This is the first stage in most relationships; whether it is considered dating, courtship, being a couple, or “just friends – maybe more”.
Most often if a couple has difficulty getting along in this stage they don’t consider counseling, but instead they simply break up. And often that’s the most appropriate decision, since this stage of relationship is mostly about both people exploring what they want from their relationship and/or if a person is a good match for something more.
But, there are times when a relationship even these relationships that don’t yet have any formal commitments would benefit from counseling…. especially if you have reasons to believe it holds potential to become more serious.
For instance, you may already have a significant investment with each other, such as having dated for a long while. Or you may have a strong attraction and connection with each other, but there are a few particular issues leaving you unsure about taking it further.
Some couples remain in the uncommitted stage by getting stuck in a “break up, but can’t leave” cycle; where they have frequent conflicts and break up, but then keep getting back together. Often in these situations both individuals are truly doing their best and acting with integrity, despite the regular uproars. There are several reasons a cycle like this might occur, but it’s typically not very healthy or constructive to allow such a pattern to continue.
In those situations counseling may be useful to help the couple to truly say goodbye, so each can then be available for finding a more compatible relationship. Or it may help them to discover ways to avoid and resolve their conflicts… allowing for the relationship to continue to develop without so much disruption.
And unfortunately, if a couple has a volatile relationship during their uncommitted dating phase and move into commitment without addressing those issues, they most likely will also have a volatile committed relationship.
So even with relationships in their early stages, counseling can often play a useful role. It may be helpful for working through a difficult phase and avoiding the loss of a valued relationship that may have real potential to become more.
There are some folks who find their relationships never seem to move beyond this uncommitted stage, despite their desire for a committed long term relationship. That usually (but not always) is related to them either having some hesitation about making commitments in general or being attracted to people who aren’t really available for a commitment. In those situations individual counseling might be useful to explore what is contributing to this pattern.