Marriage Counseling: What It Is & Why You Need It
Have arguments, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and anger come to define your time together? Has infidelity or other stressors affected your relationship? Perhaps you are just feeling disconnected from your partner?
Being open to seeking counseling is a vital sign that you’re willing to find the needed help. Trying to work through marriage problems on your own can sometimes make the problem bigger. You can end up digging a deeper hole and going in circles.
Therapy can help you at any stage of a relationship, no matter the conditions. Whether you think your relationship is on the rocks, just going through a rocky patch, or that the sailing has been pretty smooth, marriage counseling can help. A couples counselor can help you step back, break the cycle, and look for solutions for your relationship problems.
Therapy and counseling are incredible resources to help you understand your underlying motivations for why you do what you do.
But before you begin calling therapists, it’s helpful to take time to reflect upon some essential details regarding your relationship. This approach will help you hone in on what to look for in a counselor.
Plus, answering some of the following questions and understanding where you are will also help the counselor offer the treatment to meet your needs as a couple best when you do begin counseling. Because when you have a better understanding of yourself, you can live a more personally fulfilling life and improve your relationships with those around you.
When you participate in any form of counseling, you’ll notice an improvement in your overall sense of well-being.
What is Marriage Counseling?
Marriage counseling, also known as couples counseling, is a form of psychotherapy where the therapist works through issues to benefit the couple and not just the individual. It is a way to improve the relationship as you create helpful and lasting change.
Whether you are married or not, couples therapy gives partners a safe place to discuss their issues or concerns with a neutral third party to guide them. Your therapist will be able to shine a new light on those uncomfortable conversations you know all too well.
They will aid you in identifying harmful thoughts and behavioral patterns that plague the relationship.
When Should You Seek Marriage Counseling
People often think that counseling is the absolute LAST resort before breaking up, but this is a mistaken view.
Marriage counseling can be of so much benefit even when you’re not in choppy waters. Sometimes, you may just need a little extra help to continue on the right path or make an informed decision as a couple.
Signs You Need Professional Help
A resource that is widely used in the field is just about anything from the Gottman Institute. The team there has developed an accurate understanding of the core behaviors that result in divorce.
If any of the following sounds a bit too familiar, it’s time to seek help.
- Criticism – When one or both of you is bringing up problems in your relationship by criticizing your partner.
- Contempt – When one or both of you criticizes your partner from a position of “moral superiority” – sarcasm, snide looks or comments, name-calling, turning your head away in disgust.
- Disconnection – If you and your partner engage in patterns of anger and attack or anger and withdrawal when a need isn’t being met, you’re engaging in the pattern of disconnection.
Questions to Ask Before Getting Professional Help
Inviting a third party into your relationship to evaluate the inner workings can be intimidating. So, before seeing a therapist, it’s important to understand where you and your partner stand on certain issues. Developing your position and establishing collective goals can help you and your partner get the best results from your sessions.
1. Do we need marriage counseling?
A common misconception is that couples counseling is the last resort before calling it quits, which is just not true. No matter where you are in your relationship, there is room for more happiness, communication, and growth.
Though it helps to seek professional help when there are issues of trust, lack of fulfillment, infidelity, etc., many couples wait, on average, six years to seek help in their relationship. Most divorces occur after seven years of marriage.
So, even though you may not have any glaring issues, having regular sessions with a counselor can keep your marriage at peak performance. You wouldn’t expect your car to run without regular maintenance; why not give the same care to your marriage?
2. Could we benefit from marriage counseling?
While you probably already have an answer to this question, it helps to clarify how you think your relationship got to this point. What is going on that makes you want to participate in counseling? What areas have you pinpointed as problematic?
Of course, there are numerous possibilities: infidelity, disagreements over finances or child-rearing, minor differences that have grown into huge ones, career conflict, and more.
While each couple’s experience is unique, frequent themes come up across the marriage counseling sphere. Keep in mind that some therapists specialize in certain areas.
3. What do we hope to achieve through counseling?
This question is another vital one. Is each of you willing to make changes? Or do you want the other person to change? Do you want a counselor to tell you that you’re right and your spouse is wrong?
Some couples who go to a counselor are not contemplating divorce. They mostly need help working through something.
Many couples, though, are already contemplating divorce by the time they seek out counseling. If this is the case, your goals for marriage counseling will be very different.
If You Don’t Go
Something else to consider is what happens if you don’t go to counseling.
The most likely conclusion is that the habits you are forming now will only deepen and grow. If there is a seemingly inconsequential issue, with communication, for example, it will only get worse until, one day, you find yourself filing for divorce.
How does marriage counseling work?
Upon making the appointment, you and your partner will hopefully understand that some changes need to be made to make your relationship the best possible experience for all involved. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings because it sets more receptive thinking into motion. Even if only one party feels this way, it’s helpful to take note.
Using whatever methods are deemed helpful for your situation, your therapist will identify repeating patterns and habits that feed into what is often called the “same old fight.” As a neutral third party, your therapist will guide you through conversations that have become gridlocked.
Moreover, you will be shown healthy, helpful ways to navigate personal behavioral problems that tend to rear their ugly heads during arguments. We are all human, and, thus, none of us are without flaws. Whatever you are dealing with will present itself in your relationship, whether you want it to or not.
And that is perfectly okay (and very normal). With the help of a professional, you and your partner will finally shed some light on what has brought you here and learn how to move past it.
What are the Benefits of Marriage Counseling?
