Using Marital Therapy To 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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the success rate of marriage counseling?
The success rate of marriage counseling depends on if both parties are committed to making the marriage work and who is doing the counseling. Asides from the therapist’s skill level from experience and training, it is important that the therapist is optimistic about marriage rather than being pessimistic or neutral. The positivity and need to make it work are very likely to rub off on the clients.
Although conventional therapy is reported to help between 70-80% of marriages, the definition of success can be somewhat vague. People often go into therapy expecting to have the solution to their problems, but in some cases, the solution is both partners going their separate ways. In marriages where there is physical and emotional distress, bouts of substance abuse, and general unease, it could be prescribed that the partners are unfit to grow in the relationship, and a break might be ideal for both parties.
What does a marriage therapist do?
Who better than someone trained in the profession, with years of experience handling many different issues from people of different cultural settings and ideals under the safe umbrella of marriage therapy. Marriage therapy puts both partners in a neutral setting where they can discuss the problems they feel their relationship might be having in the presence of their marriage therapist, in hopes that they walk out of the office/appointment with all the issues resolved; this is accomplished by taking the following steps:
Observe: Every relationship is different in its own way, and the therapist needs to respect, appreciate and recognize this uniqueness. Most therapists ask the couples to fill questionnaires or scribble their thoughts in a notebook; this gives the therapist an idea of what to expect during the sessions and the following steps.
Listen: In most homes, it is often difficult to resolve issues like ego and pride make it difficult and sometimes impossible for either partner to listen and act objectively. In the presence of a therapist, the partners are likely to be more composed and more readily articulate their fears or worries. The onus is then on the therapist to allow the couple to air these worries and listen without judgment or bias.
Prescribe/Suggest: After listening and observing the problem, the therapist then puts the problem under the microscope using years of experience and training to decipher the root causes and then advise the couple on the best ways to resolve the problem and avoid future problems. The therapist can develop a goal system to keep track of the couples progress and to ensure they do not fall back to the bad habits,
What is the difference between marriage counseling and marriage therapy?
The world of marriage/marital counseling intercepts Marital therapy in so many ways that both terms are often used interchangeably. As similar as they are, there are some differences, and to get the clearest idea of either, it is best to properly define both terms and explain where they converge and diverge.
Marital Counseling: This tends to focus more on where the relationship is at the moment, the issues either partner might be having, and to help them get past those problems. Marriage counseling is often between people who do not have an established past and are looking to sort problems they are having in the present. Marriage counseling is often advised for couples planning to tie the knot; it teaches them to communicate efficiently and develop conflict resolution skills.
Marital Therapy: Marital Therapy/Marriage Therapy is more in-depth and focuses on couples with a history of poor relations and do not necessarily need to have problems right away. Such a couple can seek a therapist in hopes of finding a lasting solution to their topsy turvy relationship. It can also cover issues like child-rearing conflicts, substance abuse, and infidelity.
To ensure that both parties have an improved quality of life after the session.
Can marriage counseling really help?
Counseling is just talking to someone about your problems. Like talking to a best friend, seeking their advice and opinion, but this time it’s with a therapist or in group therapy. Although how much of an effect marriage counseling would have on your relationship is dependent on what stage you are in with your partner, how close you both are, or how much you have drifted apart. Contrary to what most people believe, therapy is not always trying to get two people to get together; it is about figuring out what works best for the individuals as much as the relationship. If both partners are insistent on making the relationship work, the therapist creates therapeutic goals for the couples to rekindle the flame that might have been extinguished with conflicts.
These goals teach both partners to change behavior, change their responses to the other partner’s behavior, invent better ways of reducing conflict. This basically renews how both partners see each other, creating a healthier relationship and inadvertently a stronger marriage.
Do marriage counselors ever recommend divorce?
