Many people do couples therapy, but most people don't know that couples therapy can help your kids. Parents who undergo couples counseling can have happier children and happier families. Let's look at how this works.
How Couples Counseling Impacts Your Kids
It Increases Relationship Satisfaction in New Parents
A recent article in Family Process showed that having a baby can have a negative impact on a couple's relationship. After the birth of a child, couples tend to argue more and use more negative communication and be less satisfied with their relationship.
Couples that were living together without being married even saw an increase in breakups after having a child. Likely due to the fact that it was easier for them to separate than the married couples.
According to this experienced couples counselor, it's obvious to see that parents who are arguing, negative and are unhappy with each other are going to have a harder time parenting. And if the parents are now living separately, it will be more of a struggle for both the entire family.
Couple therapy improves satisfaction with your relationship. It helps couples have better communication and more emotional intimacy. The best part is, that the less happy you are with your relationship at the beginning of therapy, the bigger impact the therapy has on your relationship. The most dissatisfied couples show the biggest gains in relationship satisfaction.
It Can Prepare You For To Start a Family
As mentioned above, even the happiest couples were less satisfied in their relationships after the birth of a child, but couples who were having problems before the baby were much less satisfied after and many separated or divorced.
If you haven't started your family yet, but know you want to have children, the time to start couples therapy is before you start a family. The happier you are in your relationship the better prepared you will be for the stress of having a new child. And the better prepared you are for a new child, the better your parenting will be.
You Can Learn To Co-Parent Better
Children do best in homes where family roles, rules and parenting are consistent. Often, people do not have any idea what type of parents their partners will be until the first child is born. This leads to a struggle in co-parenting the little ones.
When there are no discussions before having kids, things can get stressful once the first one arrives. Decision-making on lack of sleep and in a period of adjustment leads to fighting and disagreements over everything from parental roles, to how often relatives should visit to how to pick a babysitter.
New parents often do not know how to even start to solve these types of problems together. Doing couples counseling before having a child can help set you up for parenting success.
The counselor can help you walk through what type of parents you want to be and help you negotiate the rules of the road in advance. The counselor can also help you get the skills to solve these problems yourselves after you have kids.
It Can Help You Set Boundaries With Your Children
Boundaries are a hot topic these days. There are books and videos about them everywhere. Children who have good boundaries are easier to parent. In my experience, parents who set poor boundaries have children with more behavior problems.
Marriage counseling can help you learn to set boundaries. First with each other, and then with your children. Children often learn by imitation, and seeing their parents use good boundaries helps children to have good boundaries.
Good boundaries are protective of both children and adults. Not only will your child be able to take "no" for an answer, but they will also be able to say no when appropriate instead of giving in to peer pressure.
Good boundaries will also help them pick better mates as adults. Let's just say that narcissists don't like people with good boundaries. And people with good boundaries will not put up with abuse in a relationship.
It Helps You Show Your Children How To Have a Healthy Relationship
The best way to teach your child how to have a healthy relationship is to show them one. If you and your spouse have a healthy relationship your kids know what one looks like. They are going to be less likely to accept a toxic relationship or abuse from a partner. They will also be able to screen out people with unaddressed mental health problems. This will help them build a stronger family when they grow up. So in a nutshell, couples therapy can even help your future grandkids.
You Can Separate With Less Damage To Your Kids
It would be lax if the worst-case scenario wasn’t addressed here. It’s possible that almost anyone can fix a relationship or marriage with professional help, but some relationships just need to end. Maybe there is abuse or other toxicity happening or one partner doesn't want to make the needed changes to keep the relationship. At other times there are mental health issues that make relationships difficult.
When a relationship ends, it is difficult on the kids. That does not mean, however, you should stay together just because of the children. In the case that you can't stay together, a therapist can help the two of you separate with the least damage to each other and to the kids.
Face it, co-parenting is hard. Co-parenting when you're separating or divorced is even harder. Therapists can help you navigate co-parenting during separation and divorce. They can help you to make the separation easier on your kids. They can also provide the support you need during this process to emotionally heal.
And finally, couples therapy can help you not put the kids in the middle of you and your partner. Doing so is damaging to kids and working with a good therapist, this is an excellent place to start.
Once you find some therapists you’re are interested in, do your research. Look at their websites and see if they have any google reviews. Check for training and experience in working with the problems you are facing.
It's always good to ask to talk to the therapist before starting counseling. Most therapists are willing to have a short phone call with you so you can see if personalities are a fit. This is also a good time to ask about what type of couple therapy they use and what their training is.
Can't I Just Read A Book on Relationships?
Books on marriage a great to help you learn skills and to tune up your relationship. However, there are a few problems with just reading a relationship help book.
How do you know what you need to read about?
I think it's safe to say there are thousands of books on relationships and how to fix relationship problems. In marriage counseling, your counselor will do an assessment of your relationship to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Then they will focus only on the things that need improvement. There's no point in fixing what isn't broken.
If you do know your issues, how do you tell which order to work on them?
Couples counseling generally follows specific formats. This is because some problems are harder to fix than others and some skills need to be learned before others. Couples counseling will help you know what to work on and when is best to do so.
It's easier to see your partner's flaws than your own.
Would it surprise you to know that many couple therapy clients seek help after they've read several books on the topic and nothing has helped? Some couples end up in marriage counseling because they read a book on relationships. Each person reading it thought their partner had things that needed to change and that they weren't changing fast enough.
A good therapist can help you see and work on your own personal growth instead of focusing on your partner. The most successful couples are made up of two people who are working on themselves and some of the most unhappy have two people who are trying to change each other.
Some Relationship Books Are Just Awful
Many popular relationship books over the years are just full of bad advice. Some of them are useless, but others are harmful, teaching you to create a toxic environment for yourself and your partner.
A therapist often recommends books to clients. However, these books are vetted, and useful to what the client is dealing with in the moment. Not some pie-in-the-sky notion of a perfect relationship.
How do I Find A Couples Therapist I Can Trust?
The best place to start looking is word of mouth. If you have a trusted friend, doctor, or other professional that you work with, ask them who they would use.
But word of mouth is not enough. You should also do your homework. Take a look at their website and find out what their training is. Most practices will have a short call with you for free. This is an excellent time to ask them about their training and their experience with people who are facing the same things you are.
Feel free to read their blogs and reviews. This can give you insight into the thought process and how they work. Specific training working with couples and experience working with families like yours is vital.