Get Answers To Marriage Counseling Questions
Updated March 03, 2020
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
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 marital 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 may be 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 conversation easier, though.
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 buzzkill 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.
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 licensed 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 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. The ability to trust your partner's word that they will do certain things as they've said is an important aspect of trust.
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.
This problem can manifest in any number of different ways and in unfortunate irony; it can sometimes seem like it takes the skills learned in therapy to be able to get both partners to agree to attend counseling 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.
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.