Many individual clients I know ask me if they and their partners would benefit from couples counseling. I have discussed how to convince a partner to start counseling, that men can be averse to counseling and why, and what types of problems can be helped by couples work, but I've never talked about the personality/relationship markers that make some people better suited for couples counseling than others. So here's the lowdown on traits that I feel correspond with a better couples counseling outcome, so you can end up as happy as this free png image I found online.
- Openmindedness. The more open you are to hearing and understanding divergent perspectives, the better couples counseling will work for you. If you haven't changed your mind about anything since your early 20's, unless you are in your early 20's, couples counseling may not be a good first step. Individual therapy would be more productive.
- Love. If you feel like you don't love your spouse at all anymore, couples work may be moot. We couples therapists can and do work well with couples who "love each other but aren't in love," or who are bored or monotogamous. Even hatred can be worked with. But indifference to whether the person lives or dies (except that if they died, your kids would be upset) is harder, although not impossible, to work with.
- Motivation aka Some External Reason To Stay Together. You may be staying together for the kids, because you're religiously averse to divorce, or because you just don't want to be a quitter. But there needs to be some reason, aside from inertia, that you're still together. Higher levels of motivation to remain married yield much deeper and more productive work in counseling. Whether your reason is a house, a dog, kids, or even finances, it really helps to have some actual, tangible, mutually accepted reason that divorcing would be a Big Deal. I have seen couples with no real "reason" to be together, and they are much less likely to benefit from counseling, since both of them frequently have one foot out the door. Religion, family, and all sorts of societal strictures used to work to keep people together through the ups and downs of marriage. Now, it's commonly kids/pets and a mortgage. Whatever works. Even a small amount of motivation can be harnessed, whereas even a magician cannot make much of two people with zero desire to work hard on their connection.
- Attraction. It really helps couples counseling feel less like business consulting if least one partner feels physical desire toward the other. Attraction can even function as the external reason to stay together, for at least the individual who feels it most strongly.
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Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation, here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.