What Are The Benefits Of Marriage Therapy?
Updated August 18, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
One of the most important decisions you can make as a couple is whether or not to seek marriage therapy. While many people might say they chose to go to counseling together to save their marriage, the benefits of couples' therapy cover a much wider range of issues. When you deal with the problems that come up in your marriage, you can grow closer as a couple even as you grow as individuals.
Benefits Of Marriage Therapy For The Couple
About three-fourths of people who go through marriage therapy believe that they've benefitted from the experience. That's an impressive statistic, considering that not everyone puts forth the effort to make it work well for them. Couples who appreciate their time in therapy find some positive results that often last for years afterward. Let’s take a look at some of the most widely-reported benefits of marriage counseling, based on feedback from couples who seek marriage counseling.
Develop A Closer Marriage
Often when couples enter marriage therapy, the reason is that they've drifted apart. They don't feel that closeness they shared when they first got married. In fact, going to couples' therapy may be the first thing they've done together for a long time.
As they listen and learn from each other, they begin to feel like a team again. If their therapist suggests they spend more time enjoying each other's company, they may even begin to feel romantic again. Even if they’re not experiencing specific marital problems or trying to work out of an unhappy marriage, couples can benefit from marriage counseling. You don’t need to wait until you see problems in the marriage before you seek counseling for your relationship!
Work Toward Healing Old Wounds
Many couples come to a point that they can't move forward with their marriage until the old heal wounds they've caused each other. Perhaps one of them has been unfaithful, and the other still feels hurt. The one who cheated may feel that they'll pay for their mistake for the rest of their life. Rather than healing over time, the wounds are still as painful as ever.
By healing these old hurts, the couple has a chance to become closer and renew their commitment to the relationship. It won't be easy, but with a skilled therapist, they can move past their resentment and feel trustful of each other again. In this way, couples can leave their unresolved issues, resentment or anger in the past, and move forward to a healthier and happier marriage.
Feel Heard By Your Spouse
One of the most frustrating things that happen in a marriage is that you may feel like your spouse just isn't listening to you. They may stonewall you or show no signs that they understand what you're saying. They may seem to ignore your needs. Through therapy, you can learn how to listen to each other, so you both feel heard and understood. Improving these communication and relationship skills are a great first step to communicating in a healthy manner. This, in turn, can lead to a deeper understanding between you and your spouse, which can help reduce (or even solve) some of your marital problems.
Deal With Your And Your Partner's Unpleasant Emotions
Life is full of emotional challenges. It's easy to hide your feelings out in the world, but when you get home, you want to be able to be yourself. Constantly unloading on your spouse can eventually drive you apart.
Your spouse may not have any more idea of how to deal with your intense emotions than you do, and you may not know how to deal with theirs. When you're in marriage counseling, you can develop strategies for dealing with each other's painful emotions and helping each other accept and move past them.
Learn To Resolve Conflicts As They Happen
Conflict resolution is both science and art. Fortunately, marriage therapists are typically very skilled at helping you learn to resolve conflicts in your marriage. Waiting until differences become insurmountable obstacles to your happiness as a couple can end your marriage. When you learn conflict resolution techniques and practice them in the safe environment of marriage therapy, you can take care of problems as they happen.
Create More Beneficial Patterns Of Interaction
When people are together for very long, they develop patterns of interaction, often without even realizing it. Our spouse comments, and we have a standard reply. We have a problem, and our spouse offers the same suggestion they always make.
In marriage therapy, you can identify patterns,and for those times when you need a shortcut, you can develop new patterns that are more beneficial to the marriage.
Set Priorities As A Couple
What are you putting first in your life? What is your spouse putting first? When you examine your priorities, you both may be surprised. Having vastly different priorities can drive a wedge between you and cause an excessive amount of conflict.
Marriage therapy gives you a chance to identify what you've prioritized and decided if you want to make different choices for that top slot. If your marriage is very low on your list, you may decide that you both should give it more time and energy.
Set Goals As A Couple
Many marriages roll along without much thought or planning. One or both spouses often wish for something they never get. Setting goals as a couple can inject new energy into the relationship and bring you closer. You might decide to work towards buying a home or saving money for extended travel. When you accomplish your mutual goals, you can experience enormous joy and pleasure at something you've created together. This pleasure is one of the best benefits of marriage counseling, since it helps motivate you and your partner to make the marriage work.
