In the last week, I’ve heard three times from three different people, that someone said to them, basically, “if we need to get help this early in our relationship, it must mean that we’re doomed.” This is a common sentiment – we hear it a lot. Many women would feel compelled to get couples’ support when they are in crisis, but earlier, even if there are rough edges, or things are challenging, it’s not something that they will turn to.
There are reasons why this is problematic, and why getting support early in a relationship can be really useful:
If you wait until your relationship is in deep crisis to get support for it, the underlying causes of the crisis may have gotten to the point that there is just too much damage and broken trust to fix. Years of unskillful communication, and the presence of the four horsemen (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt) in a relationship may have eroded the attachment, and the more eroded the attachment, the harder it is to repair.
Getting support early in a relationship can help you build the skills you need to navigate conflict so that the horsemen don’t arrive, you don’t erode your attachment to each other, and you can also learn the best ways to build intimacy so that any future rough spots are navigable. And getting support early in a relationship might save you heartache later, because you might learn that your relationship visions might not be compatible, and that this isn’t the right fit. We have worked with couples that weren’t a good fit from the very beginning, and it’s painful to see them three or four or ten years down the road when they are in full-on crisis, and looking for support.
There’s no shame in getting support, especially if you both haven’t spent a lot of time learning conscious relationship skills. We have annual check-ups with our doctors, and we bring our cars in for maintenance and an oil change every few months. Why not give our relationships, which are often the most important thing in our lives, a tune up?