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I really wish that couples’ therapy was an easy, painless process. Unfortunately, by the time most couples seek therapy, their relationship is in pretty bad shape. I worked with several couples that came and saw me only because I was cheaper than a divorce attorney. But that’s the extreme end.

You can seek therapy at any point in your relationship, even when things are going great. I like to think of it as getting an oil change. It’s critical to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles (or so). Sometimes your car requires more work, like a new transmission, so you get that fixed. Relationships work the same way. Sometimes things are great and then you’ll hit a bump in the road and — depending on the relationship history — either escape with minor damage or end up starting all over again with a new model.

Therapists help you repair that damage. They don’t repair it for you, though, just like a personal trainer won’t do those damn lunges for you. Couples therapy is about empowering the couple with knowledge and tools to make their relationship stronger so when more bumps come along the way, they are better prepared to handle them. How they do that will vary.

Therapists bring their own style, personality, and beliefs into their practice. This is why it’s so important to not give up on finding a therapist if you have a bad experience or two. Finding a therapist is a lot like dating — you have to find one that you mesh with, one with a therapy style you can buy into. When you’re trying to find a therapist as a couple, it can be even more complicated when you find one you love, and your partner hates. That’s when you get to practice the age-old art of compromise.

It’s important to remember that relationships take a LOT of work. Therapy is no different. I would always tell my couples, look, if you’re looking for an easy way out, go talk to a divorce attorney. I can help save your relationship, but it’s going to take a lot of work and if you’re not willing to do the work, then you’re wasting your time and money. So make sure that you and your partner are willing to put in the work because no amount of couples therapy will save your relationship if you’re not making an effort. As long as both partners are willing to try, there’s hope. There’s always hope.

*I have been asked if I personally offer therapy. I was previously licensed in Washington and have since moved twice (military spouse) so I no longer hold a license. However, I do work as a consultant and offer services very similar to counseling/therapy (you can’t legally call yourself a therapist or counselor unless you have a license to back that up). Feel free to contact me if you’d like more info.

Courtney Boyer is a sex educator and consultant in the Sandhills. Reach her at hello@itsthesway.com, or ask her an anonymous question here.

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