Couples therapy sessions last anywhere from one hour to 90 minutes. Any less than an hour isn’t enough time for themes to develop in the room and people given enough space to explore them together to a satisfying resolution. Plenty of times, an important subject isn’t raised, or sensitive button pushed, until midway through a meeting and ending on the 50 minute or hour mark feels like an abrupt and unsettling “hard stop.” More frequently than I, or other couples therapists, would like to admit or experience, even the 90 minute duration won’t end in a nice feeling of something valuable having been tied up, with the clients released back into their world carrying a helpful insight into each other or with a meaningful connection made. I think one difference between an experienced couples therapist and a newer professional is the ability to manage our own anxiety when a session ends with that unsettling static still in the air. One person may be holding back (more) tears. The other may be get up from their seat and hand you their payment in stony silence. A worry passes through the therapist’s mind, “Will they come back? Did I blow it somehow?” Well, welcome to the world of the therapist as a living, breathing person. We want to help – that’s why we’re in this business. So, you can imagine the uneasiness when a couples session ends with simmering anger and complicated feelings still spinning within and between the partners. It’s important for everyone to take a deep breath and realize that these harsh-feeling endings are not a disaster for clients or the work you are doing. Almost never will a couple feel so distressed after a session that they will decide to abandon the couples therapy altogether. In fact, oftentimes, couples return the next week and report that they found a way to work through that difficult patch and, while the therapist is all ready to continue with the theme that ended the last session, the people have come in with something entirely different to talk about. While it is important for therapists not to become anxious about unfinished endings, it is equally important for couples who emerge from such sessions to understand that it’s okay and normal in the world of couples work to periodically end on an off-note. It happens. It will be okay.