It’s High Time to Stop The Stigma Around Couples Therapy

“Why do you feel sad and depressed when there is so much around you to feel happiness? It’s all in your head and not a real thing. Going for therapy or not, just get your shit straight man and when it’s time, things will be alright.”

People battling with mental issues often hear such stereotypical statements from others in their surroundings. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, we are dealing with the stigma around mental illness and asking for professional help. Therapy in any form should be a normal part of life. Whether you are seeking help to address mental illness, depression or sort your overwhelming emotions and thoughts that are clogging your mind, you should start by recognizing that seeking help for mental health-related issues is similar to going to doctor for a physical ailment. This behavior should also be applied when the problem isn’t only a personal issue but one that includes your loved one too.

Yes, today we are talking about couples therapy which is a useful tool to open up and discuss issues that may be bubbling up between the partners and scarring their relationship. Unfortunately, the term “therapy” carries negative connotations in our society and couples therapy provokes its own specific brand of stigma.

Some couples keep their therapy private out of fear of being judged by others or seen as dysfunctional and some feel ashamed of themselves of having to seek professional help and a major proportion of the society still choose to not seek out help believing that therapy is unnecessary or there is nothing wrong with them. It is nearly impossible to receive any help when you are closed off to it as therapy or counseling gives the best results when one has an open mind, allows themselves to open up, accept their problems and let the course of healing unfold, and to do so, overcoming the stigma is essential.

All couples bicker now and then, from small problems such as chores, clashing job routines, etc to big problems such as trust, health or financial worries. Every relationship has its ups and downs as none of us is perfect. It’s all about compatibility, maintaining transparency, loyalty and being honest with each other, accepting each other’s flaws and work on them while maintaining the stability of the relationship. Easier said than done, it’s not a lie that while maintaining life-relationship balance, sometimes we just feel exhausted. That’s where the couple therapy comes to your rescue.

Image/Source: Google

In today’s success-oriented culture where our personal lives are exposed as much as our professional lives, relationships are no exception. The idea of being displayed in a ‘perfect and successful’ relationship that feels like an accomplishment of sorts very much persists in today’s goal-driven mindset even if that includes ignoring the growing issue with your loved one. That’s one of the reasons when there is trouble in paradise, we consider ourselves instantly as a failure. A recent study conducted by Protectivity asked couples around the UK about the biggest cause of problems within their relationships, as well as their views on couples therapy.

According to statistics, 42% of all marriages in the UK end in divorce with around half of these occurring in the first 10 years of marriage. But why do relationships break down? What are the most common causes of arguments within the relationship and why not enough of us are turning to couples therapy to solve them?

Below are the study results that revealed common causes of couples’ arguments, how many of them are willing to try couples therapy and the main reasons why some aren’t seeking any help at all.

Image: Study results showing the main causes of arguments

The study revealed the main cause of arguments within a relationship comes down to money, with 25% of men and 29% of women stating this as the biggest issue they face as a couple. From managing a joint account to saving for big life goals such as traveling around the world or a deposit for a house or buying a new car, money can be a huge cause of stress, both individually and when you’re in a relationship. However, money is just a polite way of saying, “We didn’t make any effort to agree on, or negotiate our goals, values, and expectations so we just fought about money instead which felt easier and less vulnerable”. It is actually a lack of alignment of values and expectations.

Followed by this, lack of communication comes as the second most common cause of arguments with 18% of those surveyed stating this is the top reason for fallouts in their relationship. When we broke down these results by gender, lack of communication is a bigger issue from a women’s point of view (23%). However, when it comes to men, lack of sex is the most selected reason as their common cause of arguments with 15% stating this as the number one problem that they have been facing with their partners. Other causes of arguments that were commonly stated within the survey are family, children, and lack of trust.

Image: Study results showing the percentage of people willing to at least try couples therapy

The main reason why people are unlikely to attend couples therapy is down to the cost (18%) and lack of time (11%). Breaking down these results geographically, we found out that a whopping half of Cardiff (49.02%) will not be open to seeking professional help if they had a serious problem in their relationship which is followed by Liverpool (39%), Newcastle (38%) and Edinburgh (37%) amongst the other UK cities who share a fairly similar idea of speaking with a therapist. Alternatively, people in Belfast (82%) are the most open to couples therapy and sharing their problems with a professional followed by Birmingham (73%) and Glasgow (71%).

In the modern era of social media where everyone wants to display their Insta-worthy lives, we’re constantly and unknowingly being pressured by #couplegoals, #relationshipgoals, and #mypartnerisbetterthanyours which seems to have a drastic impact on our personal relationships. According to the study, over 56% of people feel that social media has a negative impact on their relationship as they appear stronger and happier on their Instagram feed while struggling harder in real lives. There is absolutely no doubt that social media has added an additional stress in our lives. Failure in replicating the ‘standards’ of social media ideals stir-up dissatisfaction and create unrealistic expectations among the couples. Less obvious is the sheer amount of time that can be drained into social media; the same time that could have been invested in spending real quality time with your partners, counseling, and doing self-improvement activities, etc.

“We came in before there was a real problem.”

Image/Source: Google

These are the words you hear from a wise couple who doesn’t wait until a crisis hits. Before the problematic patterns of vicious repetitive arguments or the worst, silence may begin to entrench that eventually leads to the erosion of their relationship slowly and steadily over time, it’s better to take precautionary measures to avoid the worst outcomes. Couples therapy is not something that you do for a predetermined amount of time and has to accomplish all the goals before the clock runs out so it is important to avoid the temptation of putting a timeline to it. Couple counseling is a process of self-reflection, exploration of insights and implementing choices; it is not a quick “fix” to all the problems but a method that helps you get out of them over time which varies from individual to individual. Every problem is different and so is everyone’s life experience that also differentiates their counseling journeys. Spending a long time in therapy with more number of sessions does not imply that you are worth any less than others.

“I know if I walk away, he’ll get mad, but I did it because I don’t know what else to do. I couldn’t stop myself when I said those hurtful things, but it isn’t the first time.” “Maybe I’m the guilty and should be blamed for entire falling out.”

Did you notice the problem? The destructive pattern of not realizing who the real demon is to fight with, damaged trust and lack of communication. When conflicts start to grow and detachment begins, you turn yourself away emotionally and start imaging a fresh start instead of even attempting to fix what’s currently wrong. In fact, most of the time, people place the entire blame on themselves, or on their partners for that matter to avoid reflecting on “what went wrong” which is futile. This line of thinking is damaging when you are caught up in negativity and allowing blame to hold you back instead of moving forward. Couples therapy is very useful as it helps people developing coping skills and process emotions and feelings to reach a mutual decision.

The initial step of overcoming the stigma around therapy is to have an open mindset and to let go of others’ judgment, and be able to overcome the judgment of yourself. You need to realize that you are not alone. The majority of people feel deterrent to discuss their struggles and that’s why, you may not realize just how common and normal it is to seek some form of professional help, whether it is to work on an intimate relationship or process through some traumatic experience. When it comes to problems in a relationship, it can often be difficult to compromise and come to a solution, but couples therapy can be a great way to resolve issues and come up with next steps to build on trust, discuss common issue of arguments or ultimately, go your separate ways if this is for the best for both the parties.

Share your thoughts and experiences about couples therapy and stigma you might have encountered while discussing it, with us on Twitter.

Written by Khushboo Malhotra

Autodidactic Ambivert!
Music gives wings to my mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.
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Twitter: @KhushMalhotra
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