Table of Contents
- Why People go to Marriage Counseling
- What is Marriage Counseling?
- What to Expect from Marriage Counseling
- How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?
- How Can I be Sure Marriage Counseling Will Work?
- How Does an Unhappy Relationship Affect You?
- Reflect Before Committing to Marriage Counseling
- How Therapy can Fix Broken Communication
- Overcoming the Uncomfortable
“A good marriage isn’t something you find, it’s something you make, and you have to keep on making it.” -Unknown
Why People go to Marriage Counseling
There are many reasons why people decide they need couples therapy, and a whole host of reasons why they may wonder if marriage counseling works.
Maybe you feel like the person who is supposed to know you best doesn’t seem to know you anymore, and vice versa.
Maybe you, your partner, or your relationship has changed over the years into something that just doesn’t satisfy you anymore and you are questioning if you want to remain in the relationship.
You just don’t seem as happy, or things just aren’t as fun as they used to be. Maybe the stress of everyday life has become a negative factor in your relationship.
Let’s not forget about COVID-19 , and all the ways that it can negatively affect your relationship.
Between the stress of finances, working from home, the lack of separation between work and home life, not being able to spend time with friends, the inability to go on vacation, being cooped up in the house all day together, and not being able to just go out to dinner anymore have all taken a toll.
Any of these factors can put a strain on even the most healthy relationship, leaving you wondering if the relationship is even worth saving.
So you might be reading this because you’re asking yourself if marriage counseling can work for your relationship.
The short answer is yes.
Marriage counseling has been shown to be effective in restoring 75%of relationships.
Marriage counseling can help you and your partner get to the root of why you keep having the same arguments over and over again, and figure out how to resolve the fights so they stop coming up.
Or maybe your problem is that you never finish an argument, it just fizzles out and after a few days of being angry you move on without resolving anything.
Maybe physical intimacy is a problem in your relationship, and you are looking for a way to reconnect.
The great thing about working with a therapist is that even if you are having the same problem as your neighbor, your therapist will help you to find a solution that is unique to the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship.
You will learn to identify the root causes of the issues you are experiencing, and the patterns of fighting that you fall into. Together with the therapist you will work on creating a new vision of your marriage together.
Even if you know in your heart of hearts that things are over between you and your partner, marriage counseling can help you have as amicable separation and divorce as possible.
If there is any kind of physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse in your relationship, it is imperative that you get counseling tohelp the two of you begin to develop a healthy relationship that won’t leave you in pain.
You may have questions about marriage counseling that you want answered before you make the call to a therapist to jump in.
What is Marriage Counseling?
Many people think that marriage counseling is the same as individual counseling, but that’s not true.
When you go and see a counselor, you are the focus of the counseling. When you meet with a marriage counselor, your relationship is the client, and the therapist is focused on doing what is best for the relationship, not either person.
Marriage counseling is about building new skills to make your relationship work for the both of you.
In marriage counseling, you will learn how to communicate better so there are fewer misunderstandings.
The counselor will take time to help you see things from your partner’s point of view so as to increase patience with each other.
If there have been transgressions that you or your partner are holding on to, you and the counselor can work on forgiveness and moving towards a better future.
If trust is an issue after an infidelity, then rebuilding trust will be a focus of therapy.
Maybe you or your partner has had trouble in the past with being honest, that can be worked on in therapy also.
A selfish partner can learn to be selfless.
Or maybe the daily stresses are building a wall between the two of you, if that’s the case then stress-management can be a focus.
If intimacy is lacking in your relationship, we can come up with some concrete ways to increase intimacy.
These skills can not only help your romantic relationships but also overflow into helping in your familial relationships, friend relationships and even work relationships.
Marriage counseling is not just for married couples; it can be for any form of relationship or any stage of a relationship.
Counseling can actually lead to long-term success as it can offer you a safe space to talk about some of the hot button issues in your relationship like money, kids, sharing household responsibilities, sex, intimacy, extended family problems, and how to establish healthy boundaries in your relationship.
One thing to keep in mind is that counseling takes time. The issues that you have been dealing with for years are not going to disappear after one or two couples sessions.
Just like when you break a bone in your body, just because you go and see a doctor, that doesn’t mean you are immediately healed.
Just like with the broken bone, you have to take the time to nurture and heal your relationship.
Marriage counseling will help heal the parts of your relationship that just are not working for the both of you.
Another thing to keep in mind, when you have a broken bone, most people will go immediately to the doctor to get it fixed. That often doesn’t happen with regards to things going wrong in your relationship.
Often people will wait years, or until they just can’t take it anymore and they want to leave.
While better late than never is a good things here, just know that after years of being unhappy, it will be more difficult to fix the problems that have become entrenched in your relationship.
You should definitely seek help sooner rather than later.
In the beginning, you may fight even more because you are finally addressing the most vulnerable and hurtful aspects of your relationship.
Another important aspect of counseling is to find the right therapist for you and your partner. Every therapist has a certain style and they also have a speciality.
