This is a really great question to ask before jumping into counseling. In many ways it makes sense to get counseling sooner rather than later. When people wait too long they get entrenched in hurtful patterns and build up resentments and beliefs about themselves and the other person. On the other hand, successful couples work depends on both people being at least somewhat open and motivated.
Some things to think about are:
- Are both of us ready to work on changing OUR PART in the relationship to make it better for both of us?
- Can each of us see the value in “hanging in there” during what may be challenging times?
- Do we have time in our individual lives to devote to two hours per week of counseling plus a half and hour a day of homework?
- Are either or both of us looking for confirmation that this relationship is NOT going to work and want an excuse to end it?
If both partners are not open to consider that their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors keep unhealthy, unhappy patterns of interacting in place, then it may not be a good time to pursue couple’s work. On the other hand if both partners ARE willing to consider their part then it is a great time to work together to make things better for both.
If both partners are not willing or able to face some challenge at this time, for any number of outside causes, including health, work stress, child-rearing responsibilities, then this may not be a good time to embark on couples work. In that case either or both partners may want to work individually to reduce their own stress and improve their individual life to make them ready to dive in a work as a couple.
We work with couples in a long-form sessions of two hours and suggest meeting at least once a week in order to get momentum for change happening. In addition couples need to be open to spending at least a half an hour a day working either on their own or together on homework to become aware and gain insight into patterns of relating that are causing pain in the relationship and to finding new patterns that support more connection and ease.
Finally, if either or both partners, if honest, feels there is no hope for the relationship then it is best to be clear about that from the outset. Sometimes those feelings can change in the course of counseling but it is important to be honest with oneself and the other if that is the case so that initial work can be focused on ascertaining if there is willingness on both parts to do the sometimes very challenging work of changing long-standing patterns that have been hurtful and/or damaging to either or both partners.