Ugh! Here we go again….
You said something wrong. You didn’t say something you were supposed to. You did something wrong. You didn’t do something you were supposed to.
You find yourself wanting to go to work rather than being around your spouse.
Or maybe your partner is really awesome, really wants to be there for you, even with all of the crap you deal with at work.
But you can’t tell them about all the stuff you see. The guy with the machete you almost shot. The kid who called you crying on the phone for the sixth time because daddy was beating up mommy again. That body on the asphalt.
Either way, you feel disconnected with the person you love the most.
Being a first responder is really tough work. Add the fact that you are in a relationship, whether dating or married, and ugh! It’s exhausting.
So what do you do as a first responder couple?
Let’s talk about how couples counseling can help you in your relationship!
Who can benefit from couples counseling?
I have worked with couples who are early on in their dating relationship that just want some guidance with learning about each other.
I have worked with couples who were disconnected after transitioning to life with children.
I have worked with couples who are transitioning into the retirement and empty nest chapter of their relationship.
I have worked with couples on the brink of divorce giving their last effort to save their marriage.
Couples at all levels in their relationship have talked about how counseling helped them.
In couples counseling, no matter where you are at in your relationship, you can find ways to meet each other in your differences, overcome past hurts, be able to communicate through conflict in a way that works for you and your relationship, and increase your intimacy with each other, both physical and emotional.
In particular, for my first responder couples, you can find ways to enjoy your relationship, finding meaning and purpose in your life on the line (whether blue, red, white, gold, green or gray).
What happens in couples counseling?
This question is almost always asked in one form or another by couples when we talk for the free 20-minute consultation.
“What happens?” “What can we expect?” “How does it work?”
Now, every couple is different, and every counselor is different, so there is no one specific way that couples counseling happens.
That being said, there is a general idea of the structure.
The Beginning Phase
In this phase, your counselor will be getting to know you and your partner. They may give you assessments to do (a common one is the 5 Love Languages, I often use the SYMBIS assessment).
This phase helps your counselor understand how each of you ticks.
The Middle Phase
This is the main course, the big chunk of time, the most intense part of couples counseling.
This is when you do the work.
This is when your counselor will go over how to engage with each other in a way that is helpful for the two of you.
This is when you will be getting outside of your comfort zone. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable.
THIS IS A GOOD THING.
It is when you are making changes, that you are disrupting patterns that haven’t been working or won’t work in the future, and learning to do something new.
The End Phase
This is when the work you have been doing together is making changes to your typical patterns.
After all of the hard stuff you have gone through in the middle phase, you are finally seeing and feeling the difference.
You will work with your counselor to develop a plan for maintenance and keeping yourselves from falling back into the old patterns.
When should we seek couples counseling?
Yes, I mean make a call today to set up a session with a couples counselor.
“But wait, you don’t even know where we are at in our relationship. That can’t be right.”
No, I don’t know your relationship. But I do know that you are a first responder working during a global pandemic. I can tell you, go to couples counseling.
Here is the thing: according to Dr. John Gottman, the leading expert on couples counseling, most couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before they actually get help.
So how do you, as a responder couple, keep this from happening?
Because if you have been unhappy for six years, and living a crazy and demanding life with your career and calling, it will be really hard during the middle phase we talked about above.
Get started now. Even if you are happy. Even if you are really enjoying your relationship. Meet with a counselor to establish a relationship.
That way you can get preventative tools to keep your relationship from becoming stunted, or to find someone you trust before you are really needing the help.
Where do we find a competent counselor for first responder couples?
This is one of the things where I wish departments were able to have a list of local providers who specialize in working with first responders.
Unfortunately, counselors in my field struggle with understanding the need for training on the responder culture, not just trauma treatment.
My biggest suggestion is to give us a call. I wish we could give you one resource to help you find someone, but there isn’t one that is my absolute favorite. So instead of listing 10 websites for you to call 100 therapists just to see if anyone is taking new clients, call us and we will help you out.
Why couples counseling for first responders?
BECAUSE IT WORKS! Seriously!
From my own experience as well as the first responder couples I have worked with, I can tell you that I see couples counseling breathe life into relationships.
And I am here to tell you, counseling can breathe life into your relationship!
Yes, you need to find a counselor who understands the first responder lifestyle. Yes, you need a counselor you are able to connect with. Yes, you need to be willing to feel a little uncomfortable for it to be effective.
Yes, you will NEED TO DO THE WORK.
YES, IT IS ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!
How do we start couples counseling?
Give us a call or an email and I will help you get connected.
Whether it is with us or with someone else, we want you to feel alive and hopeful and meaningful in your relationship.
Take care, friends!