Using Marital Therapy To Improve Your Relationship

Updated September 11, 2023by Regain Editorial Team
Sometimes marriage is not easy. Two people decide to join together and vow to spend their lives together. Then, reality hits. Sometimes, reality includes daily doldrums, having children, managing dual careers, and changing together over time. At times, it takes some diligent work to maintain a healthy marriage. There are things any couple can try on their own. Many couples also choose to seek out support through marital therapy for the health of their marriage.
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Marital Therapy Can Help You Improve Your Relationship

What Can You Do to Enhance Your Marriage?

Many couples want to start on their own to take steps to improve their marriage. There are indeed some things that couples can do to strengthen their marriage even before attending therapy.

One key thing in relationships is remembering that each partner brings their strengths and challenges to the relationship. Setbacks or problems in a relationship, they suggest, can sometimes be used to strengthen your relationship not just with your spouse, but also with your family and friends. Often, when couples are unhappy, it is because each person is bringing some negative elements. When brought together, those negative elements can disrupt the relationship. Each person needs to examine themselves and improve any troubled areas that could affect the broader relationship. This can sometimes be done on its own. At other times, individuals may discover they need their individual therapy to resolve issues.

Beyond individual improvements, couples need to practice a few key skills related to observation, communication, honesty, compassion, forgiveness, and living in the present. All these elements are important for a healthy relationship. When people react without first observing, they may overreact. When people do not communicate, important things are left unsaid. When lies are told, they build up and erode the relationship. When people approach each other with judgment over compassion, it can drive a wedge between them. Forgiveness is important for the small stuff because everyone makes mistakes. Finally, it is important to let go of the past and live together in the present moment.

When Should You Seek Help Through Marital Therapy?

Many couples feel uncertain about when it is they should seek additional help through professional counseling or therapy. One good point of measure is when you feel like you can no longer resolve your problems on your own. Many other signs indicate therapy would be advantageous.

One sign that therapy may be helpful is if you and your partner are frequently arguing. This could be many small arguments and big arguments. Perhaps those arguments lead to no resolution. More broadly, there may be challenges with communication. Perhaps you and your partner have conflicts that you are avoiding discussing, causing poor or tense communication. Maybe there are even topics you want to discuss that you are hesitant to talk about or do not know how to talk about.

In these cases, a therapist may be able to help you improve your communication, help you say the things you need to say, and even help you get past the arguments you keep having. They may teach you how to disagree in healthier ways so that you can have more productive discussions.

Another set of circumstances that might lead a couple to marital therapy is when something major has affected the relationship. A marital relationship therapy seeks to assist people in intimate relationships. This can put an end to thoughts of separation while encouraging connection and understanding. This could be something like a major health problem or the loss of a child. It could also be something like infidelity. In these cases, a therapist may help both parties work through difficult times to maintain the relationship. In some cases, the couple may decide to part ways, and the couples' counselor can help the parties to accomplish that too.

One of the most renowned couples therapists is John Gottman, and he identified four factors that suggest a couple needs assistance in working through their problems. He called these four factors "The Four Horsemen" because, if left unaddressed, they could spell doom for a relationship. These four factors are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each of these factors disrupts communication and makes it difficult for a couple to resolve their problems. However, a marital therapist may help a couple get past these factors and resolve their history of discord.

What Can You Expect In Marital Therapy?

If you and your partner choose to pursue marital therapy, your next concern might be to expect. Typically, when you attend marital therapy, you will meet together with a therapist. Sometimes, couples will meet with a pair of therapists (who may themselves be a couple). If you find that one or both partners need individual therapy, that partner should see a separate therapist.

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During the first session of couples therapy, the therapist might meet briefly to gain their unique perspectives on the relationship and the problems. For the most part, in that first session, the therapist will meet with both parties to understand the concerns that brought the couple in, their goals for therapy, and to collaboratively make a plan for the course of therapy. This will allow the couple to have a clear vision of what therapy will entail.

Couples therapists also often practice from a theoretical orientation or with various specific approaches. During the first session, it can also be helpful to ask about this and discuss your therapist's approach so you can gain an even greater understanding of what to expect during therapy.

After that first session, couples may meet with their marital therapist weekly. Usually, the sessions will tie back to the broader goals, and there will be a plan for the course of sessions to help bring the couple closer to the goals they want to achieve. At times, there may be more immediate concerns that the couple wants to address. At other times, the sessions may be used to practice new skills and means of communication. Finally, the time may be used to discuss things that are difficult to talk about one-on-one. The presence of the therapist can mediate any difficult discussions that have been left unsaid.

How to Get The Most In Marital Therapy?

If you and your partner choose to attend therapy, you are probably devoting valuable time and resources to it. To get the most out of therapy, you will need to practice being open-minded towards the process and honest about what is going on. By being open and honest, you can address the things that need to be addressed. You will also likely need to try new ways of approaching your relationship, so you will need to be open to taking the advice and applying it.

One approach that your marital therapist may practice is assigning you and your partner to do homework. This is intended to help you practice new skills outside of the therapy session. It will also help the overall progress of therapy if you do some of the work at home and then come back into the session to discuss it further. You need to do any assignments that your therapist asks you to make progress you want to make and reach your overall therapy goals.

Where to Find A Marital Therapist?

There are many different resources to help you find a marital therapist for your relationship. One key thing is to select a therapist that both partners feel comfortable with. For example, you have a non-traditional relationship, such as a polyamorous couples or open marriage. You will want a therapist who is open to that lifestyle to feel understood, accepted, and not judged by the therapist. Other times, people approach their marriage with some religious affiliation, so they may prefer a therapist who holds similar views and perhaps even approaches couples therapy with a religious stance.

When you seek out a marital therapist, you might ask friends and family for advice. For some couples, though, they prefer that no one knows about their business. In this case, you might find it helpful to research online for the right therapist. Through online platforms, you can locate a therapist nearby and even read about them to get a better sense of whether they will be the right provider to meet your needs. You want to work with someone who you feel comfortable with and who you trust.

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Marital Therapy Can Help You Improve Your Relationship

Today, many people are also choosing to pursue therapy through online platforms rather than in the traditional face-to-face format. In online therapy, you will be able to schedule an appointment at any time convenient for you and "attend" your sessions from the convenience of your home. 

If you are interested in pursuing marital therapy, it is recommended to check it out, ask questions about it, and see whether it will be helpful to you and your relationship. In most cases, couples find they can find some benefits and improvements for their relationship.

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