It’s no secret; marriage is hard. It may seem counterintuitive that one of the best events in your life (your wedding) could cause you so much pain later. Even the best marriages go through rough patches that leave you wondering if marriage counseling could be the solution to your problems. The thing is, good relationships take work.
Someone who expects married life to be a walk in the park might not have what it takes to stick with their husband or wife through the good and the bad. Someone who acknowledges that ups and downs are a part of life and is ready to do what it takes to get through challenges will probably be more likely to make things work.
According to the American Psychological Association, “about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” Marriage isn’t easy, but at least this means that 50 to 60 percent of marriages still make it. So, how do you save a marriage that feels like it’s falling apart? That’s where marriage counseling comes in.
Why Married Couples Seek Out Counseling
If you’ve been seriously thinking about going to a marriage counselor, you might be wondering if your problems are a normal couple of problems. You might ask yourself, “Do other people go through this with their spouse? What will a counselor think?” Luckily, a survey conducted by Statistic Brain in 2017 revealed some of the top reasons why married couples go to counseling. The top three responses were:
See how the top reason couples go to marriage counseling is so vague? You might feel like something is off but not know what it is. Whatever the reason, admitting that there’s a problem in your marriage and being willing to work at it are two important first steps. There’s no shame in seeking help for a small problem (even if you’re not sure what the problem is yet) before it gets worse.
Does Marriage Counseling Even Work?
A quick look at the information available on marriage counseling shows mixed results. The New York Times states, “Two years after ending counseling, studies find, 25 percent of couples are worse off than they were when they started, and after four years, up to 38 percent are divorced.” These statistics are concerning, but keep in mind that this means 75 percent of couples aren’t worse off after counseling, and 62% stay together.
These mixed statistics tell us that several factors can influence the success of a couple in marriage counseling. Three ways to improve your chances of finding a suitable marriage counselor include:
The truth is, a lot of counselors who offer couples and family counseling are not specifically trained to work with more than one person. In many cases, these counselors tend to provide only ‘band-aid’ solutions, like coping mechanisms, to deal with relationship issues.
Unfortunately, some counselors may not have the experience or expertise to get to the root of a couple’s marital problems. The result is that couples may do better for a while after counseling, but these deeper problems eventually resurface.
Learning coping mechanisms isn’t bad, especially if communicating as a couple is your weak point. Still, it’s important to know what type of approach your counselor takes to help relationships. Different types of counseling have different methods and beliefs, and it’s important to find an approach that makes sense to you.
Taking your time to find the right counselor is important. When it comes to fixing a broken marriage, some of the best approaches are the ones that investigate deeper issues rather than only working to improve listening and communication.
Another reason why marriage counseling can be unsuccessful is that couples try it too late. If there’s been mistrust, arguments, lying, and cheating going on in a marriage for years, the resentment that’s built up in the relationship can be hard to undo. If one or both people in the relationship are ready to call it quits, it’s possible that they barely made it to marriage counseling in the first place.
A lot of couples consider counseling to be a last resort. To some struggling couples, agreeing to go to marriage counseling might seem too drastic. However, it’s never too soon to get help when you need it. It’s better to get counseling and fix your problems before they get too bad than wait until it’s too late. The lessons and tools that you learn in counseling can even help your relationship in the long term.
How Marriage Counseling Can Revitalize Your Relationship
Now that we’ve looked at why couples go to marriage counseling and why marriage counseling isn’t always effective, it’s time to learn a little about how marriage counseling can revitalize your relationship.
A counselor can teach valuable skills that will help committed couples succeed in their relationships over the long term. These skills include things like how to communicate better and actively listen to each other. Other things that can make a difference are learning to cool down when tempers rise and having a calm conversation later.
If things like anxiety or depression factor into your relationship, a counselor can teach the person dealing with mental illness ways to cope (like grounding techniques, for example). A counselor can also teach the person’s partner how to help when certain symptoms come up and what things are not helpful in these situations.
Learning different skills to use in your relationship is great, but it won’t get you very far if you don’t get to the root of what caused your marital problems in the first place. If you and your partner have been struggling to get along for a while, chances are it started somewhere. You may or may not know the root of your problems, but that’s what often needs to be fixed for a marriage to thrive again.
A counselor can help you identify root problems in your relationship by getting you to think back to when your issues started. When was the last time you were truly happy together? When you fight, do you bring up things from the past that are unrelated to the argument at hand? Analyzing these important details can tell you what’s going on and help you figure out what needs to be done to make your relationship better again.
When a marriage is on the rocks, some couples tend to shut down and barely speak to each other unless they’re fighting. Other couples become used to lying and hiding things from each other, which magnifies their problems. In these cases, counseling can help couples start to communicate more openly and honestly again.
During your counseling sessions, you are there for each other. If you’re attending, it means that you want to work on your relationship and you’re willing to participate. It might be hard at first, but once you start to open up, you’ll likely feel better. You might learn that some of the problems you’ve been having are misunderstandings caused by your lack of communication.
Know Your Options
Finding an experienced marriage counselor can be tough, so it’s important to know your options before settling on the first recommendation you get. If you’re a busy couple without much time or you live in a rural area, finding a counselor can be even harder. Many couples don’t know that there are now alternatives to in-person counseling that are just as effective and more affordable.
