“When we become a couple, we are not just bringing ourselves into the relationship – we all have plenty of baggage”
According to Dr. John Gottman, couples wait out about six years in an unhappy marriage before coming into couple’s therapy. Sounds like a long time doesn’t it? I believe that individuals need to come into therapy even before they become a couple! When we become a couple, we are not just bringing ourselves into the relationship, we’re also bringing our baggage. Some of that baggage is manageable, while other pieces of it go well past the weight limits of what a healthy relationship can endure. We bring with us our family of origin issues, past relationships, physical, or sexual trauma, just to mention a few.
Imagine all of this being present and we haven’t even gotten to the bread and butter of relationship problems, communication. When I treat couples where one or both are bringing in these heavy loads, I imagine the therapy room being filled to the brim with the ghosts of all these problems. It’s a lot to navigate for us all.
“…you are the one who gets to decide what bags you want to take with you on your relationship journey”
When we get ready for a first date, we do a lot to prepare for it. We get dressed up, look up a romantic spot to meet, and maybe let a friend know where we are just in case. But perhaps we haven’t really prepared emotionally. Coming in for relationship therapy before having a partner might seem ridiculous, but imagine for a moment that you are always in a relationship with yourself. In therapy, we work to develop stronger boundaries with some of these issues and banish others altogether.
Ultimately, you decide what bags to pack on your relationship journey. When there is an opportunity to be with someone, you’ll be aware of what you are carrying with you. What needs to be worked on will be clear, and you’ll understand when to ask a therapist for help.
“While it is a great resource to start therapy when there is a difficult patch in your life, it can also be super stressful to find a therapist at that point”
Now that you know why individual therapy is important, let’s talk about how to go about it! I understand how confusing and overwhelming this process is, so let’s break it down. While starting therapy when there is a difficult patch in your life is a great idea, it can also be super stressful to find a therapist at that point. I recommend starting your search for a therapist as soon as you start considering therapy.
At The Relationship Place, we have a group of therapists all with different personalities and styles. Our office is particularly talented at matching you with what will be the perfect fit. We understand how important it is to feel at ease with your therapist and go out of our way to do an intake that assesses your needs and personality in order to make that happen.
The Perfect Fit – Finding the “Right” Therapy Proffesional
“…come to therapy with a clean slate regarding expectations and what you may assume this fit means for you!”
What does it mean to have a perfect fit with a therapist? Having a therapist that you feel comfortable with can make this journey much more pleasant, and it is evidence-based that a successful outcome in therapy is strongly correlated with having a good fit with your therapist. However, I recommend that you come to therapy with a clean slate regarding expectations! The first therapy appointment can be much like a first date. Of course, you want to have standards such as good quality care and an educated professional, which is fine. Looks, age, and gender may trip you up, but these factors don’t affect the quality of your therapy.
A lot of us have the vision of a Freud-like therapist, or perhaps an image of a previous therapist if you have had one before. I urge you to try to keep an open mind – you may be surprised by the therapist that you click with!
“Therapists have the unique position to care about you and your issues…”
Once that is sorted and you settle in with your therapist, there can still be some nerves. “Will this person judge me? Do they think that I am a failure or weird? I bet they are perfect, and they have no issues. How can they understand someone like me?” Remember that therapists are people too – we are not perfect! The great news is that we are educated and ethically bound to practice nonjudgement.
We would not last long in our profession if we went around judging people all day. Therapists uniquely care about you and your issues, but to also have no stake in the outcome of your decisions. We help you navigate through your issues without personally attaching ourselves to it, unlike your friends and family who are too close to you to do so. This means that you can tell us everything that may be keeping you from having the relationship of your dreams. Go ahead and let us know that you are still actively following your ex’s every move on Instagram, or having trouble with enjoying intimacy because of past trauma. We can handle it.
As I am currently writing this article, we are all figuring out life in quarantine. This is a great opportunity to tackle those individual issues so that we can get you on your way to healing and having a healthy and fulfilling relationship in the future.