Before You Go to Couple’s Counseling

If you’re having relationship problems, here are some things to consider before you and your partner walk into a therapist’s office:

1) Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleep has a big impact on our perception of problems and on our mood. If you are suffering from chronic lack of sleep, work to improve that as soon as possible.

2) Have you had a physical recently?

Just like sleep, an underlying medical condition could greatly impact your mood and problem-solving skills. Make sure both you and your partner have recently had blood work done. If anxiety and/or depression are present, this will most certainly affect your relationships. ADHD is another condition that influences our ability to communicate effectively and typical ADHD behaviors are often misinterpreted by others. If any of these conditions are present, it may still be beneficial to attend couple’s counseling. A counselor can help you and your partner learn new skills to work-out your problems.

3) Reach-out to a friend you can be real with. 

Community is of upmost importance for our health and wellbeing. Sometimes we need a trusted friend to remind us that we’re not alone in our troubles. Even the best therapist can’t replace the comfort of a loving friend. A good therapist will always encourage you to seek outside support. If you do have such a friend in your life, remind them that you just need a listening ear, not advice. Also, a true friend will be honest with you about how you may be contributing to the relationship problems, which leads me to…

4) Have you considered how you are contributing to the problems in the relationship?

It’s so easy to see how our partner can do better, but have you considered your part? In my article, How Couple’s Counseling Works, I describe a relationship gone wrong. You’ve heard the term, “It takes two to Tango?” Well, it’s true. No one can make you behave a certain way. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice but that’s just not true. We always have a choice to respond in way that reflects who we want to be. Consider journaling daily about your relationship. Note how you are contributing to the problems. 

5) Are you being the partner you want to be? 

Make a list describing the kind of partner YOU want to be. Now is the time to reflect on who you want to be as a partner, regardless of who you are with. Often, we become resentful, frustrated, critical, or hopeless when we aren’t taking care of ourselves by setting good boundaries. If you find yourself being critical when you’d like to be more patient, ask yourself why that is. Patience isn’t required in easy situations. Patience is required when other’s fall short of our expectations. However, if you find that your patience is constantly wearing thin, maybe you haven’t been setting enough boundaries. It’s possible that you need to take some responsibilities off of your plate or lower your expectations of yourself. Here are some examples of boundaries:

  • If you need to go to bed before your partner, maybe you could agree that one of you will sleep in the guest room so that you can get a good night’s sleep and aren’t awakened when they come to bed.
  • Choosing to have PB&J two nights per week for dinner to lessen the pressure of meal planning and prep.
  • Gently telling your partner that you will not discuss an issue further if they continue to yell.
  • Telling your boss that you won’t continue to answer work emails on evenings and weekends. 
  • Hiring a babysitter one night per week to deal with the bedtime routine while you go to a local bookstore. 

When it’s time to see a therapist. 

Any or all of these suggestions may help to solve the problems or they may serve as a great start towards a better relationship. If it feels like you and your partner are stuck, reach-out. Changes are hard to make and you don’t need to go through this alone. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a third-party present who is trained in relationships. This person can help identify your unhealthy pattern and get you on the path to better communication, better self-care, and better problem-solving. Send me an email or search for a therapist near you on Psychology Today.

Thanks for reading!

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