Relationships are full of wonderful, beautiful experiences - but they can also sometimes take some hard work when difficulties arise. But when the going gets hard, you don’t have to tough it out alone when a therapist can help you navigate the ups and downs of life together.
Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy said in a recent interview in the Guardian they would be interested in seeing a psychoanalyst for private therapy one day.
Asked whether they would consider actual therapy on top of talking to one another on their podcast, The Therapy Crouch, Clancy said: “I’d love to do it.” Crouch added: “I think we should as well.”
A 2019 joint study by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and Relate revealed the three most common issues people presented with at therapy: communication problems (79.7%), followed by rows and arguments (68.9%) and managing conflicts (67.8%).
It also found that 65.1% of people sought therapy because they were worried about their relationship coming to an end, while 63.8% said they went for counselling because of their partner’s behaviour.
We spoke to several experts about the signs couples should look out for that may indicate whether they should seek therapy and what they should expect from it.
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5 signs you might benefit from couple’s therapy
According to Limor Gottlieb, founder of Love Evolved, and Chance Marshall, co-founder of Self Space, there are the 5 main signs to look out for:
Marshall says: “If you find that you and your partner are constantly arguing, or if communication has become increasingly negative or hostile, it’s a clear indicator that therapy may be helpful. A breakdown in communication is often a sign of deeper currents that need attention.”
If a situation arises in which you and your partner feel your trust is broken - for example, an infidelity has occurred - therapy can help you rebuild that trust. Gottlieb adds that therapy can help you reconnect when you feel “disconnected” from your partner, or “emotionally distant”.
While it’s normal for couples to experience ebbs and flows in their intimacy, a “significant decrease in physical intimacy, emotional closeness, or a feeling of growing apart” can be a sign that your relationship requires attention.
Marshall says: “When couples start feeling like roommates rather than partners, therapy can help bring back the connection to each other.” Gottlieb adds that therapy can provide a “safe space that allows partners to openly share any sexual problems without judgement”.
Having disagreements is normal for any couple, but if these arguments are constant or unresolved issues keep resurfacing, therapy can help disrupt the cycle and help solve them.
Gottlieb says that ongoing conflict can be a sign of “incompatible attachment styles, whereby partners fail to meet each other’s relational needs”. In such cases, therapy can help you understand one another and work through issues more constructively.
If you feel that you or your partner needs extra support, whether it’s because either of you are experiencing “real emotional distress, anxiety, depression, or intense anger because of the relationship”, then therapy can be crucial.
“Infidelity or betrayal is often a major reason,” Marshall explains. “These can be a devastating blow to a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be the end of it. Therapy can help us re-construct and re-contract our relationships, and work out if we still want to carry on. Equally, it might be a place we go to end well and with love, by honouring what we’ve built.”
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What should you prepare for?
For some people, going to therapy to resolve issues is a big decision and may bring up a lot of uncomfortable emotions and memories. It is also not a “quick fix”, Marshall warns, it is “an ongoing process that requires time and dedication”. “It’s graft, but it’s always worth it… Couples should be prepared to show up to sessions regularly and bring themselves fully to it.”
He adds: “The couples that struggle the most in therapy are the ones where one partner is dragging the other through change. Genuine openness and a willingness for change and self-reflection are needed from both. Bring your mess, look at it, own it and get ready to examine it in a new light with compassion.”
Gottlieb also says that couples going to therapy shouldn’t expect their problems to “go away miraculously”. “Therapists may have to dig deep into partners’ pasts to reveal the origin of unhealthy patterns and healing old wounds,” she says. “So partners need to make sure they’re willing to put in the work and really want to change.”
Questions to ask your partner
In order to align on your goals and expectations for therapy, Marshall suggests having a conversation with your partner in which you both ask the following questions:
Where do you want to be?
What do you hope to achieve?
How will you measure progress?
What issues do you want to address or parts do you want to work on?
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How do you choose the right therapist?
Naomi Magnus, psychotherapist at North London Therapy, recommends having a browse of online directories and reading what people say about a therapist’s work, in order to gauge if they appeal to you and your way of thinking.
“You can then set up an initial meeting and see how you both feel in the room with the therapist. Research shows that the effectiveness of the therapy is a direct result of the relationship you build with your therapist and is rarely connected to method or the therapist’s training,” she says. “Therefore, trust your gut and see how you both feel talking to the person. Do you feel safe? Do they feel impartial? Do they feel able to facilitate healthy conversations between you?”
You should also make sure that the therapist you choose has the appropriate qualifications and are registered with a recognised governing or accrediting body.
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