Couples may seek therapy to improve communication, develop better intimacy, work through infidelity, navigate nontraditional relationships, learn how to fight in a healthy way, and more. Couples therapy can be an excellent way to improve communication skills, grow closer, build trust, set boundaries, move past issues, resolve conflict, recognize patterns, and remain happy and healthy as partners. You may find a suitable couples therapist in your local area or through an online therapy platform.
Reasons Why Couples May Seek Therapy
Many couples mistakenly believe that they won't benefit from therapy because their issues aren't "that bad." You don't necessarily have to be in the midst of an affair or on the brink of leaving to seek marriage help. It can be better to be proactive and tackle your problems early before they morph into something too difficult to overcome.
On the opposite end, you can have people who feel there is no sense in attending counseling sessions because their marriages are too far gone. In reality, it doesn't always matter if your marriage problems are simple or complex. If an issue stops you from living your fullest life with your partner, couples therapy can be a viable option.
- Premarital counseling
- Communication problems
- Lack of emotional/physical connection
- Intimacy issues
- Nontraditional relationship navigation
- Blended family issues
- Lack of trust
- Divorce/ending a relationship
- Feeling trapped in the marriage
Though these are often some of the most common reasons couples seek counseling, this list is not all-inclusive. As times change, married couples often face twenty-first-century marital struggles that older generations 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 well-being. A positive and harmonious marital relationship can be supported by partners who understand how to listen, respect, and communicate in an honest and open manner.
How Couples Therapy Can Help
The title of this article is accurate, but it can also be a bit misleading. If you're wondering how to save a marriage or relationship, the truth is usually that only you and your spouse can save it. Couples therapy can be an excellent tool to assist you in your journey to a better, stronger marriage, but the choice tends to be yours. Therapy can help couples:
Improve Their Communication Skills
During therapy, a counselor can help couples explore different communication styles, understand the role of cultural differences in communication, and learn more effective communication skills. Improving communication often leads to positive advancements in many other areas of the relationship.
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 may now feel like two ships passing in the night. This loss of attachment is not uncommon, but it can be a cause for concern that can contribute to other issues, like infidelity. A good therapist can help a couple see the bigger picture and strengthen intimacy and the marital bond.
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 spouses don't know how to move past indiscretions. Couples therapy can assist with this process.
If you're seeking couples therapy, there is a good possibility that trust is a touchy subject in your relationship. Depending on your partner, trusting that they will be there, and letting go of bitterness and past hurt can be a tough hill to climb. Therapists can be great at helping couples move past the hurt and begin building trust.
Part of the moving-on process often includes setting boundaries so that 'bad behavior' doesn't become a relationship hazard. Both partners in a relationship or marriage should generally feel comfortable expressing their needs and limitations regarding what they will and will not accept.
Some couples never really learn how to fight "well" before getting married, and, as a result, the smaller fights can develop into bigger ones and catch up with the couple over time. A couples therapist may identify the areas in which both individuals need to change to reduce tensions and act as an unbiased mediator to work through conflicts.
When couples find themselves in therapy, it's usually because they've gotten into routines and habits that they don't know how to get out of. Over time, the couple may grow accustomed to the dysfunction and fail to see how damaging these patterns can be to the relationship. Couples therapy is often all about identifying these patterns (in both people) and putting in the effort to change them.
Happy couples can go to therapy, too! You don't have to be in a failing marriage to benefit from couples therapy. The therapist's office can be a great place to discuss the things on your mind that are hard to talk about at home. If you're discussing them openly and honestly as they come up, they may be less likely to spiral into huge issues down the road.
A Premarital Counseling Success Story
As an example of what couples therapy can accomplish, consider the following situation involving 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. They usually balance each other out.
But with the stress of wedding planning, James and Rachel have been arguing more and more. When Rachel reminds 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 doesn’t 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 have the necessary tools to solve any issues that may arise after just a few counseling sessions.
Strengthening The Family Unit
Blended families can be common these days. When they get married, many people enter into a situation where either they or their spouse will become a stepparent. This in and of itself isn't necessarily an issue, but blended families can come with unique difficulties that can be destructive to a happy marriage if not handled correctly.
