How Couples Therapy Can Save Your Marriage
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.
Learning about marriage tips for newlyweds alone won't guarantee a happy marriage. Even if you're a happy couple, you can still experience relationship problems every now and then. Difficult problems may arise wherein you might need a guidance of a marriage counselor. 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 marriage and divorce 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 and at the back of your head you keep on asking "is my marriage over?" then 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 marriage help. It's better to be proactive and tackle your problems early before morphing 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 marriage problems are simple or complex. If an issue stops you from living your fullest life with your partner, couples therapy is viable. 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
- Feeling trapped in marriage
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 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 is supported by one another who understands how to listen, respect and communicate in an honest and open manner.
Ways Couples Therapy Can Help
The title of this article is accurate but also a bit misleading. If you're thinking how to save a marriage or relationship; 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. To address the topic of how to get the most out of couples therapy, think of your therapist as your guide and the process as a map and you will arrive at your goal smoothly. 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 different factors and depends on the specific couple. The types of problems being faced and their severity are also important. Still, therapy has been used in the past to 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Resolve Conflict. 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 will identify the areas in which both individuals need to change to reduce tensions and act as an unbiased mediator to work through the conflict.
- Recognize patterns. 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. Their fights are resolved by shouting at one another or just never really resolved at all. Over time, the couple grows accustomed to the dysfunction and can't see how damaging these patterns are to the relationship. Couples therapy is all about identifying these patterns (in both people) and putting in the effort to change them.
- Stay happy. Happy couples go to therapy too! You don't have to be in a failing marriage to benefit from couples therapy. It's recommended you go since doing so will help you avoid having lost marriage in the future. The therapist's office is a great place to discuss the things on your mind that is hard to talk about at home. If you're discussing them openly and honestly as they come up, they won't spiral into huge issues down the road. It saves everyone time and doesn't add unnecessary stress to the marriage.
As an example of what couples therapy can accomplish, take 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 wants 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 premarital problems in just a few counseling sessions.
Strengthening 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 happy 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 in the future. Because an experienced couple's therapist has 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's better to rephrase the question a different way. You should instead ask, "What are the signs my marriage is not worth saving?" Listed below are some of those 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 towards 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. At least you'll know you did the best you could. Striving to live a life free of regret means following your instincts and trusting yourself to make the best decisions.
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, making 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 tech-based counseling flexibility from trained therapists and the board approved. ReGain is unique since all ReGain staff have a Master's or Doctoral Degree and have been certified by their state's professional board after completing the necessary education, exams, training, and practice.
Sometimes couples are discouraged by the cost of therapy and choose not to go forward with it. The same could also be said of hiring attorneys and going through divorce and custody battles. Couples should thoughtfully consider all of the options they have moving forward. If they each decide that investing in their relationship is worth it, there are many different choices for help. Every couple solves their conflict differently, so don't be afraid to try more than one thing; the effort will be worth it in the end.
Signing up for ReGain is both simple and affordable if you do choose to go that route. Regardless of which provider you choose, making yourself and your partner a priority by seeking 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.
"Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think differently. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together."
"Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling initially, but I truly believe that it makes a difference in our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to, and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor."
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. In this article written by a marriage counselor, Huffpost writes that there are some traits you and your partner can look for to see if marriage counseling can be successful for you. Most of these traits amount to a willingness to work on your relationship and marriage and attend couples counseling to begin with. If you and your spouse are willing to commit to seeing a therapist, your marriage may be able to be saved.
Something else to consider is therapy before any problems even arise. For example, say that you don’t feel your relationship is in trouble, but you know there are high stakes. Perhaps you and your partner work together, or there is a conflict between your families, or maybe you love each other and want to see the relationship work out. In this case, you could go to counseling to better learn how to manage issues when they do come up. You could also try counseling before a major landmark. For example, there is pre-engagement counseling and pre-marriage counseling. The point is, you don’t need to be in trouble to seek out counseling from a relationship expert. Counseling is effective for all stages of a relationship and all types of people.
What is the success rate of marriage counseling?
About 70-90% of couples report improvements in their relationships after attending marriage counseling. According to an American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy study, 98% of families have said that their therapy services were good or excellent. This demonstrates that many couples are making marriage work through marriage therapy.
Having the right mindset when going in can also drastically improve the success rate. For example, when couples decide to attend therapy together, it proves that they are already willing to work on their marriage. Couples that think they have a broken marriage that cannot ever be helped through marriage counseling usually never even find out if their years of marriage could be saved successfully. Therefore, it is important to have a good attitude; you only get what you bring to counseling.
