It seems a lot of us were not around when they passed out the guide book for marriage and intimate relationships. And if we didn’t grow up in a home with healthy, loving parents, we are in double trouble. Add to that the fact that no one tells us that staying married can be hard work, and it’s amazing that even 50% of married couples stay together. So if you are feeling dissatisfied with your long-term relationship, you are clearly not alone.
The problems most commonly reported by couples include a lack of intimacy (both emotional and sexual/physical), difficulty with communication, wanting to feel happier, and worrying about the possibility of a divorce. It can be especially difficult if you or your partner are responding to these problems by drinking or using drugs, working too much, seeking affection outside the marriage, or becoming verbally or physically abusive during conflicts. Though most of the current research has focused on heterosexual, middle-class, European-American couples, there is evidence out there that couple’s therapy works pretty well. In fact, a meta-analytic study done by Shadish and Baldwin in 2002, suggests that couples who receive therapy may be as much as 84% better off than couples who do not. It doesn’t even seem to matter too much what specific type of therapy couples receive. As long as you find a therapist who has an actual theoretical orientation (such as family systems, cognitive behavioral, communications model, etc.), can help you identify the problem, and raise your awareness of the patterns in your relationship, therapy will probably help you.
So what are you waiting for? Half of all marriages are likely to end in a divorce yet only about one out of every three divorcing couples will try therapy. Since break ups and divorce are painful, especially if you have children, why not give therapy a shot? It may not work for every couple in every situation, but then again, it just might help to remind you why you fell in love in the first place and teach you the skills they talk about in that guide book we never got.