When I tell people that they need to seek a therapist for their relationship their eyebrow raises and a look of defensiveness or shame overcomes their facial expression. "We're totally fine, we don't need a shrink," is what I hear back or "do you really think it's that bad?"
Many people have a negative association to the word "therapist" or "counselor." They think that seeing one means something isn't right and at times that might be true, but seeing a therapist early on in a relationship or marriage can do a lot to guide it in the right direction instead of trying to save it later on.
I am hugely in favor of using a life coach, psychologist or psychiatrist (depending on medical needs) for an extended period at least during the initial year or two of the dating and relationship period especially if you have recently been divorced.
Here are four reasons why you should seek couples therapy now instead of later.
1. Your Emotions are Tousled After a Divorce
Divorce is hard and no one will argue that it isn't emotionally draining. Because of this your emotions may be in a place that your partner may not understand. Even if your partner has gone through the process themselves, no two divorces are alike and they might not understand certain emotions, reactions or behaviors.
Think of a therapist as a translator, there to help you understand each other better and pave the way to an emotionally satisfying connection.
2. You Need to Recognize Unwanted Behavior
Getting into a relationship after having been married is no easy task. We become accustomed to unhealthy behavior from ourselves as well as from our partner; this continuous cycle is probably what led to your divorce. Over time we no longer recognize that our conduct is unhealthy and if we do, we are not really sure how to address it if. If it is our partner's behavior we might run from it altogether so we don't have to deal with more problems.
A therapist is unbiased toward you and how you and your partner act. Instead of just seeing things as a part of your personality, they are trained to notice and address unhealthy habits or methods of conduct. No one is perfect and sometimes we need someone to point out unproductive things that we do in a healthy way so that we don't make the same mistake twice.
3. Shedding Light on How to Love
I have a client who goes to her therapist with her husband even when things are at their best. She says she always learns something that nurtures their relationship. She considers it maintenance. If you go to a counselor only seeking advice to solve a problem then that is what you will get, but when things are great and you go just for insight, you learn so much more and connect even deeper with your loved one. Also, talking to a professional about the state of your relationship when it is at such a high point will help you to take notice of what is making it work at that time and you can always think back to it when things might be in a slump.
4. Your Therapist Should See You at Your Best So They Can Evaluate You at Your Worst
So many times couples seek therapists when things are in a bad state and things were already said and done that can't be taken back. In most conventional situations, the couple is coming to the counselor because they have major problems in their relationship, often accompanied by deep-seated anger, resentment and frustration. When a situation is at this point the counselor has to try to create a safe and open space within the context of the problems between the couple in the room. Not an easy task. Seeing a therapist early on prevents situations like this by already establishing that safe and open space when things are good. It also gives the counselor a good frame of reference from seeing you at your highest point as a couple to seeing you at your lowest and being able to evaluate the situation.
Keeping the lines of communication open and honest is the best way to ensure a relationship's success. For some it comes easy but for most, we need a little help. A professional is great way to ensure both parties in the relationship are heard and neither is judged.