The holiday season isn’t an easy time for anyone. There’s gift buying, meal planning and the wicked wintry weather wreaking havoc on the streets.
But it can be an especially challenging time for those with a significant other.
According to a survey from TODAY.com, the most stressful thing for couples this holiday season (besides having kids) is “not having enough time for anything,” which may prevent couples from taking the time needed to communicate with eachother to keep their relationship going strong.
“The time and energy it takes to care for little people often results in adult relationships taking a back seat.” TODAY.com wrote. “It takes a lot of effort to keep the flame of romance alive when you’re in the midst of night-time feedings, potty training, carpool schedules and homework struggles.”
But letting the flame of romance die can have widespread effects.
According to a study cited by Fox News, 72 percent of couples attend therapy because they’ve lost the spark from not talking often enough with their partner.
There may be a certain stigma associated with therapy, however -- that there’s a problem in the relationship or that your relationship needs more work -- but that isn’t always the case. There are many benefits to therapy that go unnoticed.
Here are seven things you should understand about marriage therapy before ruling it out altogether.
There’s a stigma out there you’ll have to face
According to a PsychCentral article written by Harriet Pappenheim, a licensed social worker and therapist, marriage therapy has a stigma of being negative and a sign of a marriage’s end times, which makes it something couples have to conquer if they want therapy to be productive.
Seeking out therapy shows you’re willing to try to fix your marriage, Pappenheim wrote.
“Our society places a premium value on independence, and as such, asking for help often is mistaken for a sign of weakness,” she wrote. “In fact, the opposite is true: asking for help is a sign of strength.”
So how do you overcome the stigma? Pappenheim wrote couples should ignore the judgments of others, which are mostly caused by personal insecurities, and look at their own relationship objectively.
Your therapist already knows you
Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist and author, recently wrote for The Huffington Post that therapists are very well aware of the concerns that married couples have, and that couples shouldn’t try to hide their questions or conflicts during sessions.
Married couples also often talk about similar things, according to Rodman, which allows the therapists to be wiser about the situations new couples in therapy face.
“Just like your plumber has seen the likes of your leaky faucet many times over, so it goes for the couples therapist,” Rodman wrote. “And, like your plumber, we’re pretty sure we know where the leaks are coming from.”
Some spouses go it alone for therapy
According to The Wall Street Journal, some spouses will sometimes go it alone for marriage therapy. Married partners who spend so much time arguing or disagreeing with each other will find a solitary therapy session soothing, and use it as a time to make themselves happy, which will, in turn, help the marriage overall.
Experts told the Journal that one spouse attending therapy can help the marriage stay afloat because it helps the person identify any individual childhood or personality issues that could damage the relationship, and then work at fixing them.
“I have never seen a relationship where all of the problems are the fault of one person,” said Eli Karam, assistant professor at the University of Louisville, to the Journal.
No matter how distressed, it’ll help your marriage
According to a study from the University of California Los Angeles, therapy can help your marriage even if it’s on the brink of falling apart altogether. The study found partners who were in the most distressed marriages can still find ways to fix their relationship as long as they hold interest in solving the problems.
“It takes only one person to end a marriage but two people to make it work,” said Andrew Christensen, a UCLA professor of psychology who authored the study.
The study specifically looked at married couples, some with kids and some without, who argued frequently. Two-thirds of the married couples, no matter how distressed their marriage was, showed improvement after 26 sessions of therapy.
Marriage counseling is more common than you think
You’re not the only couple going to marriage counseling.
In fact, according to U.S. News and World Report, marriage counseling is on the rise in the United States. University of Minnesota professor William Doherty said men and women both are “picking up the phone and dialing a therapist these days.” This is a change from the past when mostly women attended therapy, Doherty said.
Couples who are ashamed of going to counseling end up waiting too long, which dooms their marriage, Doherty said.
“Many people wait until it’s too late,” said Doherty, who is also a marriage counselor. “Go to marriage counseling when you still don’t want the divorce. Go while there’s still glue there.”
There are different kinds of marital therapists
You have a say, too, in choosing your marital therapist. According to a Psychology Today article written by Michele Weiner-Davis, a marital therapist, married couples should seek a therapist who does more than just talk and listen to clients, but also shows how your emotions affect your marriage.
Weiner-Davis wrote that marital therapists should be problem solvers rather than just people to talk to.
“Know that most marital problems are solvable,” Weiner-Davis wrote. “Don’t let your therapist tell you that change is impossible. Human beings are amazing, and they are capable of doing great things -- especially for people they love.”
Therapists have a story, too
Weiner-Davis said therapists should have their own unique set of values on relationships so that they can help couples find solutions for the future. No one therapist is the same as another, and those differences could help couples. One therapist’s experiences in love and relationships could affect the way they work at helping your relationship.
Take Douglas Pearce, an Afghanistan war veteran who, upon returning home and being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, became a family therapist to help married couples, as well as veterans, solve their issues, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I saw people who were in the same dark place I was,” he said to the Los Angeles Times. “I was able to enter that darkness with them and help, because I was in that place for so long.”
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