Why Couples Counseling Isn't a Great Fit for Every Relationship

When couples are faced with what seem to be irreconcilable differences, couples counseling is often the go-to. And the truth is that counseling can save a rocky marriage before the spouse’s turn to divorce. At the very least, it’s worth a shot when both people are willing. But there are times when couples counseling isn’t a great fit for every relationship.

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Why Couples Counseling Isn't a Great Fit for Every Relationship
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One partner is unwilling

In order for couples counseling to work, both parties must be willing and open to work on themselves and the relationship. And all the counseling in the world isn’t going to work when there’s only one person doing the work. 

Oftentimes, when a partner isn’t willing to change it’s because they’ve already “checked out” of the relationship. If your partner has begun moving on with someone else or otherwise feels they’d be better off without this relationship, it’s going to be difficult to make any headway. 

Couples counseling can spark some really amazing changes, but it cannot force someone to stay who is unwilling.

Partners have different goals

Couples counseling isn’t a generic fix-all for relationship problems. Everyone struggles with different things, and so each couple should have a common goal for counseling. 

If you aren’t on the same page about what success will look like for you, there’s no way you’re both going to end up happy. This would end up being a major waste of time and money. Instead, talk to your partner about your shared outcomes and what a successful counseling session looks like.

You think counseling is a quick fix

If you think the simple act of showing up in a therapist’s office will solve your problems, couples counseling probably isn’t the right fit for you. Not only are you going to have to participate and have difficult conversations in the therapist’s office, but you’ll need to do the even more difficult work at home. 

At home, when tensions are running high, you’ll be tasked with using conflict resolution skills you’ve learned in therapy. And while no one is perfect, you’ll need to make an effort in order for counseling to have any impact.

You’ve fallen out of love

Before you waste time and money on counseling, take a long, hard look at your situation. Do you have any hope that this can be saved? Do you feel like there’s love in your heart for your partner? If so, couples counseling may be the right fit. But too many couples end up in counseling to delay what they see as inevitable. And this can end up causing hard feelings in the long run. It’s quite cruel to force your partner to open up and be vulnerable when you’ve already decided the outcome.

Individual therapy would be better

Remembering that we can’t change others, think about whether you would benefit from individual therapy more than couples counseling. Do you have unresolved issues from childhood or past relationships that are impacting your current relationship? If so, you may want to try working those things out in your own therapy sessions before you try couples counseling. 

You’re looking to change your partner

If counseling is going to work, you must accept that you can only change yourself. This means that you should go into each session expecting to do some self-reflection for the purpose of improving. If you’re going into couples counseling looking for someone to agree that your partner should last longer in bed, you’re doing it wrong. And it’s not going to work. There’s never one party that wins at couples counseling. Either you both win - or you both lose.

One partner is a narcissist

Couples counseling simply will not work if one partner suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). More than just being narcissistic, people with NPD are incapable of caring about anyone but themselves. They are extremely lacking in the empathy needed to have productive relationships. If your partner has NPD, not only are they unwilling but they are largely incapable of changing to meet your relationship needs. 

Couples counseling may be the change you and your partner need to help you out of your rut and into a productive relationship. Just be sure you’re doing for the right reasons and that you’re both on the same page.

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