If you are looking to get couples counseling, you are probably at the breaking point. You have been going on like this for far too long. You may not even recognize the person you once felt so connected to.
The sad reality is that you have been functioning, sure, but your relationship is running on fumes. Marriage counseling can change all of that.
Let’s take a look at five ways marriage counseling can make your relationship better:
This is a major reason that couples seek marriage counseling. Often, what we perceive as “growing apart” is a lack of communication brought upon by stress and busy schedules. Counseling can help you feel connected again.
Too Much Conflict
Marriage counseling gives you the problem-solving tools to resolve conflict. A counselor will help you understand some of the deeper reasons igniting these conflicts. As a result, once you have resolved your immediate source of tension, you’re empowered to solve future problems healthily. It’s completely natural to have disagreements, even after counseling and a counselor will help you learn to disagree constructively.
Lack of Communication
Everyone has different styles of communicating. And let’s face it, what we feel on the inside is not the easiest to illustrate to your partner.
Some people don’t like talking about their problems and would rather ignore them. Other people get over things easier than their partners and don’t understand why their spouse brings up something that happened in the past that they thought wasn’t a big deal. If you were the same as your spouse, life would be boring, and you fell in love with your partner for the person they are, not who you thought they might be if this or that changed.
Sex Drives Out of Sync
Sometimes marriage problems are about sex. Yes! It’s okay to talk about sex. It’s an essential part of any intimate relationship and is not at all superficial. If you’re never in the mood at the same time as your partner, marriage counseling can help you find out why and what to do about it.
It can be hard to develop new, positive habits and toss out our old negative associations and unconscious actions. Marriage counseling is there to help you mesh your communication styles and avoid impasses that lead to conflict or loss of intimacy.
Your therapist isn’t going to ask you some questions while you lie on a sofa and then pass you a guidebook and send you on your way. You will practice integrating the positive changes so that you genuinely feel closer to each other and learn to meet your loved one’s needs (and still feel comfortable) in the long term.
Marriage Counseling Can Help You See Things Objectively
William Doherty, University of Minnesota Professor of Social Science, reports that studies have shown marriage counseling is successful 70-80% of the time.
Even when we think we know ourselves pretty well, we don’t. It’s tough to see ourselves and our relationships objectively. Consider this, you have to step back to see the height of a skyscraper, and in this case, you are the skyscraper.
Think about the last time you disagreed with your partner. Was it a challenge to see things from their perspective? And if you’re having problems in general with your relationship, don’t you find it easier to point out what they’re doing wrong, rather than identifying your own mistakes or bad habits?
Don’t Put It Off
Marriage counseling is one of those “do it sooner rather than later” situations. You don’t want to have years and years of cemented harmful behavioral patterns or maladaptive coping mechanisms to unlearn. Don’t waste your time waiting for the big flashing signs that your marriage is in trouble.
Just because you and your spouse haven’t “reached” a position where you’re screaming at each other, performing acts of violence on each other or your respective property, and there hasn’t been infidelity does not mean marriage counseling isn’t for you. Whatever your problem is, even if you can’t find the words to identify or pin it down, you deserve to make your relationship a source of happiness and joy, not anxiety and frustration.
Do you need marriage counseling services?
Still shy about seeking marriage counseling? That’s okay. Suppose you’ve never had therapy or seen a counselor before. In that case, it can be a little intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect or are nervous about sharing personal thoughts with others. Often, speaking with a stranger (especially one trained in compassionate care) makes you feel better.
Except in abuse cases, we strongly recommend first to talk to a couples counselor before ever contemplating divorce. Couples often re-enact familiar patterns with one another, ultimately just wanting to get their needs met and feel safe and loved. Counseling will teach you how to express yourself effectively and create actionable steps for a disarming conflict.
Walking away without learning those skills robs you of the opportunity to get your needs met and feel loved. Patterns tend to repeat themselves in other relationships. The skills you lack in this relationship will present themselves in other relationships (and no, it’s not just your partner’s fault – relationships are dynamic, and both partners contribute to the dance between you).
Couples counseling will help you learn more about your feelings and needs and appropriate ways to express them without hurting your partner. You’ll also focus on your relationship’s strengths and find ways to enhance your connection with one another. Both partners are worked with objectively, so one person doesn’t feel sided against. Marriage counseling is a neutral zone!
Marriage counseling can help you address the above dangers to your relationship. In counseling, you will also work on increasing your connection and fondness for one another rather than only focusing on the cause of your problems and learning to fight fairly.
Research has shown that simply resolving conflict differently isn’t enough to change these dynamics in your relationship. Instead, what’s needed is a higher ratio of positivity. Your focus may be more on rekindling your love in marriage counseling than resolving every argument you have.
Book Your Appointment TODAY!
So, perhaps you’ve been hesitant to enter couples counseling for various reasons. But hopefully, these benefits have given you a reason to reevaluate your opinion about getting marriage help. After all, doesn’t your relationship deserve the best chance for success?
If you find yourself in the same perpetual arguments, struggles or feelings, you are not alone. If you and your spouse are struggling, it can be a little scary to reach out.
Eddins Counseling Group offers marriage counseling services in Houston and throughout Texas via videoconferencing (like Skype) if appropriate and convenient for you and your partner. Sometimes, marriage counseling can occur with just one partner present since when you make changes in your relationship, it still impacts your partner.
Contact us to find out more about how a marriage therapist can help or read more about marriage counseling services. To get started now, give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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