Note: This blog originally published in July 2011.
Why isn’t everyone in therapy? It’s a question I ask with tongue in cheek; I happen to love therapy and my therapist, and I’m in for regular tune-ups on a monthly basis. But I’m also serious. Every relationship has issues, and with over half of marriages ending in divorce, it seems we’re not all that great at working through our problems on our own.
The good news is, therapy has never been easier: specialties abound, referrals are easy to come by, and it’s really quite affordable (most health plans will cover at least a moderate number of sessions).
Yet many of us avoid seeking help, fearing that it’s an admission of ‘big’ problems (“we’re not in that much trouble”) or a signal to friends and family that we’re incapable of sorting out our own lives. And for many women, just admitting to ourselves that our marriage/long-term relationship needs professional help opens the door to the scary idea that all is not bliss—and if all is not bliss, what does that mean?
The truth is, if all is not bliss, then it isn’t, no matter how tenaciously you ignore it. Better to find out if bliss is still possible. As for whether or not your problems are ‘big’ enough for therapy—who better to ask than a therapist?
Delving beneath the surface
As someone who has spent considerable time in therapy, couples and solo both, I can speak to its considerable value. It may not solve all your problems, but it will provide worlds of insight. Keep in mind that couples therapy isn’t about who’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’—it’s about the interplay between two individuals. It’s also about what each person brings to the relationship in terms of past history, family dynamics and expectations.
Sorting these things out can take time and patience. What you think is a money problem, for example, might be something else altogether—a lack of trust, perhaps, or a childhood of chronic financial insecurity. A skilled therapist can help you unravel the strands of fear, repression, and misunderstanding, and help you re-weave sturdier relational cloth.
Like any exploration, delving below the surface of your marriage/long-term relationship will turn up surprises, some good, others less so. Processing what you learn and then using that new information is the work of ‘working on’ your relationship. It’s my experience, and belief, that doing such work with honest intentions and the help of a compassionate and experienced therapist is a worthwhile experience—whatever the eventual outcome.