Also, remember that counseling is not one simple panacea. When you start counseling, that is not when the hard work ends. Counseling will require attention, dedication, and even homework. But suppose both people in the relationship genuinely want to save their union. In that case, the hard work will pay off, and you will most likely find that you both overcome past emotional trauma and grow together in marriage. If you are thinking, “I need to save my marriage,” try attending marriage therapy at ReGain as soon as today.
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 with marriage counselors 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
There are also other forms of counseling designed to stop problems before they even start. In that case, counseling might be useful for you if:
- You want to learn how to fight more effectively or less frequently
- You plan on taking a major step like getting engaged or married, and you want to make sure you do things right. In this case, you may want to try pre-engagement counseling or pre-marriage counseling.
- You or your partner has dealt with trauma from past relationships or in your families, and you want to overcome your trauma and ensure the same cycles do not repeat themselves.
- You are often busy with work and are looking for time to focus on the relationship and one another.
- You have trouble communicating.
- You plan on having children soon, and you’d like to resolve any potential conflicts before they affect your household.
If any of these apply, you may choose to make a marriage counseling appointment. It doesn’t have to be a dire issue to bring to counseling; in fact, the sooner you realize something you would like help working through, the more likely you are to save your relationship.
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. You and your partner should decide what factors are important to you, such as the therapist’s age, gender, experience with certain issues, and qualifications. Since therapy is supposed to be helpful rather than hurtful, don’t stay in a harmful situation longer than necessary. Getting ready for couples therapy is ultimately about you and your spouse’s happiness, not the therapist's.
Most therapists are certified and qualified, especially at ReGain. At ReGain, we only hire licensed therapists who specialize in marriage and couples. We want what is best for your relationship and will work with you and your partner to guide you in the best direction. If you have taken steps to attend couple therapy with or without your partner, it is clear that you want your marriage to succeed, and therefore we will always do our best to help you find the ways to this success.
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 is worth saving.
Remember, people are complicated. Families are especially complicated. All relationships have their bad days (or weeks), and sometimes it’s easy to hope to throw in the towel. But remember that this conflict is normal, and even despite conflict and despite your mistakes, you are a whole person deserving of love. If you and your partner both genuinely want to be married, and you still feel love for each other, then your marriage is not only worth saving, but it is also possible to save it.
Provided with tools from the therapists at ReGain, it is possible to save your marriage. If you and your partner are willing to put in the work to attend counseling, this is a great sign that your marriage can be saved. You may also find that you still feel that you love each other, but the same fight keeps getting in the way, or your busy lives keep you from being intimate. These issues are common but can be helped, especially with mediation from a licensed therapist. Your relationships are within your control, and if you want to work towards a better marriage, therapy can help.
With that being said, there are times when ending the relationship is best for both parties and their families. An ending is not always a failure- sometimes, an ending to a relationship, a marriage, a household, a way of life, etc., can be the first step to building the life you genuinely want. If you and your partner end in divorce, a professional divorce therapist can help you work through all of these feelings and emotions.
Here are some things to ask yourself to know if your marriage is worth saving:
- Do you feel that, for being together, you and your partner are better, or worse?
- Do you worry that the relationship prevents you from achieving other important goals?
- Do you and your partner have the same vision for the future that involves both of you? If not, would you be willing to compromise so that your future may merge?
- Do either you or your partner genuinely not want to be in the relationship anymore?
- Are you struggling to feel attraction toward your spouse?
- Do you feel that the way you and your partner split household chores and work is fair? Is one person taking on more work than the other? Do you or your partner ever feel taken advantage of?
- Has resentment built up in your relationship that you cannot move past?
- Is your relationship toxic or abusive?
- Does your partner frequently mock or belittle you?
- Does your partner frequently cross boundaries that you have asked them not to cross?
- Does your partner embarrass you or put you down in public?
- Is your partner extremely jealous or controlling?
- Does your partner control all finances, not allow you to make purchases, or throw away your possessions?
- Does your partner follow you or track your location in circumstances that make you feel uncomfortable or controlled?
- Is your partner dishonest with you?
- Do you constantly feel on edge or nervous around your partner?
- Have you felt isolated from friends and family since this relationship began?
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you are in a relationship that has become physically aggressive, reach out to help and get out as soon as possible.