Ten Tips That Will Make or Break Couples Therapy

A before-you-throw-in-the-towel behavioral guide

By The Editors
April 19, 2016 9:00 am

Any living, breathing being who has had the stones to mutter “I love ya” can attest that relationships, well, they’re emotionally expensive.

So much so that every now and then you have to tap a third party for an assist. Yes — a couples therapist. Also expensive. Emotionally and otherwise.

If you’ve found yourself in such a situation, congratulations. At least you’re givin’ it the ‘ol college try. But it’s not easy.

So we tapped Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a Manhattan- and Telluride-based Family Therapist who contributes to the Dr. Oz Show and Fox News, for some tips on the strategies that will make or break a therapy session.

Behaviors that’ll break you…

Rigidness: The “my way or the highway” approach to relationships will result in you dying angry and alone. Relationships are about give-and-take. Be flexible.

Bullying: As in, “I don’t care how much money you make or how big you think your penis is.” Bullying your partner into submission only shows insecurity. It may work for awhile, but it will eventually blow up in your face.

Impatience: Relationship issues take time. This is especially true when they involve betrayals (like infidelity). Don’t expect to be forgiven and your transgressions forgotten overnight. If you truly want things to work out, you’ll have to keep the ship steady until the storm settles.

Eye rolling: Save the drama for acting class. You’re in therapy to listen and learn — not to judge or criticize. Yes, it’s hard to hear someone’s opinion that you may disagree with, but you’re not the boss here.

Rote apologies: Everyone knows you’re sorry for _______. But that doesn’t help anyone understand why you did it in the first place. Wrack your brain. Figure out the root cause of the problem or action. Your partner needs to understand your vulnerabilities and insecurities.

Behaviors that’ll make you…

Open-mindedness: Contrary to popular belief, no one is right 100% of the time. There’s always room to improve yourself and how you interact with your mate. Open yourself up to this potential.

Presence: Sure, you’d rather spend the money and time elsewhere, but you’re not elsewhere. You’re in the room with your partner and a high-priced shrink. Make the most of it. Be as fully present for the session as possible. There’s plenty of time to check on the Yankees game after your 50-minute hour is over.

Respect: Even though you might be angry, keep things above the belt. Therapy isn’t a space to punish your partner or demean them in front of an audience.

Stamina: Don’t forget that the hare beat the rabbit. Working out relationship issues can take a while. The crap you’re dealing with didn’t just pop up overnight; it won’t go away overnight either. Hang in there until the end.

Humor: Laughing about the ridiculousness of life and the incredible challenges of relationships is incredibly healing. Couples who laugh together experience much higher quality relationships than those who walk through life angry and bitter.

Image via Universal Pictures

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