Get Answers To Marriage Counseling Questions
Updated July 12, 2019
The following questions are answers to marriage counseling questions commonly asked by those considering therapy.
How Do I Bring Up the Topic?
If you and your partner have been struggling in your relationship, you may want to seek out marital counseling. According to one study, the most difficult part of starting martial counseling is convincing your partner to agree to participate in the process. Right from the start, if the topic is not brought up in the right way, or even if it is, but at a less than an opportune moment, it is possible or even likely that it is received as a personal attack.
There are no 'dos' or don'ts when it comes to talking about marriage counseling with your partner. There are things that you can do to make the answer to be a 'yes' instead of a no.
Don't Bring it Up While Fighting
In the middle of an argument is not the time to bring up marriage or couples counseling. By doing so, you risk your partner misinterpreting a genuine attempt to improve the relationship. They might think the 'marriage counseling' suggestion is just a passive-aggressive threat. They might also accuse you of playing the blame game. Or, your spouse might think that you will leave the relationship unless they agree to go into counseling.
You also are probably better off not bringing up the subject at a high moment, such as during or after an enjoyable date. Even if this is not threatening like bringing it up in a low moment like an argument, it is still likely to lead to a heavy conversation that then leads to talking about present or potential issues in the relationship - that can be quite a buzz kill for a nice time. Particularly if you are having constant or more regular problems with your partner and you happen to have a good night, the last thing you want to do is ruin that by disrupting the opportunity to experience intimacy and other positive emotions with a discussion that can probably wait.
There is no perfect time to bring up the subject, but there are times that are more likely than others to result in the desired outcome. As mentioned, you do not want your partner to feel threatened, nor do you want to sour a nice time with a heavy topic.
A good time to try to bring up the idea that counseling is something you should try might be after a minor conflict is resolved amicably. While it might seem like that's the time to pick your battles, it is one of those middle ground moments where the idea that there are issues that can be addressed is already present in both partners' minds, or at least your minds are primed to think about it rather than having it seemingly come out of nowhere.
Let's take an example that sitcom TV shows often use to portray married couples. (Of course partnerships and marriages come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but for the sake of our purposes here we will use traditional roles.)
Mary is a homemaker who takes care of the household and the children while Jack goes off to work at the office from 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening, Monday to Friday. Mary feels like Jack is disconnected and finds it hard to communicate, but Jack sees it that he works all day and doesn't want to be bombarded upon walking in the door, which is when Mary tends to bring up the things she's been waiting to talk about all day. So he comes home one average day, and Mary tells him that the kids are acting up and she needs his help. Jack snaps at her, saying he just wants a minute to relax after a long day at work.
Mary doesn't appreciate how Jack handled the situation, but instead of picking a battle right then and there, she decides to let them both cool off. After dinner, Jack has had time to shower, change, watch a TV show, and eat dinner. At that point, Mary decides to say she didn't mean to upset him but she does not appreciate how they communicate, and while they both have valid points, they have to find common ground because she doesn't want to be a nag and he doesn't want to be a jerk.
This is just one example on an endless list of scenarios that may not be perfect, but circumstances allow for the topic to be brought up within context and without aggression.
Do We Even Need Counseling?
There are many questions to ask yourself and your partner that can help gauge whether or not counseling is right for you. Sitting down and talking through any issues will probably give both of you a hint of what your relationship looks like from your point of view as well as your partner's. If any of the answers to these questions seem negative, it may be time to seek help from a certified marital counselor.
What does trust look like in your relationship?
Trust comes in many forms and is difficult for some people to give up. It can also be broken very easily, and the task of rebuilding it can be painstaking.
For instance, if one partner has been unfaithful in the past, the trust may have assumed to be gained back, but, in reality, it was not. Knowing if and when your partner trusts you (and vice versa) or finding that trust has been broken, can be the enlightening for couples. A marital therapist can help couples to find ways to forgive and regain confidence in the relationship.
Trust can also have to do with reliability. Can you trust your partner's word? If they say they will do something, can you trust them to do it?
Let's say that one partner exhibits a pattern of saying they will bring home dinner, pick up the dry cleaning, or fix the broken step in the basement, etc. But when the time comes, they do not fulfill what was promised. Therapy can help partners understand why this hurts the relationship and that emphasizing this thing that bothers the other person can help motivate the unreliable party to take their commitments more seriously.
What does communication look like in your relationship?
Many couples find that communication gets pushed aside as other life events come into play like having children, focusing on a job, or needing to take care of a family member. Many couples do not even realize that they have lost their ability to communicate with their spouse. Other couples may have resorted to yelling or have engaged in negative communication. If you and your partner are finding it difficult to communicate, a counselor may be able to help give you both tools as well as give suggestions on how to regain healthy communication.
As in the example with Mary and Jack, we saw that there was a breakdown in communication, but also that all hope is not lost. This problem can manifest in any number of different ways and unfortunate irony; it can seem like it takes the skills learned in therapy to be able to get both partners to agree to counsel in the first place. It may take multiple attempts at having the conversation before the conversation takes place, and that's completely fine. One of the most important things to remember is that you do not want the suggestion to see a marital counselor come off as a threat.
Talking in a positive light about all kinds of therapy and communication, self-improving activities such as yoga or meditation, and other things peripherally related to going to see a marriage therapist can help reduce the potential negative knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion.
What are the significant issues in the relationship?
Although you may find that trust is the biggest issue, your partner may find that not having enough free time to spend with you is deteriorating the relationship. There may be more than one issue, or many issues that are related. While talking about these issues may be helpful, you may find that speaking to a counselor would be best to help figure out how to resolve these issues.
This again can seem like it wouldn't need to be directly discussed, but it's in our nature to see the world from an egocentric perspective (not to be confused with egotistical) and what can seem like it should be evident to our partner could be something they have never even thought of before. You could wager a bet that no relationship in history has been without at least one partner saying the phrase, "I'm not a mind reader!" in an exasperated attempt to please the other person. This is a hyperbolic statement but the point that stands that it is difficult to be acutely aware of which of our thoughts and feelings are understood by our partner, and how those thoughts and feelings are perceived.
When trying to resolve issues with a third party present like a marital therapist, it can be immensely helpful to break up the momentum of a given conversation that is spiraling into negativity merely based on one partner's assumption that the other partner is being malicious, when they are simply acting out of ignorance of the problem.
She is going back to Jack and Mary. If they start arguing over the same thing, as usual, coming home and getting bombarded walking in the door, it is only natural for Mary to feel like Jack is malicious. She might not understand why he is acting the way he is, and it can leave her feeling anger towards Jack. This anger might overwhelm any desire to create an environment where she doesn't trigger negative emotions.
Likewise, Jack might feel that him going to work is unappreciated and that Mary doesn't believe he deserves time to get the little break he'd like when he gets home before he deals with issues within the household. Very likely if a couples counselor were to simply point out that both partners are reacting to strawmen and not the reality of the situation, the path to compassion for each other becomes much clearer.
Working Through Issues
Answering these questions with your spouse or partner will no doubt give some clarity as to the necessity of receiving marital counseling. If you and your spouse struggle to answer any of these questions, a qualified counselor can potentially provide a comfortable setting where both partners can feel safe. If your partner is hesitant or resistant to engage in counseling, suggest that they meet one on one with the counselor before they engage in partners counseling. This can help loosen the stronghold around their negative ideas of what counseling is and what it means to be seeing a therapist.
There are several helpful resources for couples, including online counseling. Partners can choose from a wide variety of counselors and can choose to engage in counseling when it best fits their schedules. Don't hesitate to seek help if you feel that your relationship could benefit from counseling.