Online counseling and therapy services like Regain can connect you with a certified or professional counselor who you can speak to from the comfort of your home. If your partner does not want to take part in counseling, remember that individual counseling is another option that can help if you are struggling.
Marriage counseling doesn’t always work for everyone, but it can give some couples a second chance at happiness. The key to successful marriage counseling is taking the time to find a professional who is experienced and qualified to help. Once you find a counselor, you both need to be willing to put in the work to make your relationship better.
Effective marriage counseling can revitalize your marriage by helping you learn to communicate and listen to each other better while also getting at some of the deeper issues that caused your marital problems in the first place. For best results, try to seek out help when you first notice a problem instead of waiting until it’s possibly too late.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There’s never a wrong time to seek marriage counseling! Even the strongest relationships can be strengthened and improved by couples therapy. However, there are a few signs that your marriage could be revitalized or even saved by marriage counseling, so don’t hesitate to find a marriage counselor if you notice these issues in your relationship.
First, if you have been feeling indifferent or like you don’t care about your partner and their life (and vice versa), it’s time to go to couples therapy. Indifference is the opposite of love, and a healthy marriage needs love to thrive. Another sign that you should go to marriage counseling is if none of your communication is positive or productive. If every conversation ends in an argument, your relationship isn’t healthy. A lack of intimacy is also a reason to find a therapist, as both spouses keep secrets and lie to each other.
Extramarital affairs, financial infidelity, and having the same fights repeatedly are all issues that may need couples' therapy to be fixed. Although it is possible to work through issues on your own in some cases, there are likely problems in communication that are keeping you from doing so. A marriage and family therapist can provide you with the tools you need to work through your problems and recover the spark you once had. A therapist can help you make your marriage the best marriage it can be!
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy conducted a study that revealed high levels of patient satisfaction. Of the families and couples surveyed, 97% reported that they got the help they needed. An impressive 93% said that marriage counseling had provided them effective tools for communication and conflict resolution. So if you’re looking to find a marriage counselor, don’t doubt the process!
A study that focused specifically on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) revealed that this type of couples therapy had a 75% success rate, meaning that three-fourths of couples in crisis were able to recover and revitalize their relationship thanks to marriage counseling. 90% of couples who turned to EFT reported that their relationship had experienced significant improvement.
EFT works by giving a couple of insights into their emotional responses. Then it uses that knowledge to reorganize their emotional cycles and reconnect with each other for the best marriage possible. As a general rule, marriage counseling works the majority of the time if both partners are involved and committed to saving the marriage, so don’t delay in your search to find a marriage counselor.
Once you’ve done the work to find a marriage therapist, it’ll be time to schedule some counseling sessions. Your first marriage counseling session will consist of your therapist asking lots of questions about both spouses, their childhoods, and how they met. Many couples feel discouraged after the first session because it’s focused on getting to know you rather than jumping straight into marriage therapy. But this is a necessary step for couples counseling to be effective. The best marriage and family therapists will take the time to learn about both partners before offering advice.
After the first session, you, your partner, and your therapist will work out some goals and a rough timeline for achieving them through marriage counseling. For some couples, a few months of couples counseling will be enough. For others, it may become a long-term way of maintaining their marriage. Next, your marriage and family therapist will begin to teach you helpful skills such as patience, honesty, forgiveness, and communication.
An important part of marriage counseling is homework that you will have to do in between sessions. These homework activities are just as important as your therapy appointments because they allow you to apply what you’ve learned. Possible homework activities include completing a worksheet together, going on a date, and logging conflicts and feelings that arise as a result.
For the best marriage possible, both partners need to be willing to listen and work together. Marriage counseling may also consist of each spouse meeting with the therapist separately to work on their specific issues and weak points.
If both partners improve the relationship through marriage counseling, then it’s very likely to be effective and can even make your marriage the best marriage it’s ever been. However, it is important to note that although almost all therapists offer couples therapy, not all have the specific training needed to conduct marriage counseling effectively. You’ll need a marriage counselor with the appropriate education, certifications, and experience for the best results.
The best marriage counselor is a Certified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). An MFT has a Master’s degree in either marriage and family therapy or a mental health field such as psychology. An MFT has also completed a supervised internship, passed a state-mandated examination, and obtained a state-issued license.
When you’re looking to find a marriage counselor, be sure to look for the MFT certification to get the best marriage counseling possible. All couples experience issues throughout their marriages, and a marriage and family therapist can help. It’s easy to find a marriage counselor--start by asking family and friends for recommendations or do a simple Google search. You can even find a marriage counselor to talk to online, from the comfort of your own home.
One sign that your marriage is in trouble is if you’re constantly thinking about leaving or having an exit strategy formed. Poor communication over several years of marriage can also lead to a lack of friendship and intimacy and a weakened marriage. If a person in a relationship tries to overcompensate for the lack of love and connection by constantly posting about it on social media as if it’s the best marriage ever, this is a red flag as well.
If you and your spouse constantly fight and don’t seem to communicate effectively, it’s time to find a marriage and family therapist who can help you learn the communication skills you need for your marriage to thrive and prosper. On the other hand, if you and your spouse can’t bring yourselves to care enough to argue at all, that’s also a sign that you need to find a marriage counselor.
Situations of abuse are also huge red flags. If you feel relieved when your partner isn’t around, that’s a sign that your marriage is not healthy. Be sure to find a marriage and family therapist who can help you decide the best course of action. In some cases, the best thing to do is separate on good terms.