I’ve discussed my experience with therapy a bit here before (read 5 Reasons to see a Therapist even if you’re not CRAZY). Major “disclaimer” I am about as PRO-counseling as you can get. Several of my closest friends are counselors/therapists and I have utilized counseling to work through issues big and small. I am a big believer in self reflection and mindfulness. I believe therapy is a great way to work through issues and obstacles you may not have the tools to solve on your own. I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve talked with counselors about family dynamics, relationships, loneliness and even friend problems. I don’t see a counselor on a weekly basis but periodically throughout my life as I determine therapy is necessary. I truly believe therapy has given me more self awareness and has allowed me a new mindset when tackling emotional obstacles in my life.
In the spring it occurred to me that Jordan (my boyfriend) could benefit from talking with a therapist about stress. He has a high stress job and often has difficulty relaxing and checking out even for a few hours. By no means does he have over the top serious as death issues…but we all have obstacles. I have issues and if I could I would see a therapist every single time I’ve had a bad day. I like to hash out my issues and turn them around out loud until I can figure out the who/what/where/when and why of it all. So with a little persistence and absolutely no nagging, boy Jordan agreed to try therapy with me. Let me tell you, he’s a gem (a saint?) (a rare breed of unicorn?)-what I’m trying to suggest is that Jordan is a real trooper. I am 100% aware most people don’t sign up for couples therapy on a whim. I think couples therapy is usually reserved for “serious” issues such as an affair or a divorce or hey on the brighter side…a marriage. There weren’t any major issues in Jordyn & Jordan loveland but I reasoned a few therapy sessions would still be beneficial.
5 Things you may not have realized you can do in couples therapy:
When you begin a relationship you bond over your shared love of macaroni and cheese or art exhibits or a certain football team. As time continues you learn to see each other on a deeper level but don’t always fully discuss values. If we aren’t used to articulating our values how would we know it’s important to share them? Do you see yourself living in the city long term? Do you want to take time off and travel? Is having children something you see yourself doing in the near future? I’ve never shyed away from these serious topics but I know for many broaching the topic of “the future” can be scary. Even if “assessing values” isn’t the main goal of therapy you are sure to uncover a few of your partner’s values in the process.
Discuss issues you may not have resolved
As a little “pre-counseling” homework I made myself think about what I would talk about. I realized there are were few let’s call them “hot topics” I consistently avoided bringing up. There were issues I felt like I should have worked through but still made me angry or insecure and I couldn’t understand it. There were conversations Jordan and I had tried to discuss but for whatever reason never fully resolved. I forewarned Jordan that I would be bringing up said discussions and asked him to spend a little time thinking before our session to optimize efficiency.
Theoretically we could have discussed these issues on our own but it was SO nice to have a professional there helping to guide us through the process. We definitely won’t have a therapist on speed dial every time we have a small issue but working with a therapist just a few times reminded me how to stay calm and work through issues that make me emotional.
Learn to Argue
Perhaps one of the biggest differences you and a partner may notice is the way you argue. While Jordan goes from “0-60” in practically no time, I get worked up emotionally over time. While I handle pretty much every disagreement in tears, he needs space. Therapy taught us to respect each other’s ways of coping and how to deal with our differences. For other couples it might be useful to learn “how to fight fairly” or “how to discuss difficult subjects”. The truth is no one is perfect and even though Jordan and I don’t argue very often the insight by gained about one another was helpful.
The biggest issue we tackled together was stress. Jordan and I handle stress very differently. I manifest stress through restless anxiety. Jordan interprets stress into anger. When I am around anger I have a difficult time separating someone’s anger at a situation from someone being angry with me. I wrote a whole post about how anger effects me. Our therapist helped us to understand one another’s stressors and triggers. Decompressing for me means a hot bath, a Netflix binge or a jog. De-stressing for Jordan means engaging his mind and body so he has no room to think about work or other issues.
Seek deeper Understanding
As someone who is highly sensitive and admittedly a little bit emo, I overanalyze and misread interactions. I might spend an entire weekend hung up on one snarky remark or angry reaction. If I call Jordan while he’s in the middle of the workday and he snaps at me on the phone it’s 99.999% guaranteed I will cry when I hang up the phone. These little interactions and misunderstandings can have an influential effect. Working with an unbiased professional can help you and your partner to understand and appreciate each other’s differences. Simply understanding where the other is coming from can help problem solve in the future.
Jordan and I weren’t considering breaking up. We weren’t ready to tear each other’s hair out or cat scratch each other’s eyes. Yet, I found a few sessions of counseling incredibly beneficial. Our relationship was strong but just a few sessions really did make us stronger. There are ways Jordan and I are different of course. We are two different people with different backgrounds and different experiences. One of the biggest benefits was learning that Jordan and I can mesh our different modes of thinking. Neither of our methods is correct or incorrect and neither of us have to do a complete 180 and change who we are. I’ll probably always be a deeply emotional person. I need to talk through issues extensively and need to feel loved and valued every day. Jordan is a bit detached from his emotions. He can shut off his emotions for a few hours to focus on work, or put off working through problems when they aren’t convenient. Both of our tendencies have strengths and both of our tendencies have weaknesses. Therapy reiterated that neither of our personalities are right or wrong and taught us tactics for working together as a team. Team work and friendship is the ultimate goal for me in a relationship and I found therapy provided me with valuable tools.
Join the party & link up with Kristin and I for Tutu Tuesday <3