Couples come to therapy for a wide variety of reasons. Infidelity, trust, communication issues, loss of that “spark”, or even just the stressors and pressures of daily life can lead to strain within our relationships – and that’s only a few reasons! At Solid Foundations, we can attest to how wildly successful couple’s therapy can be, and we’ve even seen instances where individual attendance can impact both parties and improve full relationships!
The reason individual attendance to couple’s therapy can be so successful is because of the change and mindset that’s required of each individual in the relationship. One party in the relationship coming to therapy and working to make changes in their own behavior, feelings, or attitude in general is also going to directly impact their partner – and oftentimes will influence their partner’s own behavior, feelings, or attitude as well!
This individual mindset is often lost in couples sessions. Consider this example: If you were to call a therapist’s office looking to schedule an individual session for yourself, you would likely go into that session with the mindset or expectation that you are there to work on yourself. Yet far too often that self-improvement mindset mistakenly goes out the window when couples attend together! But going into therapy focused on “fixing” your spouse rather than working on your own improvement can set you up for failure or disappointment in session. In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 reasons why you should lose the “fix your spouse” mentality before coming to therapy.
Are you coming to therapy to “fix” your spouse?
If so, or if you are contemplating it – we want to gently warn you against this mentality! You might have the best of intentions, but the “fix your spouse” approach simply does not work in good therapy. Here’s why: As therapists, we know we can only truly help you to know and adjust yourself and the ways YOU interact with your spouse.
In an ideal world, both partners embrace this mentality, take personal responsibility, and this, in turn, leads to a more fulfilling relationship. But the reality is that couples sometimes have a tendency to present to therapy in a place of blame, attack, or emotional distance, all while thinking that they themselves have not contributed to this culture.
Think about some of your reasons for wanting to attend couple’s therapy with your partner. For example, maybe you’re lacking a little spice in the bedroom. Who’s fault is that? If you haven’t had the desire, explore why. Is it because you’re no longer attracted to your partner? Is it because your partner has been distant? Explore those reasons to determine what – or who – you think is causing those problems. Are you noticing a pattern of blame or forming a list of things you think your therapist can help you change within your partner?
If this is you, we encourage you to honestly gauge whether you can see yourself taking this personal responsibility. And if not, that’s okay! It’s also our job to help you get there! In the meantime, let’s look at a few reasons why the “fix your spouse” mentality does not work:
1) You give up all your power!
Yes, you actually lose power by becoming obsessed with what your spouse needs to do differently! If your mindset is constantly about them, while also assuming you have nothing to do with the overall picture, then you are solely relying on them to change the entire relationship. This means you have no power. The feeling of powerlessness is an emotion often brought about by a mindset that you are not part of the problem. This can also lead to feelings of resentment from your partner, or reflect in their self-esteem if they feel they’re not good enough for you anymore.
2) Change becomes an endless, wild goose chase!
And not only that, it will become completely intangible as well. When you put all your focus on your partner, you make change way less achievable. There’s just too much gray area! You may find yourself telling them what to do differently; waiting, but not seeing anything happen, and then chasing them again and again which is ultimately a futile effort. All you’re really doing is waiting while hoping they do what you say. Real change does not happen this way, and you’ll end up disappointing yourself and frustrating your partner in the process.
3)You have ZERO control over what your spouse chooses to say or do in any given situation.
This one is a real doozy for some folks! But to them we say – hate to break it to you but typically it’s the truth. Yes, you may be able to make requests they honor; and yes, in a strong relationship you absolutely have an influence on your spouse’s decisions and sometimes even their actions. But even if that’s the case, you shouldn’t assume so all the time. Doing so means you will fall victim to the “fix your spouse” trap. Why waste the time and energy being overtaken by a mindset in which you cannot and will not ever have control over the outcomes?
4) It is problem-focused and is not solution-oriented.
Waiting for your spouse to change means you’re stuck on what the problem is, wasting months on end with little focus on how to fix it – and ultimately not making any therapeutic progress! If you think you’re partner is the one with the issues, and they aren’t changing – or vice versa – then there is literally no movement happening. In many of these instances, it’s more effective to move towards separation or divorce rather than to stay in a totally problem-focused standstill. Not only are you not making any progress as a couple, but you’re not making any progress for yourself either!
5) It drives your spouse away and can cause feelings of anger or isolation.
A spouse who feels like they are being portrayed as the only “offender” is a spouse who will eventually end up feeling alone and unloved. If this becomes the norm, it won’t be long before you get the opposite of what you’ve been looking for – an angry, isolated, hopeless partner who feels like they will never meet your expectations and decides it’s easier, or makes more sense, to just give up. You chose your partner for a reason. Don’t help them to forget how much they mean to you.
Couple’s therapy ultimately serves to repair and strengthen relationships, but it’s important to remember that a relationship is a combined effort, and making changes will require a combined effort as well. Taking personal responsibility and adopting a mindset of self-improvement and growth for your relationship instead of relying on your partner to do it for you will help you be more successful in therapy and set the foundation for a true partnership within your relationship!
The dedicated experts at Solid Foundations have helped many couples repair, reclaim, and reignite the romance in their relationships! Learn more at solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!