• Ariane Sherene's Talk Yourself Better compiles different experiences of therapy

  • Here an anonymous contributor shares their experience of relationship therapy

I called Relate in distress after a big bust-up made me think my marriage (and so family) was coming to an end, and they set up an assessment session within a couple of weeks. Which sounds like a long time, but actually just knowing it was booked helped both me and my wife.

Relate was the first and only organisation we tried; we felt our assessment counsellor was very understanding and saw through our immediate problem to deduce what sort of help we really needed, and assigned us a counsellor based on that.

My big fear was that the therapist would say, ‘Good grief! There’s no hope! Get a divorce!’, and so I liked that the first thing she did was to describe the process we would be going through, so I understood that it would certainly not end in her giving us advice one way or the other.

We stuck with her because every single session left us feeling like we’d moved forward, and because – it sounds weird – but she made the counselling fun! Not always, of course; you address some very emotive and contentious issues, but honestly, we both looked forward to those Thursday afternoons.

What I would advise other people to look for is something our counsellor had in spades – safety. You will be talking about things that hurt. A lot. The only way it works is if the counselling room is a completely safe place to address these things that you simply cannot address at home without making everything far worse.

I always felt as though our therapist was absolutely impartial. I think both me and my wife feared that we’d be seen as the one in the wrong! But our counsellor never gave the slightest hint of taking sides, which provided a large part of feeling safe. In fact, one of the key things I got from counselling is that I needed to throw away the idea that there were opposing sides to be on at all.

Having therapy saved our marriage. Or to be more accurate, it took us to a place where we could save it ourselves. When we started, I said that I didn’t want our relationship repaired, I wanted it built again but better, and I really feel that happened. It got us both out of destructive habits, and helped us both to spot new ones forming.

It helped me see that there can be deeper reasons behind arguments – I’d always prided myself on being able to see other people’s point of view, and it made me realise that I wasn’t really doing that with my own wife – it is hard when it’s so close to home! I guess one way I’d put it is that we’d kind of ended up being together ten years without our relationship really keeping up, and therapy helped us to make that happen.

Further reading

Solving the therapist hunt with our Personalised Matching Service

How negative self-talk can damage relationships

Common relationship problems: how therapy can help

How to manage anger in relationships

Is your childhood sabotaging your relationships?