Become More Supportive Of Each Other
It's very common for people to have a hard time knowing how to be supportive of their spouse. Often, we feel like we're on their side and there for them whenever they need us. Sometimes, though, we need someone who reaches out to us when we're struggling.
We may not be sure our spouse wants to be there for us. We may not want to lay our troubles on them. We might fear our spouse will reject us or point out our faults. Whatever the reason that keeps us from asking for support, we can overcome it. In marriage therapy, you can learn how to give helpful and loving support to your spouse and request support from them without fear.
Develop Better Parenting Strategies
Once a married couple has a child, the family dynamics change forever. You now have to learn how to pass along your wisdom and show the parental love that you may never have experienced. What's more, you have to develop individual parenting strategies that work together with each other to give the child a stable home and a comprehensible framework for their development.
Parenting is usually addressed in family therapy. However, in marriage therapy, you may spend some time working out how to mesh your parenting styles positively. When you do, you create a more peaceful home life that's beneficial to your child as well as to your marriage.
Manage A Life Transition More Effectively
The occasion for seeking marriage therapy is often some life transition. You might find yourself at a crossroads where you need to think about what path to start down as a couple.
This can happen as you first start settling into marriage, when you have your first child, when you have a change in employment or move to a new home, when you enter the empty-nest phase of marriage, when you're dealing with a life-threatening medical issue, or whenever you're dealing with something new together.
When you're making a transition, a therapist's help can be very beneficial. They can help you assess your options as a couple. They can teach you the new skills you'll need in this new phase of your life. Perhaps most important, they can facilitate the conversation between you and your partner so that you can approach the transition as a team.
When you seek professional counseling for your relationship, you’re letting an objective and professional third party into the discussion. This is one of the many benefits of marriage counseling, since it removes the pressure from you and your partner.
Benefits Of Marriage Therapy For The Individuals
Marriage therapy is designed to help couples, of course, but you can also benefit from it as an individual. Many of the skills you'll learn in couples' counseling can carry over to your life outside the marriage. So, even if you end up deciding not to stay together, you will have still accomplished much that will impact the rest of your life.
Understand Yourself Better
During the process of therapy, you'll learn to understand who your spouse is. You'll also come to understand yourself better. You'll identify what's most important to you as an individual. You'll discover what makes you happy and where your greatest personal challenges lie.
Learn Assertiveness Skills
Unless your parents have taught you well, either directly or by example, being assertive may be an unfamiliar concept to you.
As you learn assertiveness skills, you can move away from aggression and toward a more cooperative way of getting what you want. You can stop being passive and start standing up for what you believe. You can uncover your passive aggressive behaviors as well and learn to face problems directly. You can also learn new relationship skills and communication skills, especially how to be assertive without being offensive. This will help you communicate your needs and desires to your partner in a way that builds up the relationship instead of tearing it down.
When you learn these lessons well and practice them in your marriage, you become more mentally healthy. And, you can accomplish more of what you want to do.
Change Behaviors That Hold You Back
In marriage therapy, you'll face your feelings. But, couples' counseling isn't all about emotion. You'll also learn techniques for changing behavior. In the context of the therapy situation, you'll change behaviors that are a detriment to the relationship. Outside of marriage therapy, you'll still have these skills, and you can use them to change the behaviors that hold you back from success, health, and happiness.
Develop A More Positive And Realistic Mindset
Marriage therapy can bring up unpleasant memories and emotions. As you work through your issues together, you are both likely to become more positive. When you see that problems can indeed be resolved, you can begin to approach your life more effectively.
You won't turn into Little Mary Sunshine in the process, though. By facing your problems directly, you can learn to acknowledge the painful realities of life and the difficulties of the challenges you face. Then, you can move toward better solutions to life's difficulties. In this way, you can become more positive and realistic at the same time.
Learn Communication Skills You Can Use To Anyone
Probably one of the most important skills you'll gain in marriage counseling is how to communicate. Some of these skills might be best suited to the intimate relationship you're trying to develop with your spouse.
