Movies and television often feed into the idea that couple therapy is reserved for relationships in crisis. A typical scene will feature a couple on the brink of separation as they grapple with infidelity or other make-or-break scenarios. If these representations are all you know of couple therapy, it would be reasonable to believe it’s nothing more than a last-ditch, relationship-saving effort.
Newlyweds Courtney and Nadir know better.
“We’ve always believed that we’re going to be successful in our relationship, and the more we can find space to work on any potential gaps, the more successful we’ll be as life evolves,” says Nadir.
Despite their busy schedules, the two young professionals made time both before and after their recent wedding to attend regular sessions with a couple therapist. The work they’ve done in therapy has helped them better understand each other’s perspectives and how best to navigate smaller issues before they spiral into larger ones.
“Obviously, starting therapy when there is high conflict makes sense, but it can be just as helpful to start therapy when things are going well,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Philip Tong. “In a non-stressful situation, couples can learn and practice communication skills so that when a conflict does arise, they will already have good mastery and can use the skills effectively.”
And research examining the efficacy of couple therapy points to a number of therapies that have been shown to improve relationship satisfaction, communication skills, and overall well-being.
In other words, experts say that couples like Nadir and Courtney are onto something.
The pair gave us a glimpse into their experience with couple therapy through Lyra, which is offered by Nadir’s employer.
Nadir: It was part of our New Year’s goal to get back into regular therapy under Lyra – we were seeing a therapist before [and paying] out-of-pocket.
Courtney: One is because Nadir and I have vastly different backgrounds (Editor’s note: Nadir is Indian-American and raised Muslim, and Courtney is African-American and was raised Catholic). Being an interracial, interfaith couple poses challenges that we want to overcome so that we’re able to celebrate our diverse backgrounds with our future family. We wanted to make sure we’re being diligent and thoughtful about how we’re combining our lived experiences in a mature, loving and therapeutic way.
Second, both of us come from backgrounds where our parents are separated, and we didn’t completely have an understanding of what it means to be in a successful and loving marriage. We thought it would be important to unlearn some of the bad habits that we experienced or witnessed and work on creating a stronger relationship.
Nadir: We have a really good relationship, but there are always things we can work on, so for us, therapy was a way to create a space to have those conversations.
We also have different communication styles. It was important for us to understand how the other communicates to enhance our ability to understand, communicate, and engage with one another. The same goes for our love languages.
One thing that was really important was that we want to build as much empathy in the relationship as possible.
Nadir: One thing I really appreciate about therapy is that we’re able to revisit our friction points and slow everything down, which allows us to understand how the other person is feeling and give context to how they were acting or reacting to a situation. And we’re able to sit and reflect on it in a safe environment.
Conversely, it allows you to understand how you’re triggered so you can think about that the next time it happens. One thing our therapist talks about is when you’re getting worked up, thinking about where in the body that’s coming from and starting there as a way to calm your body and heart and lower all of the intensity.
Courtney: I feel like [our therapist] also is great at giving us concrete action items or homework. If there’s something she thinks we should work on, she’ll say it right then and there, and she did that within the first two sessions. The fact that we have measurable steps that we can take to better our communication or diffuse arguments is really helpful and appreciated.
I feel that we can really rely on our therapist, and she’s very methodical about how she takes in our comments or stories and the way she processes things and provides feedback is really helpful. She gives us suggestions and exercises to do where it’s very concrete and she says, I need you to do XYZ.
Nadir: Going to therapy lets us “punt” the harder conversations with an expert to guide us through those issues so they don’t become blockers. As a result, we’ve noticed that we’re not as timid to bring up hard conversations or worried that we won’t be able to successfully work through them. This has decreased the overall stress in our dynamic and outlook on life.
Nadir: Before Lyra, there were so many layers to trying to find the right therapist. Trying to make sense of all of it wasn’t easy. We had to figure out the scheduling, then the location, then the insurance, and eventually we decided, let’s pay out of pocket since the therapist we found did not take insurance.
With Lyra, we worked with the care team to find a handful of therapists and we went over their profiles to see if they were working on similar issues that we were. We interviewed a couple of people, ended up connecting with one and have been seeing her ever since.
Courtney: When we set out to find the appropriate option that would work for both of our best interests, Lyra took a holistic approach. Lyra posed a series of intake questions that led us to this cadre of providers that could really help us fit the mold of what we wanted in terms of how that provider would fit our culture and background, which is something we didn’t have before. I felt like Lyra tailored everything a little more precisely to what we were looking for in our vicinity and who best catered to our goals.
Nadir: It’s really important we get to focus on the intangibles of the interaction between us and the therapist — we don’t have to wonder, “Is this person qualified, can this person’s schedule work with me, is this covered? All that noise goes away and we can focus on that interaction with the therapist.
Nadir: We can always use a coach, and to have something like Lyra which essentially does a lot of the work for you in filtering the best coaches for your exact needs, it would be a disservice not to better your own life and your own relationship. All cars need tuneups – all relationships need tuneups as well.
Sharing your personal experience with therapy or mental health coaching can help de-stigmatize mental health conditions and show others that they’re not alone. Interested in sharing your Lyra therapy or coaching experience on our blog? Email us at [email protected], and we’ll get in touch with next steps.
If you’re looking for couple therapy or other types of support, Lyra can connect you to a behavioral health solution that is right for you. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer.
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.