All relationships go through ups and downs, so how do you know if yours is really in trouble? How can you tell if your issues are typical of all couples, or if you are on the verge of splitting up?
Many couples attempt Marriage Counseling at one time or another, but some couples are afraid to go to a third party with their issues. Everyone has heard horror stories and myths about how marriage counseling is a last resort.
Each relationship is different, and just because your best friend did not have a good experience with counseling, that doesn’t mean it might not work for you. If you are wondering, “Does marriage counseling work?” then look at your reasons for pursuing it and the current state of your relationship.
Marriage counseling may be the answer if any of the five situations below apply to you.
1. You are Both Willing to Work on the Relationship
Marriage counseling only works if both people are engaged and willing to work.
It may take some honest soul-searching and some difficult conversations. You may need to examine intimate parts of your relationship like your sex life in front of a therapist.
If one member of a couple has decided already that they want out, it is unlikely that therapy will change their mind. Both people have to commit to the time and energy required to look at what is going wrong and try different solutions to solve the issues.
If you are both willing, marriage counseling can help you talk about sensitive subjects, explore new ways of communicating and open up new ways of finding happiness together.
2. There Have Been Recent Big Changes in Your Lives
Marriages go through many stages, influenced by both internal and external forces. Your relationship may evolve and change when you change jobs, you move house, or have a baby. One or both of you will go through various challenges and life passages like the death of a parent, illness, and financial problems.
Often life’s curveballs put extra pressure on a relationship. It may be difficult to navigate life’s changes, like adjusting to being parents or dealing with shared mortgages and debts.
A marriage counselor can help you as you grapple with new and challenging circumstances. Maybe he can provide suggestions on dividing up family chores, or finding time for a date night when your schedules start to seem overwhelming. She can help you find ways to talk about worries and concerns without falling into arguments.
Everyone needs a little help now and then. Learning how to go through life’s challenges together is a big part of being married. Counseling can help you see that you can face these problems together.
Struggling to cope with life’s challenges is a marital issue that can be overcome, unlike some other more critical challenges like abuse or dishonesty.
3. The Problems Have Just Begun
Most counselors agree that the sooner you seek therapy, the more likely you are as a couple to work through your issues. On the other hand, couples who have let problems fester for years without trying to solve them may not be able to change their ways enough to save the marriage.
Many couples actually seek counseling before they tie the knot. This starts them on a firm foundation and sets the habit of seeking assistance for the future. It can also help you learn ways to navigate difficult times, giving you tools for communication before anything reaches a crisis point.
Other couples seek “tune-ups” throughout their relationship. If you avoid letting resentments and unhappiness linger for a long time, you are more likely to get through bad times successfully.
Marriage counseling can also teach you ways to communicate all through your relationship, not just the bad times.
4. There is No Abuse in the Relationship
Relationship therapists agree that a marriage where one party is being abused by another is extremely difficult to mend. A therapist who perceives one party as being in danger may have an ethical responsibility to report abuse.
Generally, any situation where there is suspected battering is not appropriate for traditional marriage counseling. That’s because counseling is for couples who both want to work on their relationship. When there is domestic abuse, one party wants to assert control over the other.
Marriage counseling also assumes that both parties play a part in the problems they are having. Where there is battering, on the other hand, there is no assumption of mutual responsibility.
For couples in this situation, there are special Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPPs), which teach accountability and non-violent responses.
5. You Have a Therapist You Both Respect
The choice of therapist is as individual and personal as the two people in a marriage. You both need to find someone you both trust and with whom you both feel comfortable sharing details of your life and emotions.
Make sure your therapist is licensed and trained in couples counseling. Feel free to interview different counselors to find someone with whom you can find a rapport, and whose methods you agree with.
You will want a therapist who can understand your relationship’s particular struggles. Many therapists specialize in families in specific circumstances, from parents of adoptees to parents of children with special needs, to gay couples, to spouses of people in the armed forces.
Each of you will likely speak with the therapist alone, in addition to together, so it is critical that you both feel comfortable and safe with the counselor you select.
Does Marriage Counseling Work? If You Are Willing to Work, It Will
If you are wondering “does marriage counseling work?” then keep an open mind and do some research. Interview prospective counselors to find someone who seems to understand you both and what you are going through.
For marriage counseling to work, you both need to be willing to do the work. You will need to look at yourselves and your life together and explore ways to make things better. While it is never easy to do that kind of work, it is often worth it when you can find ways to love each other again.
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