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5 Relationship Revelations from a Couples Therapist

As a marriage and couples counselor, I’m often asked for the magic cure or secret remedy that makes relationships last. And even though I can’t give just one specific solution to ensure relationship harmony, I do know a thing or two about what works for the happiest and most successful couples.

Here are the 5 most influential insights I’ve learned from over 10 years as a Marriage and Family therapist.

  • Couples Who Wait Too Long to Seek Help Tend to Fare the Worst. Research has identified that on average, couples wait 7 years after problems arise before getting help. From my experience as a relationship counselor, those who use counseling as a “last ditch effort” tend to have already checked out of the relationship. They’ve got their exit strategy in place and feel lighter already at the prospect of getting out. Relationship therapy has the most significant and positive results when couples reach out as soon as they sense trouble brewing. Unlike those individuals who already have one foot out the door, these partners are invested and motivated to work through difficult circumstances for lasting change.
  • All Relationships Go Through Seasons of Change. As seasons change and are often unpredictable, so are relationships . Even for those who have found their “soul mate,” when you have two people living together trying to manage all the quirks, past scars, differences of opinion and ingrained beliefs, it’s inevitable that conflict will arise. Some moments of difficulty are short and manageable, others are long and arduous. Hope and patience are the distinguishing factors here, and with these in place, you can look forward to a better season ahead.
  • Most Arguments Are Not Solvable, But Can Become Manageable. The issues that create ongoing, repetitive and unresolved disagreements are those that deal with something much deeper than the situation at hand. Most fights aren’t over who’s messier, always late or who’s better at saving money. They’re centered around personality clashes, temperament characteristics and differences of ingrained values and beliefs. These perpetual problems get you nowhere, as 69% of relationship problems are not solvable. What couples counseling provides is an opportunity to find value in the differences, appreciate one another’s point of view and look for some common ground.
  • The “Grass is Greener” Fallacy is Detrimental to a Couple’s Relationship. When things are unpleasant, we tend to dream of a better alternative. The idea of a new relationship that doesn’t involve criticism, constant badgering or lack of intimacy sounds great in theory, but remember #3 above? If you leave your partner in hopes of finding someone better, your next relationship will encompass a NEW set of 69% of unsolvable problems. That means that you’ll be having the same set of perpetual fights with someone else. Instead of thinking the grass is greener on the other side, try to work through the current struggles that are plaguing you and your significant other now.
  • There is no Such Thing as the Happily-Ever-After Disney Fairytale, But There Could Be Something So Much Better. There is no perfect couple or relationship. Our family upbringing, past hurts and old wounds give us flaws that make us imperfect. Instead of thriving for a relationship that’s unrealistic, work on being an imperfectly perfect couple together. Don’t compare your relationship to others, don’t have unmanageable expectations and don’t think that it’s over because you’ve hit a few bumps in the road. Even the most successful relationships are hard work. Build on a relationship that’s real, honest and authentic. There’s magic in accepting your blemishes and still being able to thrive.

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