Of course, we can’t say that these programs will work 100% of the time – but then again, what does? Even the highest-quality, in-person couple therapy completed over several months doesn’t work for every couple. But, as you may know from reading about the developers of these programs, we’re very serious about making sure they are helpful and have tested whether they work (see the concern ‘I want to do something that has been shown to be effective’
). We’re also very careful to be upfront about problems that we think won’t be helped by these programs (see the concern ‘This program isn’t appropriate for the particular problem we have’
If you’re like most couples who do these programs, you can expect to see the following benefits: a) developing a more accurate understanding of common relationship conflict dynamics; b) learning to talk in a non-blaming and productive way about relationship problems; and c) working together and individually to make changes that help improve the problem. If you have difficulty talking about your problems or taking constructive action, we think these programs could be a big help for you and your relationship.
Some couples worry that talking about their relationship problems will make those problems worse. We’re pretty convinced that’s unlikely to happen. How do we know? First, we’ve been careful to identify which problems will most likely be helped by these programs and which problems won’t likely be helped. Second, in a large-scale trial of couple therapy, more than 70% of couples showed meaningful improvements and less than 10% got worse (the rest didn’t change). Keep in mind that many of those couples had experienced recent affairs, tried therapy as a last-ditch effort before divorce, or had other really serious difficulties that made them very unhappy with their relationship. Thus, working on your relationship and talking about problems helps the majority of couples! Finally, based on a large body of longitudinal research, we know that withdraw and avoidance of problems predicts relationship deterioration. So, “wait-and-see” generally isn’t an effective approach when it comes to relationship problems. Although it may be uncomfortable at times, facing those problems and dealing with them constructively is the best way to go.