When it comes to marriage counseling or couples counseling, timing is everything if you want to save your relationship. We often hear, “Can my marriage be saved?” or “Can you help us decide if we should stay together?”
While these are always complicated questions, our answers are usually something like: “Marriage counseling is hard work and there are no guarantees. But you are wise to invest the time to find out if your marriage can be improved.”
Truth be told, the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related to the motivation level of both partners and timing. For some couples, marriage counseling is really divorce counseling because they’ve already thrown in the towel. For instance, one or both partners may have already decided to end the marriage and he/she uses the counseling as a way to announce this to their partner.
Sometimes, the problems in a marriage can be too ingrained and longstanding for the counseling to be effective. For others, they don’t honestly share their concerns with the therapist.Further, it’s important to choose a therapist who has experience working with couples and who is a good fit for both you and your partner. If both partners don’t feel comfortable with the therapist, this can negatively impact progress; or one person may prematurely drop out.
Timing is an essential element in whether marriage counseling works. Unfortunately, most couples wait much too long to reach out for help repairing their marriage.
According to many relationship and marriage counselors, couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. Think about this statistic for a few minutes. Couples have six years to build up resentment before they begin the important work of learning to resolve differences in effective ways.
7 tips to help deal with differences between you and your partner:
- Create a relaxed atmosphere and spend time with your partner on a regular basis so you can communicate about your desires and objectives.
- Don’t give up personal goals and the things you love to do such as hobbies or interests. This will only breed resentment.
- Support one another’s passions. Accept that you won’t always share the same interests. Respect your partner’s need for space if they want to go on a vacation without you, etc.
- Learn to resolve conflicts skillfully. Don’t put aside resentments that can destroy a relationship. Couples who try to avoid conflict are at risk of developing stagnant relationships, which can put them at high risk for divorce.
- Establish an open-ended dialogue. Listen to your partner’s requests and ask for clarification on points that are unclear. Avoid threats and saying things you’ll regret later.
- Avoid the “blame game.”Take responsibility for your part in the problems and accept that all human beings are flawed in some way. The next time you feel upset with your partner, check out what’s going on inside yourself and pause and reflect before you place the blame on them.
- Be realistic about a time-line for change.It takes more than a few sessions to shed light on the dynamics and to begin the process of change.
What are the Benefits of Therapy in a Timely Manner?
Couples come to therapy for any number of reasonsin addition to infidelity, communication, money, and major life changes such as hostility or even starting a family. Couples therapy is also a good idea if one of you is coping with an issue that might be affecting your relationshipsuch as depression, or simply if you’re feeling stuck and stagnant in your relationship.
Therapy can provide a safe space to talk about sensitive topics. Couples can get caught in a negative relational cycle. For example, communication is a big concern for the majority of couples. But simply talking with each other more isn’t the answer. There is communication, and then there’s effective communication.
You might also consider couples therapy to help support you at times of major life change and transition. Getting married, becoming parents for the first time, moving, changing jobs, losing jobs, becoming empty-nesters, coping after extramarital affairs, recovering from addiction, caring for aging parents are all transitions that can destabilize a couple’s equilibrium.
And don’t discount the value of couples’ therapy in helping you and your partner dig yourselves out of a rut. ‘Feeling stuck’ can shift if both parties are willing to compromise in a way so that individual needs are met. Professional counselors can definitely help and typically, the sooner the better is the recommendation.
How can marriage counseling help couples?
- When toxic relationship patterns can be identified early and agreed upon, the process of real change can begin.
- A motivated couple can begin to explore their problems from a new perspective and learn new ways to recognize and resolve conflicts as a result of the tools provided by the therapist.
- Partners can begin to build trust and improve communication that may have eroded the quality of their interactions.
- A couples’ counselor can provide “neutral territory” to help couples agree upon and work through tough issues with support.
- Couples can decide to rebuild their marriage and make a renewed commitment, or clarify the reasons why they need to separate or end the marriage.
To reiterate, we believe that seeking help from a counselor is not unlike seeking help from a mechanic. It makes little sense to take your car into the shop a month after it started making a horrific noise. By that time, too much damage may have been done and your engine may be beyond repair.
By the same token, the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related not only to the willingness and motivation of both parties to put in the effort, but also to the timing. The time to consider marriage counseling is not when one (or both) people have already thrown in the towel.
Based on our expert counseling experience, friendship is the glue that can hold a marriage together. Couples who know each other intimately and are well-versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams are couples who make it.
For more information about how one of our Foundations Counselors can help improve your relationships or marriage, please do not hesitate to contact us today!