Relationships can bring up all kinds of unexpected obstacles, and therapy can be helpful to navigate them. But what if there's no significant conflict at play? Well, you don't have to go to couples' therapy just because you're in an argument. You can go to couples' therapy to make your relationship with partner better – which is actually a pretty sufficient enough reason.
Regardless if you've been together for one week or five years, you learn new aspects of your partner's personality all the time. For instance, their aversion to the beach may not come up until you suggest you lounge on one during spring break. Or you may find out they have a mild allergy to coconuts after surprising them with some Girl Scouts Samoas as a nice little treat. It's not like you enter a relationship and have your partner fill out a personality questionnaire (or do you?) so you know as much as possible about them right off the bat. No, you figure it out along the way.
There are ways to understand your partner better that don't entail a personality quiz (although sitting down together to fill out your Myers Briggs types could be a fun date, but I'm a dork so what do I know?). Couples' therapy is one way to do that. "But Elana!" you protest. "We never fight. Why would we go to therapy together?" Ah, see, couples' therapy isn't just for couples who are on the brink of breaking up. It can actually be a beneficial tool to know your partner better in many aspects of your relationship. Couples' therapy can help you learn about those little quirks a little bit faster, and in a setting that allows you both the space to air your thoughts in a safe manner.
I spoke with psychotherapist and author Jeffrey B. Rubin Ph.D. on the benefits of attending couples' therapy without being in a big fight.
Rubin tells Elite Daily that couples' therapy can help "to improve the quality of the relationship – to deepen each person's empathy and understanding, and to communicate in a clearer and healthier way."
He further broke down how couples' therapy can help the pair.
"This entails heightened sensitivity to each person's feelings and needs, boundaries and vulnerabilities," he says. "Couples' therapy increases knowledge and understanding of oneself and one's partner, which helps both partners be kinder to themselves and each other. And that helps each person know and express their needs, communicate more skillfully, and be more attuned to the feelings and needs of their partner."
And all of these practices are useful for any couple at any stage in their relationship.
Rachel Simon, the movies editor at Bustle, sought couples' therapy with her boyfriend after dating for six months. The reason? She wants kids at some point in the future, and her partner, Kurt, does not. She wrote about her experience for Bustle, and posed many questions before attending a session.
"By going to couples counseling, would we be making a big deal out of nothing?" she asked in her article. "Were we still too young and too new to do something so 'intense?' Would therapists even take us seriously? What if it didn't work?"
In Simon's article, she noted the stigma of couples attending therapy together – and how it can often be associated with the end of a relationship, or one that's being held together by a thread. Similarly, her friends were concerned when she told them she and Kurt would be seeking couples' therapy. Simon and Kurt found a therapist that was a fit for them, and discussed their worry about their differing opinions on having a child.
"In our appointments, Kurt and I tell each other just how nervous, scared and frustrated we feel about our future, in a moderated space where we're encouraged to listen to each other without interrupting," Simon says. "We don't get to turn away, change the subject, look at our phones, or do any of the other avoidance techniques that seem so easy when talking about it alone. And with our therapist guiding our conversation and making sure we aren't refusing to let things go (me) or deflecting away from the issue (Kurt), we resolve problems more quickly and openly than we do when we're on our own."
You and your partner don't need to be at each other's throats to reap the benefits of couples' therapy. And in fact, getting comfortable with communicating honestly now might save you from an emergency session with a couples' therapist down the road.