they are willing to fight for something they believe in,” says Kolkata-based psychologist and counsellor Polly Sengupta.
Mumbai-based counsellor Anita Singh too thinks everyone should consider couples counselling, and in fact, should actually do it, married or not.
“If you think about it, we do so much research, planning, and strategising before a purchase or decision, why aren’t we more diligent about our relationships? You wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it first, would you? In the case of relationships, many troubled couples wait until too late in the game to seek intervention. Why do people let it go that far?” she says.
Whether or not you’re a couple in distress or in a seemingly perfectly happy partnership, couples therapy shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are five reasons why couples counselling rocks:
Neeti Sinha, a housewife from Gurgaon, is an in-depth talker and her marketing professional husband is a selective listener, yet they thought they had excellent communication skills.
“It’s not like my husband and I didn’t know how to resolve issues, but there were definitely many times where we both agreed to disagree and pushed issues under the rug in the hope that they would never came back. Unfortunately they come back in one form or another, and usually with a vengeance,” she says, adding, “With me, he says ‘I’m angry’. Period. In counselling, he says ‘I’m angry because...’ and with the word ‘because’ we are able to make emotional progress in our relationship.”
Sengupta says people are always growing and that attending counselling regularly is a great emotional check in with each other to make sure a couple is continually walking the same line.
Couples counselling, especially pre-marriage is a chance for couples to dig up any little irritations such as money, anger, jealousy, or other issues that they feel might hinder them in the future, adds Singh. “Everyone thinks they communicate effectively, but if you sit with a professional in a safe environment, you discover a lot more than you may think you already know,” she says.
Sitting with a trained professional spilling issues and problems can seem really intimidating, but remember, they do this for a living so nothing is off limits to their ears. You share, they listen and evaluate, and you leave with a mind full of objective opinions.
“When my husband and I first attended therapy, we were nervous and had no idea what to expect. Our therapist told us to sit facing each other and discuss a topic as if nobody else was in the room. We were then given something to argue about and our therapist observed our actions and demeanor, listened to our words carefully, and began to understand how we both operate and think,” says Sinha.
“Hearing our therapist tell us what we need to work on together as a couple (and separately) was a really valuable experience for us. Outside of the therapist’s office, we can both tend to be a little stubborn but hearing a professional tell you things together, face to face, makes a world of difference, especially when you are back out in the real world on your own,” she adds.
Nobody’s relationship is perfect, no matter what social media tells you, and in therapy you will realise the areas in which your relationship flourishes and fails, says Sengupta.
“Because we spend so much time focusing on the arguments and fights, we forget to celebrate what we are doing well in our relationships, and couples therapy helps celebrate the strengths,” she says.
Your therapist may tell you what you may not want to hear, but you will listen and grow. Remember these trained therapists have heard it all before and they can offer the most comprehensive advice and solutions.
“You’re more likely to listen and take advice from a trained professional. Through couples therapy, my husband has graduated from being mad and telling me about it years later, to being able to understand the emotion and then articulate it no more than a week later, and that is progress,” says Shalini Datta, a Pune-based media professional, who has been married for 11 years.
Attending couples therapy will give you clear results, one way or another.
“Through the tips, emotional digging, and heart-opening conversations, you will have a much clearer picture of how your marriage will continue on or if separate paths are the way to go. Think of your therapist as your coach and their tips and advice as ‘plays’ that will always be in your benefit so that your team wins at a successful relationship. Problems or not, if you and your partner are willing to even go to therapy together, you are already ahead of the game,” says Datta.
Say goodbye to being embarrassed about asking for directions, ahem, we mean relationship help.
“Asking for help with anything can be a challenge, so when a couple decides to ask for help with their relationship, it broke down walls of embarrassment and shame for them. They then acknowledged that getting help when you need it, no matter what it is, makes a less vulnerable and more empowered couple,” says Sengupta.
There is no such thing as the perfect marriage or relationship, but there is such a thing as doing your absolute best for the sake of your relationship. At the end of the day, nothing is ever a guarantee; marriage isn’t, and neither is couples counselling. We’re not saying that couples therapy is for everyone or will be the solution you are looking for, but don’t dismiss it until you try it out for yourself.
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