Pots and pans flying across the room, screaming, doors being slammed and bags being packed in fits of anger. Is this the kind of behaviour that comes to mind when you think of couples who are in therapy?
A common misconception of couples therapy is that it is only for couples who are fast approaching breaking point, or who are going through enormously traumatic events that they are unable to manage themselves. “Couldn’t be me,” you think. “We aren’t that bad, we don’t need therapy.”
The truth is, couples therapy isn’t – and shouldn’t be – a last-ditch attempt at salvaging your relationship. We all know the old adage: prevention is better than cure. Instead of waiting it out and letting problems build up and fester, it’s always better to seek help sooner rather than later.
Most couples wait an average of six years after issues start surfacing in their relationship before seeking help. Six whole years is a long time for a whole lot of anger, resentment and frustration to accumulate and snowball, and can cause a lot of pain for yourself and the loved ones in your life.
But just when is the right time to seek help? According to Martin Williams, a qualified counsellor working in Singapore, “It is ‘time’ the moment you both feel something is not right and you can’t work out between you both what is going on and why something has become an issue. The earlier couples address this through therapy, the less chance resulting poor behaviours have to become embedded, and the easier they are to resolve.”
In fact, the majority of couples express that they wish they had been to therapy sooner than they had. Part of the reason why so many mull over the decision to go to therapy for so long is that they believe that their issues aren’t big enough to warrant going for therapy. “Every couple has their issues,” they reason.
Yes, every couple has their own unique set of issues, however big or small.
However, remember this: there is no qualification criteria for therapy. Even if you feel you don’t necessarily need counselling as a couple, there are still many benefits to reap from seeking the advice of a certified therapist.
“There are always things in any relationship that can be improved upon,” shares Martin. “Many happy relationships will have aspects of that relationship with which they are not entirely happy, like communication, intimacy, and shared values. These can all be tackled through private counselling to make the relationship even more rewarding, and avoid the development of negative aspects which can spiral surprisingly quickly at times, if not addressed early.”
Therapy can help deepen your understanding of your partner and your relationship dynamics, identify more effective ways of communication and problem-solving, and even bring a new level of intimacy to the bedroom! Instead of viewing couples therapy as a medication to treat an illness, see it as something like a supplement – a regular addition to your relationship to enhance a healthy lifestyle.
More people go to counselling than you think. According to a study done by MidAmerica Nazarene University, nearly 50 percent of respondents stated that they had attended some form of counselling with their spouse, while a whopping 69 percent had friends who have participated in marriage counselling.
And with only 8 percent indicating that their unwillingness to attend couples therapy was due to the stigma around counselling and therapy, it is becoming clear that this very stigma is slowly falling away in a time where people are encouraged, more than ever, to be open and honest about their feelings, and where awareness about mental health and wellness is at an all-time high.
“But what if we are past the point of prevention and are now seeking a cure? Is it too late to go for couples therapy?” you may wonder.
“I don’t believe it is ever too late to attend couples therapy. If the relationship is worth saving, then there is always a chance it can be salvaged. Sometimes, however, there are good reasons why a couple should separate, but it is far better to do this after counselling has brought to awareness the issues that both partners were facing before the split, so that the final separation can be far more amicable. This is especially useful in the case of divorce and can lead to reduced negative impact on any offspring, as well as drastic reduction of legal costs – not to mention physical, emotional and other financial wear and tear,” advises Martin.
Getting advice from a counsellor, even when ending a relationship, can help you and your loved ones navigate the arduous and tricky path of separation, avoiding any messy and emotional fallout, especially in cases where children are involved. Human emotions and relationships are unpredictable and intense at times, making us blind to the effects it can have on the innocent people around us. A therapist can help make you aware of how your actions and words are affecting those you least want to affect and lay out steps you can both take to lessen the impact.
Remember, therapy isn’t a miracle cure-all medication, but instead a supplement – regular doses over an extended period of time can help you feel at your best, can prevent any future ailments, and also aid the recovery process from long and painful battles.
Ultimately, no matter where you’re at in your relationship, couples therapy can help facilitate happy and healthy relationships, identify and create solutions for couples facing issues in their relationships, as well as untangle any complexities that come with separation. Sometimes, all it takes is an outside perspective and an objective listening ear to help you figure out the path you’re both on and where you’re headed. And with 80 percent of therapists in private practice offering couples therapy, help isn’t too far away.
Martin Williams is a qualified counsellor with over 4 years of experience. His areas of specialty, among many others, include marriage and partnerships, parenting, general relationship challenges and life transitions. Martin has a graduate diploma in Counselling Psychology, and is also a volunteer with the Trauma Network for Children (a collaboration between KK Hospital and Temasek Foundation).
An avid reader ever since I was little, I have long been intrigued and fascinated by the intricacies and beauty of language. As a young child, I started writing short stories and poetry scribbled in pencil, and have since continued to write in all shapes and forms – fiction, essays, think pieces and articles. I attained a diploma in Mass Communication from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, then went on to Durham University in the UK where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. In the real world, this has translated to being excessively good at overanalysis of absolutely everything, especially over a glass of wine.
I enjoy spending my free time at home with my two fur children, a dog named Nugget and a cat named Kumo, studying Japanese, reading, gaming, listening to music, watching anime, and attempting to start artistic new hobbies that I am always quick to abandon, like crocheting, nail art and drawing. I am also very passionate about cheese.