Marital counseling

All couples experience conflict. For some it's battles about money; for others it's a sex life that's lacking or a pattern of constant arguing. And the coronavirus pandemic has added yet another potential stressor: more time at home together, which can exacerbate tensions or expose hidden cracks in a relationship.

Therapy can help. Contrary to what some may believe, it's not about finger-pointing — who did what or who is to blame. Rather, “couples therapy provides tools for communicating and asking for what you need,” says Tracy Ross, a relationship and family therapist in New York City.

Eye-rollers, take note: According to the American Psychological Association, about 75 percent of couples who opt for therapy say it improves their relationships. “A lot of couples tell me that it is the only hour they have during the week where they're focused on each other, with no distractions,” Ross says.

Many partners struggle together for years before trying therapy, says Gail Saltz, M.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, but “it's always better to go earlier in the process.” Unhealthy behavior and resentful feelings can become more difficult to change the longer that they continue.

A major roadblock to getting help? When only one person in a relationship is eager for change. “Sometimes someone will come in who is very willing to do the work and the other person is not,” Saltz says. “Ultimately, both people have to participate.”

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