Before you get nervous: Going to premarital counseling or couples' counseling isn't a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Talking out issues with your partner and an objective third party can actually make your relationship even stronger. If you're still wondering whether or not it's right for you, this week's "The Labor of Love," with host Lori Leibovich, should have some answers. She is joined by Sherry Amatenstein, New York-based therapist and author of The Complete Marriage Counselor, and Shannon Lee, founder of SomeSayLove.com and mental health advocate. The three discuss the most common reasons couples end up in therapy, what a "marriage checkup" is, and what to expect when you find your therapist.
1. Try just one session. If your partner isn't convinced that couples' therapy is the right move, ask him or her to attend just one session. If he or she insists on just one session, and won't attend any others, Amatenstein encourages partners to attend individually. As you change—even if your partner isn't in the session with you—your relationship will change. Individual therapy is an important component of couples' therapy, explains Amatenstein, because you have to know yourself before you can know your partner.
2. Look for patterns of poor communication or dissimilar goals. Amatenstein cites these as two of the most common issues that send couples to therapy. Don't wait until you have a major problem, says Lee. Premarital counseling or routine "check ins" can be very effective at mitigating issues.
3. Remember: Always listen. Don't just dismiss your partner's ideas or spend time formulating your next point in your head. Try to focus on your partner and empathize with what he or she is saying. You may think your partner has said that same thing one million times, but you may not have really heard what he or she was trying to communicate.
For more advice from Amatenstein and Lee, listen to the full episode below, and don't forget to subscribe and review the show on iTunes!