A troubled marriage is a nightmare that’s becoming more and more common, with US divorce statistics soaring to include 40 to 50% of all marriages. But not every stormy relationship hits the rocks; marriage counseling or couples therapy can have a significant positive impact. Here are five tips for making the most of marriage counseling sessions.
Don’t wait until the relationship is truly on the brink. Waiting too long to seek professional help is one of the main reasons that marriage counseling or couples therapy fails. The earlier a couple seeks help, the better the odds that therapy or counseling can actually keep them together.
Be willing to move beyond anger and blame. Often by the time couples actually seek counseling they’re built up a history of years of conflict, distrust, and issues ranging from reckless spending to sexual incompatibility, and the primary feelings they have toward each other and the marriage itself are almost all negative. In order for counseling to really be effective, both parties must be willing to do some real soul-searching, move past the obvious, and look at the feelings behind the anger and resentment.
Be prepared to actually listen to what the other person is saying. The longer a couple has been together, the greater the temptation for each to simply assume they know what the other really thinks, feels, or means. In fact, this tendency is a big part of why marriages fail in the first place; when people attribute emotions and motives to each other without really making a sincere effort to hear, understand, and accept what their partner is saying, any kind of meaningful communication grinds to a halt and resolution is impossible.
Don’t ask for or accept input from outsiders. As much as you love your friends and family, and as strongly as they may feel about the need to give you their opinions and advice, input from people outside of the marriage is really the last thing you need. Set clear boundaries and refuse to discuss your partner, your problems, or your counseling sessions with anyone outside of the marriage.
Be prepared to put in both time and effort. Marriage counseling isn’t easy, fun, or fast, but it can be the most worthwhile thing you’ve ever done. The length of time that counseling takes depends on many factors, including the commitment of both partners, the severity and duration of their marriage problems, and the counseling model their coach, counselor, or therapist is using. Couples who are willing to commit to weekly counseling sessions generally make the fastest progress. Some couples can get the help they need in a few sessions, while others find that several months of weekly sessions are necessary.