If you are having trouble with communication, then look for a therapist who talks about healing broken communication.
If infidelity is a struggle for you, then look for a therapist that specializes in infidelity.
Other problems that can be addressed in therapy include:
- Feeling that your partner is always criticizing and finding fault with you
- You always feel like you are on the defensive with your partner
- You often wonder if you are still in love with your partner
- You feel constantly misunderstood
- If there is infidelity, substance abuse, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in your relationship
- Transitions in life that may be affecting your relationship (new baby, job loss, move, financial stressors, caring for elderly parents, etc.)
Any of these stressors, often things that are completely out of your control, can have a damaging effect on your relationship that you just didn’t see coming.
Finding the right therapist who is a good fit for the two of you can make a world of difference.
Marriage counseling can also be a place where you can safely examine your relationship and how each of your experiences, upbringing, values, morals, and points of views play a larger than you imagined role in the problems in your relationship and how to overcome them.
Counseling can address so many concerns in your life, whether they are large or small.
Ask yourself, what’s stopping you from being in a healthier, happier, improved relationship with the person who is most important to you?
What to Expect from Marriage Counseling
During the first few sessions, your therapist will ask you both to go over in painstaking detail the issues you two are experiencing.
The therapist will usually spend a great deal of the first few sessions asking questions to try and help you both see the destructive patterns that have developed in your relationship over time.
In the next phase of counseling, you will all work together to change those patterns and create new, healthy ways of interacting.
The great thing about therapy is it’s a safe place to share your worries and fears about your relationship.
Most therapists assign homework in between sessions in order to give you a chance to practice the skills you learn during the session.
Often, I ask clients to spend time together doing things they used to enjoy doing with each other.
I also request that they leave their phones off while they spend that time together.
Your therapist may give you questions to ask each other to deepen intimacy. This is helpful when you both feel like all you talk about are the kids or household responsibilities.
During the session, you are going to share your deepest wants, needs, and emotions with each other, it will only strengthen your relationship if you keep that up while you are not in session.
I often ask to meet with each person one on one in an effort to deepen the therapeutic alliance, and to provide each person an opportunity to say things that they may not be comfortable saying in front of their partner, but it might be useful for the therapist to know.
Individual sessions are also a great time to work on personal issues from the past that may be getting in the way of you connecting with your partner on a deeper level.
One of the largest influences for success in a couple is you and the way you react to your partner, so letting go of things that may keep you locked into a pattern of negative responses could only help.
The willingness of each individual in the relationship to participate, to be transparent to work on the homework after sessions, and the flexibility in growing in the relationship and as an individual.
In therapy we address the patterns that have occurred in the relationship and how we can change those patterns to best fit the people in the relationship.
Some may call this pattern, “being comfortable” in the relationship.
When we become too comfortable it is easy to form patterns that are not beneficial to the parties in the relationship.
In couples therapy you can expect to build skills to meet your partner’s needs in a more productive way and build a happier, healthier relationship, and get your own needs met.
Even those who are satisfied with their relationship can expect to get some positive things from counseling.
Couples who are in a happy relationship who go to therapy can get help with creating a shared vision for their future. They can create and meet goals such as having a better sex life, boosting trust in each other, reconnecting to one another, cut down on arguments, or learn to agree on their finances.
I hope you can see that marriage counseling is about changing the inner workings of your relationship leaving you both feeling safe, more in tune with each other, and more secure in your relationship.
How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?
Depending on the area you live in, the cost of a 50 minute marriage counseling session can vary from $40-300.
While the main factor in cost probably location, if your therapist has any special degrees or certification, for instance certified sex therapist or Gottman trained, the cost will be more.
If you have insurance, it would be worth a call to your insurance company to find out if the cost of marriage counseling is covered by your insurance company.
You should also ask your insurance company about any copays, coinsurance, or deductibles that you may be expected to pay before the insurance will begin to pay for your sessions.
How Can I be Sure Marriage Counseling Will Work?
Unfortunately there is no way to be 100% certain that marriage counseling will work for you.
Sometimes, you can learn all the skills, and improve your communication, but still run into blocks that keep your relationship from working.
The best predictor of success with regards to marriage counseling is how committed you are to each other and the process.
If you believe that failure is not an option in your marriage, then it won’t be.
If you approach therapy with an open mind and heart, if you are open to change and further developing yourself, if you are ready to let go of old hurts and build trust, then marriage counseling could very well strengthen your relationship.
If you commit to counseling and allow your marriage to be rebuilt in a healthy way, you will find that the new level of affection, respect, and friendship that you enjoy will leave you a much happier couple.
Just think about how much better your marriage will be when there is better understanding between you and your partner, when communication is not fraught with landmines that you are afraid to step in case it would lead to a fight, when you both know how to really listen to each other, and when you have no trouble identifying all the strengths in your relationship.
Keep in mind that the journey to that relationship from where you are is hard and requires sacrifice and commitment from both of you.
How Does an Unhappy Relationship Affect You?
Being in an unhappy marriage can be very draining on a person, emotionally and physically.
