Myth 1: The goal of couples therapy is to “fix” your partner.

Fact: Most couples come into therapy with the view that they are there because of some problem with their partner. By “fixing” their partner they imagine that all of their relationship problems will disappear. They are able to clearly see their partner’s contribution to their relationship problems, but remain unaware of their own. Their hope is that the couples therapist will focus on changing their partner, while they hold fast to not changing themselves. I approach couples therapy from an entirely different standpoint. The first step is to help each partner explore who they want to be and what they expect of themselves in their relationship, as opposed to focusing on how to get their partner to become the person they want them or need them to be. This means helping both partners develop the capacity to self-confront, self-validate, and self-soothe. By encouraging each partner to focus on the self they want to bring to their relationship, partners become more willing to face the challenges within their relationship constructively, as opposed to wasting their energy blaming the other person.

Myth 2: Couples therapy always aims to keep the couple together.

Fact: This may be surprising, but the ultimate goal of couples therapy is not always to ensure that two people stay together. Instead, the direction that couples therapy takes is guided by whether the couple has come into therapy with the intention of staying together or the intention of breaking up. This may not be clear when a couple first walks in the door, so the therapist’s initial focus is to explore why each partner believes they are in couples therapy and what they hope to get out of the process. While the ultimate goal of couples therapy is always to promote the interpersonal well-being and happiness of both partners, for one couple this may mean staying together and for another couple this may mean parting ways. No matter the outcome, couples therapy provides a safe and contained space for two people to confront the problems within their relationship head on instead of ignoring them and allowing the pain, hurt, or resentment to build up further.

Myth 3: Individual growth can only occur in individual therapy, not in couples therapy.

 Fact: When couples therapy is effective both partners will undergo immense individual growth and development. Intimate relationships bring meaning to our lives, but they are not easy. When we run into problems within our relationship, we are inclined to take the “less painful” route, which means trying to avoid those issues as long as possible. This stems from our awareness that by looking closely at our relationship we will end up having to look closely at ourselves. This can be a very scary thing to do. Yet, if we are willing to take that leap and confront the challenges within our relationship, we can grow as an individual while simultaneously strengthening our relationship with our partner.

By Kelly Mothner, Ph. D.  License # PSY 25739