This is one question we get a lot, and the answer is pretty straightforward. By definition, a couples therapist’s job is to listen to their problems, give the couple the facts and allow them to decide what steps they would like to proceed with. Depending on whatever choice is made, the therapist has to support them and counsel them in that line. In the case of an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, the therapist can direct the conversation while staying at arm's length. The therapist might give all the reasons why separation is the best option but would leave the decision-making to the client.
It would be considered unethical if the therapist outrightly encourages the client to see divorce or in any way instigates separation. Even when the client directly asks a therapist, they often redirect the question or inform the client that the decision is solely theirs.
How can you tell if your marriage is over?
Feeling unfulfilled in a marriage is one of the worst feelings anyone can experience. People go into marriages hoping for warmth and safety, but when the marriage is marred with marital problems, and couples therapy does not seem to work, doubt creeps in, and you begin to wonder if it has come to an end. The following are a couple of reasons that might mean your marriage is over.
You are not friends: All marriages and sexual-oriented relationships start as interesting friendships. But if that no longer stands true, and you have been unable to keep conversations or totally uninterested in being a part of your partner’s day, the chances are that your marriage is nearing its end.
You have lost yourself: If you one day catch yourself looking in the mirror and do not recognize the person staring back at you, the chances are that some change needs to be effected or your marriage has become one-sided. Don’t get me wrong; marriage is about both parties coming together to meet each other halfway, with either individual making some compromises. If this is not true for your relationship, the chances are that it is time to end your marriage.
Your goals don't involve your spouse: When you find yourself making concrete plans for the future and consciously/subconsciously leaving your partner out of those plans, the chances are that the relationship is coming to an end. Whether it is a change or career, or you have plans to move somewhere else, it becomes a clear sign that you no longer want to stay married.
Therapy no longer works: If you and your partner have visited more than a few therapists and still do not see things working out. If the problems you keep going to therapy for persists, and you or your partner do not intend to curb the bad habits causing friction, then it might be time for you and your partner to go your separate ways.
If there’s no compromise: If your partner and yourself have become too rigid in your ways, not leaving room for compromise or to involve each other, the chances are that your relationship is just one wrong move from collapse.
When should I talk to my marriage counselor?
It is important to be positive in your relationship; not every issue needs the input of a therapist. Sometimes you need to give yourself, your partner, and the relationship time to recalibrate. Your partner might be going through stress at work, and the last thing they would want to worry about is hours spent in therapy sessions. But if you are unsure and your relationship ticks any of the following boxes, you need to schedule couples therapy.
When you are not talking: Talking is not always a sign to see a marriage counselor, but when you notice that your partner would rather be out with friends or see other people than engage you in a conversation, the chances are that you would need to set up therapeutic goals to get your relationship on track.
When you are afraid to talk: Even worse than not talking is when one partner is afraid to talk to the other. A relationship, most especially a marriage, should be an equal partnership. When one-half of that partnership feels dominated, it becomes important to employ the services of a marriage counselor.
When you feel antagonized: When you feel you and your partner are not on the same team and take every opportunity to antagonize each other, you might need to sign up for marital therapy. You and your partner must learn to rely on each other for the relationship to thrive.
When there are secrets: If you start keeping secrets from your partner and you feel they are doing the same, it is important to seek help as soon as possible before the relationship becomes shaped by uncertainty and distrust.
Not being financially faithful: Financial infidelity in many cases is as bad if not worse than sexual infidelity. Being kept in the dark about the finances in the relationship can lead to conflicts and disagreements that can be damaging in the long run.
When you live separate lives: If you are under the same roof but living like roommates instead of living like a couple, your relationship needs some counseling. If you find yourself coexisting with the relationship void of intimacy, marital therapy must be considered.
What percentage of marriage counselors are divorced?
McCoy and Aamodt listed psychologists as having a divorce rate of 19.3%, social workers with 23.16%, occupational therapists with 24%, miscellaneous social scientists and workers at 19.65%, counselors at 22.49%, and sociologists at 23.53%.
The study clearly shows that all of these occupations have a divorce rate higher than the average divorce rate of 16.96%.
Why is marital therapy important?
What does couples therapy look like?
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