Is Marriage Therapy Right For Your Relationship?
Updated July 12, 2019
The only truth that has to be acknowledged by both partners in a relationship is that the only person you can change is you; you can't change someone else, and they can't change you. So before considering marriage therapy, understand that you have to be willing to change whatever needs to be changed to make the relationship work. And the hope is that the other partner acknowledges this as well. The partners have to be willing to work together, acknowledge their faults, and be honest with one another. Nothing can be accomplished if one or both partners lie or refuse to accept some of the blame for the deterioration of the relationship.
Everyone in a marriage understands that there are hard times along with the good. Sometimes one or both partners feel that they are in a bad period that is lasting too long. This may have been the result of a single event, or it may have been going on for a while. For couples experiencing a rough patch, marriage therapy might be a good option. There are several factors in a relationship that can help you and your partner decide whether or not you should seek a marriage counselor.
Couples who do not communicate are often trapped in a silent, confusing relationship. They may have lost touch with knowing what their partner is thinking. Maybe one or both partners have become too busy with children or their careers that they have put their relationship on the back burner. Other couples may have unhealthy styles of communication, like yelling or avoiding their partner altogether. A marriage therapist is trained to provide couples with a setting for facilitating open discussion between the partners.
Did you lose your job recently? Did your partner lose a parent or sibling? Major life changes affect both partners in the relationship, particularly if the affected partner does not receive the social support they were expecting from their partner. While one partner may need counseling on their own, it makes sense for both partners to attend marriage therapy together to discuss issues. It is often a good idea to do this even if both partners feel their relationship has not been affected. Sometimes preventative therapy is a good option for couples wanting to stay strong during an unexpected life change.
Lack Of Intimacy
This is a difficult topic for some couples to discuss and come to terms with. It is commonly thought that intimacy and sex diminish somewhat as couples age, particularly after having children. However, couples should not assume a lack of intimacy is necessarily a component of a relationship. Lack of intimacy and sex could be a symptom of something deeper, such as partner resentment or a lack of trust. A marriage therapist who is familiar with sex therapy can help couples get to the root of their intimacy problems.
Try Marriage Therapy Now
One benefit of marriage therapy is that it does not require a long-term commitment. Couples can explore their options or test the waters by signing up for one or two sessions. In today's busy world, the power of the Internet has made it much easier for couples to find a therapist without wasting time driving across town to a counselor's office. Online marriage therapy allows couples to connect with a certified and flexible therapist from anywhere across the US. If you and your partner still aren't sure whether you need marriage therapy, you can easily try it online starting today.
When you decide to seek therapy as a couple, the following is a list of what you both will be required to do and think about:
- Stop blaming each other. The easiest thing to do is to blame the other person. Look at what you have been doing to contribute to the disharmony.
- Stop reacting. This is a choice you have; you can immediately react to the present conflict or choose not to engage. One person cannot sustain an argument. There is no argument if one person will not argue. This stops an argument from escalating into negative and harmful actions or words.
- Step back from an argument and take a good look at what is going on and what prompted the anger. Calm yourself and try to be rational. Was your partner doing something intentionally to make you angry or did you misinterpret his words or actions?
- Stop bringing up old grievances. Deal with whatever is happening now.
- Observe patterns of your behavior. What makes you anxious, angry, frustrated, or jealous? Do you always feel rejected and inferior?
- Are your patterns of behavior linked to your past experiences or experiences in your childhood?
- Have some compassion for your partner. Try to see the other's point of view.
- Communicate your feelings with each other so you can have empathy for their struggles and help each other find solutions.
- Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. When this happens, an understanding develops, and a relationship can be managed.
Marriage therapy can facilitate effective communication and listening between partners, but only if both parties are willing to be truthful and willing to negotiate to find a solution to the problems that are contributing to disharmony.
There are many reasons for stress in a marriage, and seeking a professional therapist can help a marriage survive and flourish anew. Besides differences of opinion, parenting styles, as well as stress due to work, a family crisis can precipitate a kind of stress on the family that can benefit from an outsider's advice and counsel. Such an event that could put a relationship in jeopardy is one partner falling seriously ill or facing an incurable disease. This can place a lot of pressure on the caretaker and the family, especially if the patient is to be cared for at home. There can be feelings of resentment and guilt that can make communication between the partners difficult and strained. Chronic depression can result in the partner facing the illness and the partner who accepts the role of caretaker and the responsibilities of taking care of the children and the home. It can be a burden that destroys a marriage and certainly can destroy honest communication between the partners. Being subjected to an overload of stress can also lead to the caretaker succumbing to illness as well, and then the entire family is in jeopardy.
When honest communication is a problem, and when accusations replace constructive conversation, other stressors, such as infidelity, substance abuse, sexual inadequacies, and financial pressures can make the situation worse. When this happens, couples need to seek professional therapy to help them deal with the pressures they are experiencing. The partners will know when the lack of a sincere relationship is interfering with their daily lives. When either of the partners is considering a separation, it is time to seek help.
Relationship therapists are trained not to take sides, nor declare one partner right and the other wrong. If a couple is seeking counseling, it is obvious they want to repair their relationship and move forward healthily. A therapist will help each of the partners to set realistic goals and will encourage the couple to communicate their needs and emotions with each other in an honest, non-confrontational dialog. The therapist will also stress that listening is an art and an essential part of effective communication. Many couples complain of their partners not hearing what they say or hearing only what they want to hear. This naturally leads to misunderstandings and accusations. If one partner thinks they are continually not being heard, they feel ignored and believe their opinions mean nothing. This is a severe blow to one's self-esteem. If that partner has a very low opinion of themselves, it can lead to addictive behavior, such as alcohol and drug abuse. Often the person with low self-esteem resorts to alcohol and drugs to avoid conflict and mask the pain they feel. Being faced with health issues as well as deteriorating relationship issues, are the inevitable result.
Getting to the bottom of what is causing the marriage relationship to deteriorate is the goal of the therapist. This can only be done by talking to the partners one-on-one initially and then in joint sessions. If the cause seems to be lack of truthful communication and damaged feelings, the therapist will probably assign homework for the couple to work on until the next session together. However, if mental or physical health is an issue, the therapist can refer to the couple or the individual to an appropriate specialist for assessment and ongoing care and treatment. In the meantime, the therapist can choose to continue consulting with the couple and giving advice to the couple to help repair their marriage relationship by continuing to improve the way they interact with each other by giving them the skills they need to learn to communicate effectively.
The only way marriage therapy works to improve and repair the relationship between the partners is to have both individuals committed to the process that the therapist outlines for them to follow. If one or both of the partners gives up and refuses to take part in the therapy actively, the marriage therapist is faced with an impossible task. At some point, the joint sessions must end, and the partners will be allowed to continue therapy separately to explore alternative lifestyles and to either continue in the marriage with a different attitude or consider alternative living arrangements.
The marriage therapist can suggest boundaries for the couple to consider taking control of their lives together, so they each are more comfortable living together. There are, however, many marriage therapists who will not counsel a couple when there has been physical abuse. This is one of the subjects that will be explored during the initial sessions, and the therapist could suggest another specialist contact for help.