However, most of what you learn about communication will serve you well wherever you go and whoever you interact with. Active listening, showing empathy, expressing your thoughts clearly, and avoiding personal attacks can not only make you more likable. These skills can also help you accomplish more at work and build life-long friendships outside the marriage.
Learn Individual Decision-Making Skills
When you don't know what to do next to save your marriage, your therapist won't tell you what choice to make. They'll probably teach you how to improve your decision-making skills instead. Then, you can decide what's right for you.
During marriage counseling, you may decide to do anything reasonable you can do to make your relationship last. Or, you might decide to put the marriage behind you and move on. Either way, you've accomplished a great deal just by facing your problems in the therapeutic environment. Either option may be a success for you.
Marriage therapy may present you with difficult challenges, but the truth is that those challenges were already there, disrupting your relationship and causing you pain. Although the process may take some time and effort, it's very easy to get started. You can talk to a licensed therapist at ReGain right away and begin this amazing journey that may take you to a happier marriage and certainly has the power to take you into a more fulfilling life!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the success rate of couples counseling?
The success rate of couples counseling is high. There are different kinds of evidence-based couples counseling to consider, all of which hold different success rates. One popular modality of couples counseling is Emotionally Focused Therapy. 70-75% of couples who receive EFT or Emotionally Focused Therapy in couples counseling find success or relationship recovery in the treatment, and up to 90% find it helpful. The type of couples counseling that works for you depends on you and your partner's unique relationship, the concern or concerns you're in therapy for, and who you are as people individually. Note that success varies from person to person and couple to couple and that therapy goals differ depending on several factors such as if you're considering divorce and the problem you're seeking couple's counseling for. Despite this fact, 93% of people say that they gained knowledge of helpful skills while working with a therapist. The success you find in couples counseling will depend partially on participation; both you and your spouse need to be invested in the process for counseling to benefit you as much as possible.
What does a marriage therapist do?
A marriage therapist will help you understand each other's point of view and assist you with whatever the main purpose you sought out counseling for is. For example, if your primary concern is related to your emotional connection, they will help you enhance the bond. If it's communication, you will work on communication skills and even practice methods of communication in marriage counseling. Perhaps, you want to know how to support your partner with mental illness, or maybe, you want to focus on issues with your sex life. Someone who is licensed to provide couples therapy or marriage counseling has a broad understanding of common relationship problems and relationship-building skills that allow them to help couples through an abundance of concerns. You'll see a marriage therapist on a regular basis (often weekly) until you feel that you've gained what you need from the experience.
Are marriage counselors worth it?
Many couples say that seeing a mental health provider such as a licensed marriage and family therapist for marriage counseling is worth it. Research indicates that experiences in couple's counseling is generally positive with 98% of people rating it as "good" or "excellent." To find a therapist that suits your needs, search for "marriage counselors near me" or look for a provider online. If you'd like your marriage counselor to hold a specific attribute, such as experience offering EFT or a focus on a particular demographic, be sure to double-check on their background, biography, and credentials by searching the web or asking them for more information about their practice. Remember that a marriage counselor works for you and that if the first one you see doesn't work, you can switch.
What are the benefits of couples counseling?
Here are some of the potential benefits of couples counseling:
- Improved communication and being able to see each other's point of view
- Increased conflict resolution skills
- Increased affection
- A healthy sex life or improved emotional and physical intimacy
- Collective problem-solving abilities
For time management and efficiency, many couples decide to look for couples therapists that offer online therapy. To find couples therapists who practice online, use an online therapy website like ReGain or look for someone in your local area who offers remote sessions.
Will marriage counselors ever suggest divorce?
A marriage counselor isn't there to tell you what to do, and they won't tell you to get a divorce. Marriage counselors are there to empower you to make your own choices and guide you through any roadblocks you meet along the way. If you're considering divorce, however, you can bring it up in marriage counseling. A mental health professional such as a marriage counselor or therapist is there to be an objective third party that helps couples establish and maintain a renewed or improved emotional connection and a healthy relationship. Even if your marriage is in trouble and has been for a long time, couple's therapy can help, though research shows that the sooner you see a professional, the better. In cases of extreme mental health issues or abuse, the marriage counselor might suggest separation. They won’t outright tell you to divorce a narcissist or abuser, but they will help you draw your own conclusions about what is best for your own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of your kids. A marriage counselor will support you and won't judge you and your partner's decisions, including those related to keeping a marriage intact. If you want to pursue counseling for divorce specifically, you can attend divorce counseling to help you and your spouse separate peacefully.