Some of the challenges that couples counseling can help husbands and wives of blended families overcome may revolve around:
- Extended family
Though every family situation is unique, the main way to overcome these types of issues is threefold. You must generally build trust and improve communication while simultaneously setting up a family plan that outlines guidelines and boundaries for handling current problems and those in the future. Because an experienced couples therapist has likely helped other couples navigate through similar problems, they can be a great asset to have as you take on the same challenges.
Is My Marriage Worth Saving?
If you're at a low point in your marriage, you may be wondering if going to couples therapy is even worth it for saving your marriage. In that case, it can be better to rephrase the question in a different way. You might instead ask, "What are the signs my marriage is not worth saving?" Listed below are some of those potential signs:
- Your spouse is physically, emotionally, sexually, psychologically, or verbally abusive*. Abuse should never be tolerated, and it's always a reason to seek help.
- You feel unsafe around them.
- You can't get over something they did, such as cheating.
- You're the only one putting any effort into the relationship.
- You feel indifferent toward one another.
Aside from abuse, if you believe saving a marriage isn't worth it but still have your doubts, there's nothing wrong with speaking with a therapist.
*If you or a loved one is experiencing any type of abuse, please know that help is available. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Where To Find Help
Accepting that you could benefit from couples counseling can be the hardest step. The second-hardest step can be 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 can be a viable option, it is not always practical. Booking an appointment with a therapist around one work and life schedule can be tricky. There are generally two partners to consider with couples therapy, potentially making things even more challenging, especially if you work in a different part of town or on a different schedule than your spouse, or if you have to schedule childcare for when you’ll be attending therapy sessions.
For these reasons, many couples are seeking online options so they can get professional help from home. Online therapy platforms often offer something traditional services do not since help can usually be reached after traditional hours through a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Online couples therapy can be as effective as in-person couples therapy. As this study explains, its participants were initially concerned about the efficacy of online therapy. However, throughout the course of treatment, the participants generally found they were able to form a strong therapeutic alliance with their therapists, and they reported that the experience was a positive and beneficial one overall.
If you’re interested in improving or saving your marriage, then couples therapy can be a fantastic way to do so. You and your partner can resolve conflict, grow closer, improve your communication skills, set healthy boundaries, increase mutual trust, and more with the help of a licensed mental health professional. You can find a good couples therapist by looking for one locally or joining an online therapy platform where you can be matched with a suitable professional.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can counseling save a marriage?
Yes, couples counseling can be extremely effective and even bring a couple back from the brink of a breakup or divorce. If you and your spouse are having difficulties with your relationship, whether they be fights or feelings of growing apart, counseling can be a great way to get on the same page and work with a mediator to solve these issues.
What is the success rate of marriage counseling?
About 70% to 90% of couples report improvements in their relationships after attending marriage counseling.
When should you seek marriage counseling?
Many couples choose to book their first marriage counseling appointment when things seem so bad that the only other option is divorce. This is certainly not a bad time to go to marriage therapy. Still, it could also benefit your relationship to seek out treatment if you notice any of these signs:
- You have the same fight over and over.
- You can’t come to a compromise.
- You seem to focus on the negative.
- You are rarely physically intimate with each other.
- You think it’s only your partner that needs to change.
Can therapy hurt your marriage?
It is possible that with an untrained therapist or one that is not adept at working with couples, a married couple could end up in a worse place than they started. If you are speaking with a licensed therapist, and both parties genuinely want to go to therapy and save the marriage, then therapy should help, not hurt, your relationship. The good news is that you can always switch therapists if one isn’t working out. Always research your possible options beforehand, and make sure to ask lots of questions before choosing one.
Is my marriage worth saving?
If you are thinking thoughts like, “how can I save my marriage,” and “is my marriage even worth saving,” you are not alone. If you genuinely want to know how to save your marriage, and you feel that the marriage is best for you and your partner, and you are not in an abusive relationship or anything of the sort, then your marriage may be worth saving, particularly if both you and your partner are dedicated to repairing your relationship.
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