If Couples Counseling Seems Daunting, Start With Cooking Therapy First

When a relationship is in trouble, many couples turn to therapy as an option. Even if the reason behind trying counseling isn't as dire as a marriage ending, meeting with and talking to an objective and impartial third party can do wonders for two individuals wanting to change for the better. 

But for some people, the idea of couples counseling can seem either exhausting or scary. There could be fear of opening up in front of strangers or simply just years of having tried professional help and not feeling like progress has been made. What if you're at a crossroads between wanting to make your relationship work and not being willing to try couples counseling? Does that mean you've exhausted all avenues?

Proponents of shared experiences would tell you that there's a different place you can look to — the kitchen. Cooking your meals is a great activity for brain health, not to mention what it does for your emotional health. Experts would tell you that cooking helps with depression and anxiety as well. Here's what it can do for your relationship. 

Cooking therapy can help build communication skills and intimacy

Think about the simple act of putting together a meal — quite a lot goes into it. You have to decide on a meal you both like, go out and get the ingredients, prep for your cooking process, cook, and finally enjoy the meal together. The entire experience takes focus, coordination, communication, and creativity, all of which are great muscles to flex together as a couple. 

Cooking therapy is also a great way to show your partner some love, according to relationship therapist Jaime Bronstein. "Whether you are cooking for your loved one or cooking together, you are sharing, giving, and receiving love; it's a win-win scenario," she explained to Brides. The experience can be relaxing and sensual too. For some couples, it could be the only time they get to spend quality time together during a busy week. Turn on some music, get yourselves some wine, and focus on learning how each of you works in the kitchen. The idea is to introduce a shared activity into your life — one that allows for inspiration and a common goal. 

Tackling a new recipe can unleash what is known as "Beginner's Mind" too, LCSW therapist Kara Lissy told NBC News. We become open-minded because we're new to what we're doing. "These positive attributes of Beginner's Mind can extend into our relationship and lead us to be more curious, less judgmental, and more willing to learn about one another," she shared. 

How to try cooking therapy in your relationship

The best thing about cooking together is that there's more than one way to do it. You could try starting things in your own kitchen and make it a weekly or even monthly activity. If cooking at home isn't your thing, why not enroll in a cooking class together? It'll give you and your significant other a reason to step out every week for something other than work and household errands. It'll also give you a chance to connect with others. Alternately, there are plenty of online cooking classes to choose from too. 

Psychotherapist and "kitchen therapy" advocate Charlotte Hastings told Metro that it's important to look at all the ways in which you can divide responsibilities in the cooking process. This can become crucial for couples who don't have a large kitchen space or lots of utensils to spare. There's something for each of you to do — whether that be grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, or doing the dishes. "The most important thing is working out the tasks and being appreciative of the fact that making a whole meal requires so many different equally important parts to it," shared Hastings. 

If your partner is refusing to try counseling because they haven't found the right fit or the entire idea is daunting to them, you could consider going to couples counseling by yourself. Or you could embrace cooking therapy and connect with your partner in a very informal and relaxed setting.