How can I fix my marriage without counseling?
If you're unable to access counseling for any reason, there are some things you can do. If you and your partner are dedicated to the process, you can work on communication privately by working on active listening skills as well as expressing your thoughts, needs, and feelings in a respectful, sincere nature. You and your spouse or partner might look for couple's self-help books, books on specific relationship concerns such as those related to attachment styles, infidelity, or parenting, or find therapy books related to a specific modality of assistance that'd be used in counseling, such as EFT or the Gottman Method. Another option is to find at-home healthy relationship worksheets and assignments online or through a provider you're in contact with. Support groups may also be beneficial for some more distinct issues, such as those related to parenting struggles. Working on your relationship is commendable no matter how you do it, and you and your partner should be proud of taking that step. Note that there are affordable therapy options you can consider, such as online therapy or in-person counseling for low-income families that can help you. If you've tried everything you and your spouse can do on your own or need some additional support and assistance, counseling can help, and there are ways to navigate the cost in most cases.
Can couples therapy make things worse?
Couples therapy is highly effective and is proven beneficial, and if you find the counselor or therapist who’s right for you, it’s unlikely to make things worse. If you see a licensed marriage and family therapist or another form of therapist that is not a good fit, it's entirely possible and encouraged to change providers so that you can get the help you need. Different forms of counseling help different people, as do different couples' therapists, so it's important not to give up if the first professional you see isn't the best fit. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy or AAMFT states that counseling can improve emotional and physical health as well as the health of interpersonal relationships and a person's ability to succeed at work. When you look for couples therapists, make sure to check their licensure as well as the populations they tend to work with and any other credentials you'd like to see. Despite the name, seeing a marriage and family therapist (LFMT) isn't just for married couples and families. A single person can also see a provider with these credentials for individual therapy, and in fact, an LMFT might work predominantly with individuals in some cases. That's why it's crucial to make sure that the provider you see is experienced in working with couples specifically; you want the couples counselor or therapist you see to be confident in their ability to help those in romantic relationships and to have had success in doing so. They have to be used to working with two people at once. In a quality counseling or therapy setting, both partners feel heard, understood, supported, and productive overall. If therapy seems to be making things worse after time's passed, it may be time to change providers.
Will counseling save my marriage?
Many couples find that marriage counseling improves their marriage. It is possible to save a marriage, and couples counseling can help, but it's essential that you're invested in the process. You have to want to be there and put your all into counseling, even when it feels vulnerable. Putting your all into counseling looks like being vulnerable, opening up about how you feel, listening to how your partner feels, and being willing to change your ways or learn new skills if applicable. For example, if you are used to raising your voice, you need to be willing to modify that behavior. Accept that it doesn't make you a bad person and that the importance lies in how you choose to navigate conflict moving forward. Of course, that is only one example. People go to couples counseling for many different reasons. A marriage counselor has seen it all, so even if you take small steps toward doing so, don't be afraid to open up about what's really going on in counseling.
How long should we go to couples counseling?
The amount of couples counseling or couples therapy needed will vary from couple to couple. Generally, marriage counseling or couples therapy is a short term form of counseling. If you are going to marriage counseling or couples therapy to work through one distinct issue or decision, it may only take roughly 4-6 sessions, but the average amount of time spent in couples therapy is 12 sessions, which translates to about three months. Additionally, some couples stay in therapy for longer. If you're nervous about pursuing therapy, including couples therapy, know that you're in charge. You can choose to discontinue therapy or switch providers at any time. When it comes to the length of the therapy sessions themselves, therapy sessions will last for about an hour when you go to couples therapy or marriage counseling. Whether you see couples therapy in person or work with a provider through an online therapy website like ReGain, you and your partner can work with a couples therapist to gain the skills that you need to maintain a healthy relationship long-term. The goal of counseling is not to stay in couples therapy or counseling forever; instead, a couples therapist or counselor will give you the skills that you can use for the rest of your life both in and outside of therapy. If you're considering couples therapy or marriage counseling, don't be hesitant to reach out for support. Mental health providers, such as those at ReGain, are here to help.
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