The One Thing Necessary
for Couples to Make It
by Olatunde Howard, MA, LMFT
I love working with couples. It’s an honor for me to share in their world for a little less than an hour. They can be fun to watch and listen to. It can also be torturous, depending on the one thing necessary. The one thing that makes or breaks a couple’s therapy.
A simple thing.
A single thing.
I ask couples in the very first session if they still want to be together. If I don’t get an immediate and definite “yes,” then I warn them that couple’s therapy may be a waste of our time, because it has not become clear if they are, or want to be, a couple. We can’t do couple’s therapy unless they are, in fact, a couple. Perhaps an unhappy couple. A dissatisfied couple. But a couple. Two people who see each other together.
If I get a definite “yes” to the question, “Do you both want to be together?”, I find that couple’s therapy seems to go by fairly quickly. I suggest a few tweaks in communication, and that is usually enough. And these tweaks usually involve feeling like their loved one is available, responsive, and engaged. I encourage couples to directly and explicitly express their needs, wants, and feelings. And before my eyes, in the session, I see their connection.
If they still want to be together.
That’s the one thing necessary for successful couple’s therapy.
The one thing necessary for couples to make it.
I know this from experience in sessions. I also know this from my own marriage.
About a year or so into my now 17 year marriage, my wife and I were at an impasse. (I have no idea why.) Yet I remember saying these words, “I know our relationship started with a lot of drama. But do you still want to be with me now?” She immediately, and definitely, said, “Yes.” “Then let’s just start over,” I said. And we did. It was that simple. We still had issues, but we wanted to be together. And without me knowing anywhere near what I know now, we made it.
Because we had the one thing necessary for a couple to make it.
Olatunde Howard, MA, LMFT
Olatunde is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate. He graduated with honors from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, a COAMFTE accredited program, with a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition with honors from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Read More
I’ve noticed that some clients think therapists are magicians and that therapy is magic. And if the magic doesn’t kick in after one or two sessions (3 tops!), then therapy isn’t working. Now the thing is, therapy can begin to “work” after one or two sessions, depending on the client and the presenting problem. It may even work after one session, and this is where therapy can be magical–if we understand what the magic really is.
I used to want to live a life without regret. That was my actual goal. By a life without regret, I meant a life with a clear conscience. A life where I don’t make stupid or avoidable mistakes that have lasting consequences. And that is still my goal. But I stumbled on something in my time of meditation:
Is this therapist a good fit? (How to know in 15 minutes or less) by Olatunde Howard, MA, LMFT You need therapy, but you don’t know where to start. You look up therapists. You find one you think you might like. But you’re wondering how to know if this therapist is...