No matter the duration of time you’ve been with your spouse, couples therapy can be a proactive way to target aspects of your marriage that might benefit from some extra attention. But whether you’ve already reached the conclusion that this is the best next step for you and your relationship, or you’re unsure about whether it’s a an avenue that would be appropriate for you to explore, rest assured that you’re not the only person curious about what actually happens during these sessions. Like, once the time for the appointment rolls around, and you’re expected to ask questions in marriage counseling, what should you ask?
To clue you in about what typically happens in her sessions, below, Tammy Nelson, PhD, relationship and sex therapist and author of When You’re the One Who Cheats, shares some of the most common questions in marriage counseling she gets asked.
Check out the 6 most common questions in marriage counseling a relationship therapist gets asked.
1. Can we revive our marriage?
“When a couple asks about reviving the marriage, that’s usually code for ‘can we bring back the desire we felt for each other in the early stages of our relationship’ or ‘will we ever have good sex again,'” says Dr. Nelson. “The answers are yes, you can, and it depends. [The latter] depends on communication, honesty, and commitment.”
Considering the reality that you’re already in therapy together, there’s a good chance you’re willing to admit that something isn’t working. It stands to reason that just by asking these questions, you’re putting yourself in an open-minded position for change.
2. Will we ever feel desire again?
Sometimes you love your partner, but you no longer feel in love with them. This is a common facet of being in a long-term monogamous relationship—especially for partnered women, who are are twice as likely to lose interest in sex, according to one study that denotes factors such as “a breakdown in communication, and an absence of emotional closeness” as potential causes.
“Many times couples take each other for granted, get too busy with work or children, and start to feel as if their relationship is more like a friendship and sharing of chores or duties,” says marriage and family therapist Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT. “A lot of couples don’t put in the work to keep their relationship growing and moving or keep the intimacy deepening.” Luckily there are a lot of ways to create intimacy in a relationship.
3. Can we get over the affair that they had?
When it comes to why people usually cheat in the first place, Dr. Nelson says it’s important to remember that those who have affairs aren’t necessarily looking to be with someone else. They’re looking to be someone else. Thompson echoes this idea: “Usually when someone goes outside of the relationship and cheats, it is an indicator that they are looking for what may not be as present in the relationship with their partner,” she says. “For example, when someone cheats, it’s more about them looking to rediscover parts of themselves that light up when they are with the person they have cheated with.”
When one partner learns the other partner had an affair, they have what Dr. Nelson calls a wake-up-or-break-up moment. That means they either instantly initiate a breakup or choose to cope with the infidelity together. If you’re on Team Wake Up, she recommends that you talk out the details of the affair as much as possible.
4. How do we open our marriage?
Let’s say youu love your spouse, like, a lot, and you’ve both become curious about swinging. Swinging, or any other kind of setup that updates your monogamy contract to add in new partners, that is. “In working with a lot of couples, some of which have decided on an open marriage, the biggest pitfall I’ve seen is when one person is not really onboard with the idea but goes for it anyway,” says Thompson. “That usually leads to resentment, insecurity, and the destroying of their relationship. Another pitfall is not being fully transparent and clear about what your boundaries and needs are within an open marriage. This leads to confusion, pain, and resentment.”
So how do you open your marriage in a healthy way? Dr. Nelson recommends you start slow, respect each other’s boundaries, and—most importantly—discuss everything. Opening a relationship is all about constant communication and making sure that it’s a dialogue, not a monologue.
5. Will an open relationship improve our marriage?
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with ethically opening the door to your marriage. In fact, successfully opening a relationship can help improve trust and jealousy issues as a whole, Dr. Nelson says. Once again, the keyword there is “successfully,” so make sure that you tread into these waters carefully, and communicate every step in the way.
6. Can we spice things up?
It’s easy for all the hot sex you had in the front end of your relationship to fizzle into sessions scheduled on your Google Cal. And hey, that’s also okay as long as all parties are satisfied. But if your sex life is suffering and you want to add new, exciting sex goals to your marriage? Go for it—simply having expressed the desire suggests there’s still plenty of hope. “All it takes is a lot of communication, curiosity and a willingness to connect,” Dr. Nelson says.
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