Ask a Therapist: Is Couples Therapy Only for Married Couples?
There are many types of therapy offered by the mental health community – trying to find the right therapy can often seem like a daunting task. When it comes to couples therapy, I have found that “couples therapy” is often thought of as “marriage therapy,” which is not necessarily the case. Indeed, marriage is not a prerequisite for participation in couples therapy. In fact, all couples can benefit from engaging in couples therapy, regardless of the duration of the relationship or the level of commitment.
Couples therapy is a great place to work toward improving communication, strengthening emotional connection, and building empathy. Even if you are unsure about your relationship being one that will last, you can still use couples therapy to build insight into how you function in a significant relationship. Couples therapy will help illuminate patterns that show up for you in your relationship – for example, are you one to withdraw from conflict, or do you pursue conflict in an effort to “win?” These patterns are likely to show up in other relationships in your life too; therefore identifying and addressing these tendencies in couples therapy can provide benefit both within and outside of your primary relationship.
All relationships have challenges, and both married and unmarried couples can benefit from working through these challenges with an objective third party. Couples therapy can help you understand where you run into rough patches in your relationship, and how to navigate these experiences in a collaborative and healthy way. You can learn how to approach conflict, how to express yourself authentically, and how to listen empathically to your partner. These skills are relevant not just in marriage, but in all relationships in our lives.
Ultimately, couples therapy is a place where you can increase understanding of self and others. The more we understand about our own personalities and how we function within relationships, the healthier our relationships can become. The skills you build in couples therapy will undoubtedly benefit the relationship you bring to treatment, but you may also notice improvement in the other relationships you share with significant people in your life.
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