How Couples Therapy Can Save Your Marriage
Updated March 22, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
Stuck. Broken. Frustrated. Powerless. These are feelings that can be used to describe how one feels in a failing relationship. Like sailors lost at sea, many couples know where they want their marriage to end up but don't have the tools or sense of direction needed to get them there.
Couples therapy has been proven as an effective tool for healing a broken relationship and saving marriages on the brink of divorce. But because of the stigma surrounding counseling, research shows that only a fourth of all divorcing couples ever seek professional help. This is unfortunate since study after study also shows that couples who enter couples therapy leave happier and healthier.
If you're struggling to hold on to a crumbling marriage, couples therapy might be your saving grace as well. But to reach this type of success, one has to consider why people enter therapy in the first place, understand how it can help, and learn where to find assistance.
Reasons Why Couples Seek Therapy
Many couples mistakenly believe that they won't benefit from therapy because their issues aren't "that bad." You don't have to be in the midst of an affair or on the brink of leaving to seek help. In fact, it's better to be proactive and tackle your problems early before they morph into something too difficult to overcome.
On the opposite end, you have people who feel there is no sense in attending counseling sessions because their marriages are too far gone. In reality, it doesn't matter if your marital problems are simple or complex. If an issue stops you from living your fullest life with your partner, couples therapy is a viable option. Common reasons why couples seek help from a relationship therapist include:
- Premarital counseling
- Communication problems
- Lack of emotional/physical connection
- Intimacy issues
- Nontraditional relationship navigation
- Blended family issues
- Lack of trust
- Divorce/ending a relationship
Though these are some of the most common reasons couples seek counseling, this list is not all-inclusive. As times are changing, married couples face twenty-first-century marital struggles that our parents never had to face. Don't let embarrassment or the fact that you think your relationship issues are 'uncommon' keep you from seeking help that could improve your relationship and your wellbeing.
Ways Couples Therapy Can Help
The title of this article is accurate but also a bit misleading. The truth is, only you and your spouse can save your relationship. Couples therapy is one of, if not the best, tools to assist you in your journey to a better, stronger marriage, but the choice is yours. Think of your therapist as your guide and the process as a map. These things can help you reach your destination, but you still have to do the hiking. Whether or not a marriage can be saved involves some factors. Still, therapy has been used in the past to help couples:
1. Improve their communication skills. During therapy, a counselor can help couples explore different communication styles, understand the role that cultural differences play in communication, and learn more effective communication skills. Improving communication often leads to positive advancements in many other areas of the relationship.
2. Become close again. Many couples go to see a therapist because they feel their marriage has hit a "slump." Although they used to be emotionally and physically close, they now feel like two ships passing in the night. This loss of attachment is not uncommon, but it is a cause for concern that can lead to other issues like infidelity. A good therapist can help a couple see the 'bigger picture and strengthen intimacy and the marital bond.
3. Move past an affair. When one or both partners are unfaithful in a marriage, the effects can be devastating. Even when a couple decides to stay together and work things out, mistrust, anger, bitterness, and a slew of other emotions can rob the relationship of anything positive that still exists. Even years later, the affair's damage can still be seen if the husband and wife don't know how to move past any indiscretions. Couples therapy can assist with this process since relationship experts know how couples can successfully overcome emotional and physical infidelity.
4. Build trust. If you're seeking couples therapy, there is a good possibility that trust is a touchy subject in your relationship. Depending on your partner, trust that they will be there, and let go of bitterness and past hurt is a tough hill to climb. Therapists are great at helping couples move past the hurt and begin building trust with each one.
5. Set boundaries. Part of that moving-on process includes setting boundaries so that 'bad behavior' doesn't become a relationship hazard. Both partners in a relationship/marriage should feel comfortable expressing their needs and limitations regarding what they will/will not accept. This is not always the case.
Take, for example, twenty-seven-year-old James. He recently became engaged to Rachel, his girlfriend of three years. Rachel, by nature, is a talkative and direct person. James, on the other hand, is quieter and reserved. In most situations, their difference in communication styles isn't an issue. In fact, they usually balance each other out, so to speak.
But with the stress of wedding planning, James and Rachel have been arguing more and more. When Rachel nags James about planning responsibilities, he begins to shut down. He doesn't want to think or talk about the wedding, especially when Rachel voices her complaints disrespectfully and condescendingly. This usually leads to an argument since Rachel cannot understand why James does not want to 'talk things out.'
During premarital counseling, James was able to find his voice and tell Rachel how he felt about her constant complaining. They were also able to set boundaries regarding name-calling and putdowns during disagreements. Two years later, they are married and happy to solve their pre-marital problems in just a few counseling sessions.
6. Strengthen the family unit. Blended families are extremely common these days. When marrying for the first or fourth time, many people will be entering into a situation where either they or their spouse will be a stepparent. This in and of itself isn't an issue. But blended families come with unique difficulties that can be destructive to a marriage if not handled correctly.
Some of the challenges that couples counseling can help husbands and wives of blended families overcome revolve around:
- Extended family
Though every family situation is unique, the main way to overcome these types of issues is threefold. You must build trust and improve communication while simultaneously setting up a family plan that outlines guidelines/boundaries for handling current problems and those that come up in the future. Because an experienced couples therapist has helped other couples navigate through similar problems, he or she can be a great asset to have as you take on the same challenges.
Where To Find Help
Accepting that you could benefit from couples counseling is the hardest step. The second is finding the best person to assist you in bringing your marriage into a happy, healthy place. Lots of people start with a Google search of local providers. While this is a viable option, it is not always practical. Booking an appointment with a therapist around one work/life schedule can be tricky. There are two partners to consider with couples therapy, which makes things even more challenging, especially if you work in a different part of town or on a different schedule than your spouse.
For these reasons, many couples are seeking online options. Online platforms offer something traditional services do not since help can be reached after traditional hours through a computer, tablet, or smartphone. However, one thing to consider is not all online counseling services are trustworthy and provided by licensed professionals. These should be avoided.
Instead, seek out a service provider that offers the flexibility of tech-based counseling from therapists who are trained and the board approved. ReGain is one such service that offers convenient, discreet, and affordable access to a licensed therapist from anywhere, anytime. ReGain is unique since all ReGain staff have a Masters or Doctoral Degree and have been certified by their state's professional board after completing the necessary education, exams, training, and practice.
One thing that stops couples from seeking help is the expense. But signing up for ReGain is both simple and affordable. It is certainly less costly than hiring attorneys and going through the process of a divorce/custody battle.
Regardless of which provider you choose, making yourself and your partner a priority by seeking out help through couples therapy can save your relationship. As long as you are ready and willing to do the work, you will soon be on your way to a better life than the one you live today.
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