Help- I need somebody (to save my marriage)! Why is it so hard to ask for help?
Whether people are assembling furniture or stuck in a rut with their partner, asking for help can feel overwhelming- or even impossible. Asking for help is hard, even for small stuff. So, it can feel even harder when you are thinking of asking for help with something big, like your relationship. Below are five common barriers to seeking help, and a new way of thinking about that barrier (a reframe).
#1 It costs too much money
One of the most common reasons people do not go to couples therapy is the barrier of finances. Part of the reason for this is that insurance often does not cover couples therapy, even though research shows it can improve your relationship and even improve your individual mental health.
Reframe: It is an investment in my future and happiness
Researchers have found people are mentally and physically healthier when they are in happy relationships, so strengthening your relationship could also decrease your health spending in other areas.
Plus, companies often offer something called a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Savings Account (FSA). These funds can often be used to pay for couple therapy. Additionally, the Kansas City Relationship Institute (KCRI) practice offers a Relationship Investment Program. A couple enrolled in the KCRI three-month investment program would save $400 when being seen weekly over those three months, while a couple enrolled in our six-month program saves almost $900.
People often seek help when they are very unhappy in their relationships, with thoughts of divorce being the most common reason given for going to couples therapy. In that situation, couples therapy is also the cheaper option. A divorce typically costs $7,500, and the average divorce lawyer costs $270 an hour. Couples therapy is not only more affordable but seeking help early (before divorce is even on the table) could further reduce costs, as you would likely need fewer sessions.
#2 – Asking for help means something bad about me (or my relationship)
This is a common fear, what does it mean about me if my relationship is not going well? Is there something wrong with me? Is my relationship doomed? These thoughts can be overwhelming, and often there is a fear that saying them out loud will make them real. People often feel like it is safer to just pretend- I will just pretend everything is fine.
Reframe: We all need help sometimes
This is a tough one. To start, remember – you are not alone. No one is ever happy 100% of the time in their relationship. Happily ever after is a myth. All relationships need ongoing maintenance to be happy, for a time, and then more maintenance for more happiness. In fact, it is estimated that at any given time 20% of relationships are distressed/unhappy. While everyone feels unhappy at times, you don’t have to stay unhappy in your relationship.
The first step to addressing any issue in your relationship is talking with your partner. Check out the blog post “How to Talk to Your Partner about Going to Couples Therapy” for helpful tips on how to navigate that conversation.
#3 – I don’t know how to find a good couple therapist
Often when I tell people I am a couples therapist they say they have thought about going to couple therapy but do not know how to find a good therapist. Or they went and didn’t like their therapist. Like finding a doctor you feel comfortable with, finding a good therapist is not as easy as we’d like it to be.
Reframe: I have the knowledge and tools to find the therapist for me
I encourage people to think about finding a therapist like dating. However, you don’t want to waste too much time or money “dating” to find your therapist. To help with this issue many practices (including ours) offer free 15-minute phone consults so that you have a chance to feel out your therapist. You also want to make sure that you find a therapist who specializes in working with couples. If you knew that your vision was getting worse, you would want to go to an ophthalmologist and not just the first doctor whose name came up on your insurance’s website.
You can also use Psychology Today to find a therapist near you. Therapists have brief bios to help you see if they might be a good fit and if they have the knowledge/skills to help you. Plus, the website is set up to help you reach out to them via email or phone to ask additional questions.
#4 – We are so busy, there is no time
There are not enough hours in the day, we can all relate to being so busy it is hard to know how or when you will find time to even think about seeing a therapist. There may be seasons of your life where it is so busy that you are just in survival mode. When you have the time to come up for air though, it is important to seek out resources to tend to what had to fall to the wayside for you to survive.
Reframe: You and your relationship are a priority
There is often no convenient time to seek out couples therapy, work is always busy, kids always have some activity going on, and so on. So, how do you make your relationship a priority? Sometimes, it can help to think not about what you would lose (time) but what you can gain from seeking out therapy. Both you and your partner’s physical and mental health will benefit from therapy. Plus, if you have kids, couples therapy could even help them, especially if there is a lot of fighting and yelling in the house. So how do you manage the logistics to take that first step?
To start, a silver lining of the pandemic has been the expansion of telehealth. For couples this means that you can see a therapist without having to leave your home, so you don’t have to worry about childcare. Or you can join from separate locations, so you can squeeze in sessions over your lunch breaks at work. If you live in a rural area this also means you don’t have to drive long distances and dedicate even more time to seeing a therapist.
Plus, therapy doesn’t always have to be done during the week mid-day. Many practices (including ours) offer evening appointments that may fit your schedule better. You may also find it is easier to just set aside a whole weekend, if that is an appealing option you may want to explore therapy intensives (more information here). Or maybe things are going okay, but you want to make time to do some maintenance, a couples retreats may be a better fit for you (more information here).
Often just getting started is the hardest part, so give yourself permission to feel anxious, stressed, and all the other feelings while you search for a therapist and during the lead-up to your appointments.
#5 – Couples therapy won’t help, so why bother
Seeking help is scary and can bring up a lot of feelings so often it is easier to not go, and with that it can be easier to believe it won’t help. Plus, maybe you have heard a story about a cousin/friend/sibling that went to couples therapy and said it was awful and did not work (or even made things worse), making it even more unappealing to seek help. However, don’t forget there are wonderful couples therapists who have the skills to help you find the best version of your relationship.
Reframe: Research shows couples therapy can really help relationships and individuals
There is a ton of research showing couples therapy has a positive impact on people’s relationships. Not only can it improve people’s relationships overall, but new research shows it can also help reduce symptoms of other mental health conditions, like depression.
We know couples therapy can and does work, but like a “bad apple” doctor can put you off going to get a check-up or seeking out care when you’re sick, a bad therapy experience can be equally off-putting. If you make that big step to seek out couple therapy and it doesn’t feel helpful, talk with your therapist about it. It can help your therapist make needed adjustments, and if that does not help know that you can always “break up” with your therapist. As mentioned, finding a therapist you like can be tough, but the good news is, therapy does work.