There probably isn’t a less understood dynamic in our community than that between intimate partners. How scary when that connection forms the nucleus of our families. Black couples are especially vulnerable today. In this perfect storm of unstable roles caused by devastating economic losses, poor communication and conflicting role expectations, black counselors & therapists are being consulted more than ever. Black relationships are being turned upside down by the shift of economic power to women due to high unemployment among black men. That, drugs, the prison industrial complex and reduced educational opportunities hamper our couples’ prospects for enduring marriages.
What you should not expect
You should not expect the therapist to be a referee or to judge right and wrong. Getting along in relationships is not a matter of being on good behavior. It is instead learning how to listen to your partner for the keys to understanding him or her. It is learning to understand yourself and being secure enough to present your needs while working on your flaws. It is understanding that marriage, as with life, is a journey, not a competition or race.
What you should expect
Your therapist has studied the science of relationships, personality, the psyche and communication. He or she will analyze the mechanics of your relationship to determine what works well and what needs changing. With your consistent participation, openness to change and willingness to learn, you will develop tools to feed your relationship and manage the inevitable challenges that all couples experience.
In addition, the key to forming a strong new family unit is to restructure your relationships with your families of origin. We hear so much about the meddling mother-in-law, the Daddy”s girl and Mama’s boy, the unavailable father – all of these characters have a role to play in your marriage. Knowing how to work with extended family in a way that forms strong family bonds can mean a very rich & comfortable in-law alliance.
You should expect a knowledgeable provider to listen closely and objectively to you and your partner, to guide the sessions so that the source of your problems becomes clear and the steps to change are identified. An agreement for regular sessions at a set fee should be in place. Most providers would encourage each person to speak their concerns in front of the other. You should not expect the provider to limit you to a small number of sessions that seems inconsistent with the complexity of your problems. You should not expect the provider to limit you to a preplanned series of activities that don’t address your specific needs.
If you and your partner have a concern about your therapy you should bring it into the session for discussion rather than assume the provider is not willing to change some aspects of the process to meet your needs more effectively.
Your provider may suggest books, videos, support groups or other activities that will enhance your relationship. If one of you has individual stressors or history that causes you to be unable to tolerate or participate in suggestithat forhelping the marriage, your provider may refer you for individual therapy. There may be many strategic reasons for this. It does not necessarily imply that one person is the cause of all problems, which is not usually the case.