• Fri, Jul 16 2010

How Early Is Too Early For Couples Counseling?

There’s a bit of a tendency – at least among the Gloss office – to think of couples counseling as something done as a last resort to save a marriage. It’s what you do after your husband sleeps with his secretary. Or your wife reveals that she just isn’t in love with her husband anymore.

“After all,” one of our co-workers remarks “if you’re having so many problems that you need couples therapy when you’re just dating, isn’t that a sign that the relationship isn’t meant to be?”

However, maybe sooner is better. In her article for Psychology Today, Sasha Rothchild (the author of “How to Get Divorced by 30“) claims that “letting a third person into my just-blooming relationship was the most romantic thing I ever did.” Their relationship struck a rocky patch when her boyfriend, Matt, felt uncomfortable with Sasha writing about her personal experiences. Sascha remarks:

I took this as the perfect time to challenge him with what I thought would be the final blow to our relationship (which was fine by me, since being in love is exhausting, distracting and perilous.) I said, “well maybe we should go to couples therapy.” The idea that Matt and I, who had only been dating three months would go to therapy was preposterous. But by mentioning it, I could be the good girl willing to try anything. He would be the bad guy. But then something unexpected happened. He called my bluff and said “OK, let’s go. Why not?”

And it worked. Being in counseling allowed Sascha to see the extent to which she avoided being vulnerable, and it made their relationship very strong. The only downside seems to be that Sascha started to feel that they were in a couple of three. Sascha notes,

Matt and I moved in together. I often wished Harold [our therapist] could live with us, too. I wanted him to vacation with us, follow us around, and translate our every yawn… Matt and I were on very solid ground able to use the tools we had learned to navigate through the murky waters of love – but I was still scared that if we left Harold then all my newfound emotional openness would leave, too.

It didn’t though. Sascha and Matt were eventually able to stop going to therapy – and are now getting married. Which probably wouldn’t have happened if she’d been as averse to concept of couples counselling as we tend to be. Is it something you’d consider while you were dating? Or do you believe that it’s still something that should be reserved for people in a more seriously committed relationship?

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  • Amy

    As with many aspects of relationships, what’s good for one couple may be disastrous for another. If you’re wanting to have counseling two weeks into a relationship because “he squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube!” perhaps it’s a sign that things aren’t going well. But what if you’re two weeks into a relationship and suddenly one person comes out as transgender to the other? What if two weeks in, one person confesses to having been sexually abused as a child or young adult? I’m always a fan of open and honest communication, and these kinds of situations are often made a bit easier to digest by having a third neutral party there. Also, in my limited experience with counseling–and it may depend on the therapist–counselors are generally pretty honest with you: if they don’t think you need counseling, they’ll say so. I say as long as you’re not spending yourself into the poor house with doctor’s bills, and the therapy is helping you or your partner or the both of you work through issues, maybe it’s NEVER too soon.

  • annonymous

    I’m at an impasse right now and am looking for some advice from someone who doesn’t know either my boyfriend or myself.
    We’re coming up on our first year anniversary in a couple months (not married, just dating) and for the last few months I have been finding nude pictures of other women on the computer, and I did go behind his back and look through his phone to find conversations with some of these girls in his email and such that were inappropriate. I know that I shouldn’t have gone through his personal things, but I was worried that he was cheating on me. Now all of this is with people online that he’ll probably never meet in person, but it hurts me that he feels he has to do this. I’ve been thinking about asking him to go to counseling with me, but I want to know if this could potentially help or if it will do no good at all. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.