Why Good Enough is Better Than A Perfect Couples Therapist  

In my last blog post, I suggested that a way toward finding the right couples counselor might be to discuss the attributes of an idealized “perfect expert.”   Thinking of an ideal person is a good place to start formulating a sense of what you might want to get out of couples counseling.  

There are likely to be aspects of your identity or relationship that are deeply important to you and your partner.  There may be a feeling of not wanting to discuss issues such as race, class, religion or culture with someone who might not handle them with the care or respect they deserve.  Seeking counseling is a vulnerable thing, and it makes sense to seek out a therapist with whom you sense commonality. 

It also makes sense to seek out a therapist who holds some knowledge or perspective that can inform the changes you are wanting in your relationship.  Whatever it is you’re wanting help with -addiction, intimacy, shared finances, in-laws-  it is likely that you will find there are couples counselors out there who have experience with that very thing. 

As this discussion of an idealized expert progresses, however, you might find yourselves at an impasse.  The thing about perfection and ideals is that they somehow don’t translate to everyday life.  This “perfect” expert, can they work with the imperfection that is inherent in every relationship?  Mother Theresa was an “expert” at unconditional love, and that’s something most of us would like more of in our relationships.  But couples relate in ways that are unfathomable to the outside world, and even Mother Theresa would need some time before she could usefully interject into say, your ongoing dispute over where the towels should go.  No matter how much expertise anyone has, they won’t be able to really empathize with what makes you click as a couple without getting to know you.  And getting to know someone isn’t a linear process.  It’s not a finite process.  There’s no way to have a perfect understanding of another person, much less a couple.

It’s important to keep in mind that healthy relationships aren’t a product; they are a process.  Healthy relating isn’t a noun, but a verb.  A good enough therapist knows this, and understands that they aren’t there to make you into an ideal couple, but to recognize and draw from the strengths you already have.  That’s why it can take time to see results in couples counseling, and why we recommend that you give counseling at least 7 weeks before assessing if it helping your relationship.

Blog wrtitten by Ruby Ann King, MFT intern- Admin Staff @The San Francisco Marriage and Couples Center