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The Daily Dish The Real Housewives of Orange County

Why You Should Go to Couples Counseling *Before* There's a Problem in Your Relationship

Vicki Gunvalson and Steve Lodge are off to pre-marital counseling, but it's not what you think...

By Jen Glantz

Even if you have 99 problems and your relationship isn’t one, it doesn’t mean that turning to couples therapy is a bad idea, especially if you want to keep your relationship flowing down a healthy and happy path. The idea of sitting in front of a stranger, no matter how professional they are or how many psychology degrees they have hanging on their wall, can be a scary thing to commit to doing, especially when you're unsure what you’ll even talk about with them and your partner.

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On Monday's episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson convinced her boyfriend, Steve Lodge, to go to counseling, even though the couple is not having any issues.

Turns out, she's not alone — and this approach makes sense for many couples. Here are four reasons you should consider seeing a therapist together even if there’s nothing inherently wrong with your relationship.


1. To improve or maintain good communication:


Right now, you and your partner might be great at talking through pop-up problems together, but what happens when things get more complicated in your relationship?

Dr. Dori Gatter, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, noted that we all communicate differently, and when we get into a relationship we have this unconscious belief that our partner should communicate like us  — and if they don't, then we get upset.

“This causes countless arguments and can lead to deeper hurts and resentments,” said Dr. Gatter. “We tend to communicate our feelings and needs through complaining, which immediately puts our partner on the defensive and we are off to a fight. Counseling can help you understand your own communication and love language as well as your partner's so that you can accept the differences and not interpret their actions or inactions as a sign of trouble.”


2. To rediscover your spark:


If you’re feeling like your relationship, while good and easy, is getting boring, perhaps counseling can help things feel fresh and new again. (Note: Steve and Vicki are defintely not having this problem.)

Michael J. Salas, a sex and relationship therapist, said it doesn't take long for a relationship to lose its elements of mystery and intrigue.

“People get busy in their day-to-day lives, and unfortunately they start to live on assumptions to save time,” Salas explained. “Couples therapy can help people break down assumptions and learn more about their partner's underlying stories. This often rekindles a sense of that intrigue, which can also rekindle that spark.”


3. To shift your expectations and roles:


Figuring out how to grow and change with your partner can be tough, and it gets even tougher when things like kids, moves, or big moments come into play. 

Dr. Gatter said that oftentimes we get into relationships with our conscious and unconscious beliefs about what role we should play in the relationship as well as our expectations of ourselves and our partner. 

“We usually don't talk about these conscious or unconscious beliefs before committing, and then when your partner isn't fulfilling the role you expected, you might feel hurt, angry, [or] frustrated,” Dr. Gatter sais. “We all have these expectations based on how we were raised and what we were taught. We need to go to counseling to negotiate these roles and figure out our needs and how to work as a team.”


4. To work on past wounds:


A lot of what can shake up our relationship is when our own personal baggage comes into play.

Dr. Gatter said we bring our past experiences, good and bad, into the relationship and project them onto our partner.

“When an old wound gets triggered, we then believe that our partner is wounding us which is not true,” Dr. Gatter explained. “The truth is that they are touching or triggering the old wound that is already there. This is a good thing as the old wound needs to come out to be healed. If a couple knows how to do this, it can be a bonding experience. If a couple does not know this, it can break the relationship.”

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