The idea that therapy is only undertaken if something is wrong needs to be put to bed for good. Talking things out and getting guidance from a professional is a helpful, productive way to exist peacefully with other people, and that is doubly true in romantic unions. So, if you are considering
starting couples therapy early on in your relationship, but think it might be preemptive — know that it can be a really great move for a whole host of reasons. One 2016 study, published in The Family Journal, found that at the very least, couples therapy seems to increase empathy for each other significantly — and that is always a worthwhile endeavor.
While perhaps it's not something to do after a few weeks in — although, to each their own — therapy might be something that is worth a try even at the beginning to simply deepen your relationship, work on issues, or clarify what is really going on. Ultimately, of course, it is all up to you and your partner as to how you want to go about, you know, you two.
Below, women share what starting couples therapy early on in their relationships was like, and how it's panned out since then.
1 Rose, 36
We went to therapy when we had established we were serious but wanted to discuss more foundational aspects of our relationship and what we might want to grow towards. It was definitely in couples therapy that I learned to stop trying to make another person responsible for my feelings. But I could also still explain to my partner that I am affected by them and their actions. It made me (and my partner) understand that what makes sense to me may be totally off for the other person." 2 Michaela, 38
"We went about a year and a half into our relationship, which I consider early on. Therapy is great because just being there makes you know the other finds your love worthy of such care, you’re both willing to work, willing to listen. We loved each other and wanted our relationship to work, and even though we hadn't been together that long, we were thinking about the future. Talking about moving in, kids, fears and doubts was scary and we wanted a moderator and guide through talking about and putting a light on subjects that we (mostly I) found intimidating to talk about. It has helped us a lot. We do live together now."
3 Mattilda, 32
"We started going because we wanted to stay together but couldn't handle problems on our own. It was pretty nerve-wracking getting to the first session but then almost immediately we felt a lot of freedom and comfort having an additional space to talk through things. Especially if I had things to talk about that I felt too anxious to bring up when it was just us."
4 Scotlan, 33
"I guess the goal of going early is to learn how communicate as best as possible to avoid major crises that could potentially take months or years to mend down the line. In our case, neither of us have parents who have effectively modeled how to do that — to say the absolute least — so it makes sense to seek support from someone who actually knows how to do that."
5 Meg, 32
"We were together about a year and a half, and after months of begging my boyfriend to go to couples therapy — and also asking him if he wanted to break up — he informed me at our first session he had fallen out of love with me. Guess he needed a third party present for him to tell me. So... I guess it worked?
The best advice I got from that couples therapist, however, is that therapy is not designed to keep you together longer if you're already on the path to breaking up. It helps strengthen strong relationships and helps guide couples through a break up in a way that’s productive, healthy, and humane." 6 Casey, 72
"I suppose depending on whether or not you want to be stuck to someone for life, my husband and I have been together for 40 years and we started going very early on. This is when it wasn't quite as common, too! Now, we go to couples therapy about once a year. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. If we’re in a rough spot, it’s a good reset or way to address issues head on. If things are great, it’s nice to acknowledge how and why it’s working. I say, you get a doctors check up once a year. Why not do it for your relationship too?"
Take it from some people who have done it. It will certainly not hurt to have a space to communicate with some guidance along the way!
Study: Couples Therapy and Empathy: An Evaluation of the Impact of Imago Relationship Therapy on Partner Empathy Levels. The Family Journal. 2016. Christopher D. Schmidt, Nathan C. Gelhert,
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