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.

One word:


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. Read Full Bio

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