What To Know Before You And Your Partner Go To Relationship Counseling

When people hear the words "relationship counseling," they sometimes jump to the conclusion that there's something wrong with the relationship. But the fact is that any relationship, even one that's seemingly perfect, can benefit from counseling. Having someone who's unbiased pointing out aspects of your relationship that maybe you and your partner can't see can only be a good thing (via YourTango).

But before you start any sort of counseling or therapy for your relationship, you have to decide why you're going. Are you hoping to resolve some issues that you can't get over together as a couple or are you being proactive in the hopes of preventing any issues in the future? "The best way to prepare for couples counseling is to have a relationship goal in mind," professor of counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio Chris Leeth, Ph.D., tells Insider. But, as Leeth also points out, make sure that the goal is realistic and understand that these things don't change overnight. Like the relationship itself, counseling takes patience, effort, and sometimes even finding yourself in uncomfortable situations as a mirror is put in front of your face. Here's what else to know before you and your partner go to relationship counseling.

Don't wait until it's too late

It's so easy to put things off, especially when we don't want to admit there's a problem. While, yes, some people choose to go to counseling as a preventative measure, for those who are considering going to work on an issue in the relationship, you just shouldn't wait. When it comes to working things out, time is always of the essence. 

"I wish more couples reached out for therapy before they had a catastrophic problem," family therapist Kiran Arora tells The Cut. "Couples counseling can be a great resource while you're going through a specific life event. But it can also just be about strengthening some piece of your relationship, or providing ongoing support as you move through life together." Waiting it out in the hopes of things repairing on their own is never a good idea, especially if the problem that keeps arising is part of a pattern (via Oprah Daily). Patterns, like habits, can be difficult to break, so getting into counseling as soon as you recognize something needs to be handled by a professional is the best thing you can do.

Prepare to be challenged

Even if you and your partner find a counselor that you're both comfortable with, that doesn't mean there won't be uncomfortable moments. You are, after all, talking about your relationship and what it might be lacking, and that can run the gamut.

But what's important to realize, no matter what topics come up, is that you're not there to change each other (via Choosing Therapy). You're there so both of you can take accountability for the issues that made you call the counselor in the first place. Counseling doesn't mean you failed at your relationship, but that it needs some tweaking. It also doesn't mean it's the end of the relationship or that you no longer love each other. If anything, it means you're truly invested in what you have together and this could be the beginning of a new chapter of mutual respect and understanding.

"Love is a feeling, but a healthy relationship is a skill set," marriage therapist Linda Carroll, LMFT, tells MindBodyGreen. "Most of us don't learn these skills growing up, so we just expect love to carry us through. But it isn't enough. That said, love combined with skills usually is enough." Learning that skill set, if you don't already have it in your arsenal, is the best thing you can do for your relationship in the present and your relationship in the future.