We therapists need to admit that there are times when one or both partners in relationship therapy attend sessions with the goal of sabotaging them. They do not want to be there. They do not think relationship therapy can help. So in order to avoid having to continue with endless sessions, they attempt to bring therapy to an end via sabotage. But then there are others who do the same thing but in complete ignorance.
It is entirely possible to sabotage counseling sessions without even trying. Just by thinking and doing certain things you are unaware of you could be making things harder on yourself and your partner. This post will describe some of those things in hopes of helping you recognize them before you begin therapy.
Take comfort in the fact that trained therapists know how to recognize warning signs. If we feel that one or both partners are sabotaging therapy efforts, we have tools to address it.
Unreasonable Expectations in Relationship Therapy
The number one enemy of any type of therapy is unrealistic expectations. Therapy is not a quick fix. It is not a relationship magic wand. Therapy is a tool for uncovering why relationships are in trouble. It’s a tool for crafting solutions that address what has been uncovered. Successfully using the tool takes time.
When people begin relationship therapy with unreasonable expectations, they are more likely to be easily disillusioned. They may give up trying before they ever get started simply because progress isn’t being made fast enough.
It is possible to sabotage relationship therapy by coming into it with inaccurate assumptions. This is actually fairly common. A couple will come to the first session with assumptions about why they are having problems. Quite often, each one’s assumptions point a finger at the other. That is never a good thing. It is also not good when couples start therapy with assumptions of how they think it should be conducted. That only hamstrings the therapist.
Nearly every couple that enters relationship therapy engages in some type of unproductive behavior. A good example is that of making accusations. Accusing one another is never good for a relationship. Unfortunately, some couples do it so frequently that it becomes part of the fabric of their relationship. In such cases, the accusations continue to fly even weeks into therapy.
Unproductive behaviors can sabotage relationship therapy by negating all the work done in each session. The goal of each session is to learn something about the relationship so that unproductive behaviors can be addressed. But when a couple continues those unproductive behaviors, what was learned in therapy goes by the wayside.
Failing to Do Relationship Therapy Homework
Nearly every relationship therapist assigns couples some homework or relationship worksheets to complete between sessions. That homework is designed to reinforce what was discussed in the corresponding session. Sometimes it is also designed to drive home secondary lessons. Here’s the thing: homework isn’t for the therapist’s benefit; it is for the couples’. Failing to do the homework only hurts a couple in the long run.
Homework is to relationship therapy what practice is to professional sports. If you don’t do the homework, you won’t excel. And if you don’t excel, you’ll find yourself kicked off the team at some point.
There are times when couples sabotage relationship therapy without even trying. A good therapist will do everything in their power to stop the sabotage. But ultimately, whether relationship therapy succeeds rests with the couple. The choices they make determine the course they chart for their future. Relationship therapy can only put them on a good course. The rest is up to them.