There is no more quintessential millennial experience than reading a think piece about your generation. As a millennial myself, I have rolled my eyes at many a headline similar to the one above, but the truth is, millennials are changing many things about the landscape of our society, including the conversation around mental health, and in particular, couples therapy.
Growing up I, similar to many of my peers, watched my parents go through a difficult divorce at a young age. My first exposure to couples therapy was as something my parents did as a last ditch effort to try to save their marriage, and then, to help them navigate their divorce. I understood couples therapy as a thing adults did when their relationship was in trouble.
My opinion totally started to shift, however, as I began my training to become a marriage and family therapist. As soon as I began learning about couples therapy, I had the feeling that this was something that would resonate with my fellow millennials. Couples therapy provides us with tools that help us to heal old wounds that we may not even realize are opening up in our relationships. These tools can help us avoid falling into the unhealthy relationship patterns so many of us have witnessed throughout our lives and focus instead on creating dynamics that honor who we have been as well as who we aim to become.
Couples therapy isn’t a new concept, but this idea that it is something that can be done to strengthen a relationship instead of simply to save it, does seem counter to many of the narratives that have persisted around relationships and mental health. Whereas previous generations may have prioritized not airing their “dirty laundry,” millennials seem to care more about redefining the roles and expectations that organize our lives. It makes sense then, that we would turn to couples therapy, especially considering that old models may not provide much guidance.
A marriage and family therapist can work with couples to determine what kind of relationships we want to have, no matter how different that may be from our parents’ or peers’ relationships. For a generation that is defined by disruption of past norms, dismantling the stigma surrounding couples therapy seems like a perfectly millennial act.