Fighting with your spouse releases all kinds of stress hormones and sends our bodies into the stress response cycle (better known as fight or flight).
When our lives become too stressed, we often get angry and irritated more easily.
It becomes more difficult to regulate our emotions and do the things we know we need to do to calm ourselves.
Stress can affect our bodies negatively in many different ways:
- More likely to catch a cold or flu
- Loss of sex drive
- Headaches and body aches
- Stomach issues
- Chest pain
- Panic attacks
While there are things that you can do to relieve stress (exercise, cry) the best way to deal with stress is to eliminate the source.
Of course no marriage can be stress-free, but it is usually easier and more relaxing to be with your partner when you are getting along and not fighting.
Reflect Before Committing to Therapy
You can set yourself up for success in marriage counseling by taking some time to reflect before your first session.
- Ask yourself what you want to get out of therapy.
It is extremely helpful if you not only have a good idea about what’s going wrong, have a clear picture of what your marriage will look like after counseling is over.
If you and your spouse are able, sit down together and have that conversation.
- Ask yourself if you are willing to put in the personal work on yourself that needs to be done.
Change is difficult, and depending on what is going on in your life, you may not be in a place where you can take on that challenge.
Please know that this is ok. Take the time you need to mentally prepare for counseling and come into it ready to work.
- Be prepared to set boundaries for well-meaning family and friends.
Of course, your family and friends want the best for you, but they may not always have the best advice.
Only you know if your relationship is worth saving.
If working on things is the decision you and your partner came to, then feel free to ask the people in your life to trust you and what you are doing for yourself.
- Be prepared to change therapists if you are not comfortable with the one you have.
I know this can be a pain. After all, you already spilled your guts to a complete stranger, and really don’t want to do it again.
However, if you dread going to counseling, it’s not going to work for you.
Don’t worry about hurting your therapist’s feelings, just let them know that you decided to go in a different direction. If they get mean with you or demanding, it’s just more proof that you made the right decision.
- Start Early
Don’t wait until one of you has your foot out the door.
Every marriage has its ups and downs, but you know what’s normal for your marriage.
Don’t let hurt, pain, anger, and resentment build an unscalable wall between the two of you.
How Therapy can Fix Broken Communication
The number one complaint therapists hear in couples counseling is that there is a breakdown in communication.
No one quite knows how it happens. You go from talking every day, to barely talking to each other at all.
And when you do talk, it’s about the kids, bills, or household chores.
Whether your problem is no communication, or every conversation leads to a fight, communication issues can create stress, frustrations, and annoyances with each other.
Therapy can work wonders for your communication with your spouse by taking your broken communication patterns and making them whole.
You will both learn how to speak in a way that is clear and concise, so your partner understands.
Therapy will also teach you how to actively listen, and overcome the blocks to listening that we all have.
The 12 different types of Blocking Communication are:
- Comparing- trying to compare who is smarter, more competent, who suffered more in the conversation.
- Mind Reading – making assumptions about how people react to you, based more on intuition, hunches, and vague misgivings than on what people actually say to you.
- Rehearsing – Your whole attention is on the preparation and crafting of your next comment.
- Filtering- you listen to some things and not to others. You pay only enough attention to see if somebody’s angry or unhappy or if you’re in emotional danger.
- Judging- If you prejudge someone as stupid or nuts or unqualified, you don’t pay much attention to what that person says. You’ve already written the person off.
- Dreaming – You’re half listening and something the person says suddenly triggers a chain of private associations.
- Identifying – Everything you hear reminds you of something that you’ve felt, done, or suffered.
- Advising – You are the great problem solver, ready with help and suggestions. You don’t have to hear more than a few sentences before you begin searching for the right advice.
- Sparring- you argue and debate with people. The other person never feels heard because you’re so quick to disagree.
- Being Right – you will go to any lengths to avoid being wrong. You will twist the facts, start shouting, make excuses or accusations, or call up past sins.
- Derailing – suddenly changing the subject. You derail the train of conversation when you get bored or uncomfortable with a topic.
- Placating- You want people to like you, so you agree with everything.
Once you both have a good handle on those listening blocks, you are then able to begin self-reflecting and working on being more engaged in conversations.
Overcoming the Uncomfortable
Let’s be honest, talking to a complete stranger about your deepest and most intimate problems and secrets is awkward.
You may even be worried about feeling judged or not understood.
Maybe you think the therapist will blame everything on you like your spouse does.
These, and many more, are valid concerns.
Rest assured, the therapist is not there to pick a favorite or make you feel bad about yourself.
The therapist’s job is to help you both see how your actions lead to the problems you are having keep you stuck.
There is probably nothing that you can tell your therapist that will shock them or make them uncomfortable.
If you do get the feeling that your therapist is judging you, know that it’s not you, it’s them, and that is a big red flag that you should find another therapist.
Marriage counseling won’t work for every marriage, but if you love your partner and want to try to mend things, then marriage counseling can work wonders for your marriage leaving you both feeling closer and more connected to each other than ever.