How Therapy Helps Your Relationship (Even If Your Partner Doesn’t Come)

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Identify harmful patterns in all your close relationships… including your partnership.

Personal therapy, perinatal therapy, couples counselling, support for new moms. These pillars of therapy each focus on different populations, pain points, and they’re niche for a reason. Certain challenges are related to particular lifestyles or stages in life and therefore, it’s always helpful to find support that’s focused, tailored, and informed.  

However, many types of therapy overlap and have things in common. For example, most (good) counsellors help clients identify difficulties with their mental health, triggers, positive and negative patterns in their relationships, personal stress levels, unmet wants or needs, past and current traumas, unhealthy cycles to break… the list goes on. 

And since our lives aren’t easily compartmentalized or separated, therapists can help support areas of life across the board (when the issues are general). 

So can perinatal therapists address challenges cropping up between you and your partner? Absolutely. And can perinatal or couples counsellors help with relationships even if one partner comes and not the other? Definitely. 

Actually, that’s a question we hear all the time. 

Even though it may be ideal for both partners to attend, that’s just not always the reality. Sometimes one partner just simply isn’t available or open to working with a therapist. The good thing though is therapy in general has a ripple effect to all the relationships in your life (more on that later). 

Here are eight really common ways that therapy will help your relationship even if your partner doesn’t come. 

1. Therapy helps you get clear on how mental health challenges show up for you personally. 

We hear about mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and postpartum mood disorders all the time but what do those actually look like for you as an individual person? Does your anxiety show up as anger (snapping at your partner, yelling at your kids)? Do you have untreated OCD which looks like you trying to control those who are close to you? Does your depression lead to you dropping the ball on important family engagements? 

When we know a) when we’re suffering and b) what that specifically looks and feels like, we’re better able to take actions that’ll better ourselves and close ones—partner included.  

2. A therapist will help you articulate problems and communicate clearly. 

    If you’re asking about therapy for couples or whether or not your relationship will benefit from counselling, there’s a good chance that there’s an issue(s) that you need to discuss. Therapists support clients to not only identify the problem, but communicate it in ways that are compassionate, assertive, and effective. 

    For example, say a difficult conversation is looming. A therapist can help you decide when to have that conversation, which styles of communication to avoid, strategies to deliver your message effectively, and how to maintain your boundaries.

    3. Therapists help clients identify toxic or unhelpful patterns in all relationships including a partnership.

      Sometimes, we have a harder time identifying our own challenges because we’re too close to the situation. Having an unbiased and qualified third party listen to your challenges from an outside perspective is key. A therapist might pick up on certain red flags or unhealthy behaviour like manipulation, codependency, one partner not pulling their weight, emotional abuse, or even something as small as mismatched expectations in parenthood. 

      Then, they’ll guide you through the next step: what to do about it!  

      4. Proper support can include nervous system regulation and managing stress. 

        Relating back to the first point: maybe you now know how mental health struggles show up for you. The next (pretty important!) component is learning the tools and techniques that will work in your specific case to bring more ease and lightness to your experience. OK but how does that help your relationship?  

        When you’re in a stressed and reactive state, who suffers the most? Oftentimes, it’s those who we love the most that see us at our worst. We snap, take it out on loved ones, or cancel important plans. Things like nervous system regulation, self-care, proper rest, adequate exercise, identifying personal values, and reducing stressors are just some things a therapist might help you learn. These do so much to prevent fights, meltdowns and festering resentment before it occurs.  

        5. Effective therapy can help you identify unmet needs.

          You matter so much. Early parenthood can be draining and taxing in ways you never could have predicted. Relationships also shift and can be a source of pain that you didn’t expect. This all takes a lot of work and sometimes, personal needs can get lost in that. This is especially true for those with people-pleasing tendencies. 

          What are your personal needs? What about your needs within a partnership? Those can include—but are not limited to—emotional support, quality time, sex and intimacy, splitting of family responsibilities, mutual respect, stability, maintaining separate identities, and space. A good therapist will be able to help you recognize your needs and whether or not they’re being met. 

          6. Breakthrough sessions help clients identify and work through habits like people pleasing, perfectionism, rage, passive aggression, and more.

            Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all have tendencies and patterns that impact our relationships. Something like people-pleasing affects a relationship because we’re not likely to speak up or advocate for compromise or our needs being met. Perfectionism is often accompanied by criticism; when we have high standards, we’re likely to be critical of ourselves and a partner. Rage translates to hurtful or ineffective communication. Or, your partner may not feel comfortable bringing up important issues. 

            Ongoing work with a therapist can lead to increased self awareness, which can help you get clear on (in a gentle way) areas you need to work on in order to bring more ease, comfort, and fulfillment into your relationship.  

            7. You get a sounding board and safe space where you can tell it like it is

              A lot of healing comes from feeling heard, understood, and validated. If you’re in a relationship where open and honest communication is a struggle, therapy can become that space where you tell it like it is: the truth of a situation, and your thoughts and feelings about it. Your therapist isn’t there to judge so you can take as much time and energy as you need to process. Think of it as a sounding board where you can talk about whatever’s going on from your perspective. 

              8. Therapy is a space where you give back to yourself first. And in turn, others benefit

                As annoying as it may be to hear, when parents give back to themselves, their family benefits. That includes your partner. When you have space for your own energy and emotional healing (therapy, self-help courses, self-care), you become better for it. 

                Getting the support of a counsellor means that you’re putting in the effort to heal past trauma, unlearn harmful patterns, feel supported and heard, and process emotions in a healthy way. Even if your partner doesn’t come to therapy, they will see how you heal and grow as an individual. Maybe the example you set will even encourage them to reconsider… 

                Getting the support of a therapist during early parenthood is a constructive way to make positive changes in your relationship even if your partner doesn’t attend. Together with your therapist, you can create a tailored and informed approach to addressing the challenges that different life stages and relationships present. 

                While the specific focus of each type of therapy can vary, the benefits are far-reaching. By helping individuals identify and manage personal mental health challenges, articulate problems, carve out time for themselves, learn to communicate fairly and effectively, and break unhelpful patterns, therapy not only supports personal growth but also improves the relationships of those close to you—including with your partner. Even if only one partner attends therapy, the positive ripple effects can lead to a healthier, more supportive relationship.

                At The Perinatal Collective, we support couples and individuals as they navigate the stresses associated with relationship challenges in early parenthood. Reach out and start your therapy journey with us!

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                About The perinatal collective

                Welcome! So glad you're here. 

                We're a team of mental health therapists across Canada with advanced education and experience in perinatal mental health, meaning you don't have to cross your fingers and hope that we understand how hard this stage can be.

                We understand the nuances of the early stages of parenthood: how typical counselling strategies may not be relevant to parents with young kids, and how mental health challenges look different during this time.  

                From deciding to have children, to navigating your journey through fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, relationship changes, parenting, career demands and beyond, parenthood can be full with challenges.

                Our goal is to help you manage the peaks and valleys of the entire journey, while staying connected to yourself, and feeling whole, along the way.