Marriage Counseling: Can it Help?

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally Connolly, LMFT

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Problems in your marriage?
Unhappy with where things are right now between you and your partner?
Wonder if marriage counseling might make a difference?
What do you have to lose?
Facing up to the situation and owning your part in it can be a step in the right direction.

Most couples wait a long time after a problem develops before they ever ask for help. Research shows that problems may go on for 6 years before a couple either asks for help or ends the marriage.

The longer that a problem goes on, the more likely it is that positive feelings and behaviors will erode and disappear.
Marriage counseling may be able to help you resolve the problems that you are experiencing.

A skilled and knowledgeable couples therapist can provide a safe haven to talk about the hardest of issues and can teach you the skills to be able to carry on those conversations at home.

Good marriage counselors do not want their couples to hang around forever. They want them to be able to be successful on their own.

Here are some good reasons to go to a marriage counselor.

1.  Renewing the connection

Couples often lose the bonds and connection that were nurtured when they came together. Life, which includes jobs, families, friends, technology, hobbies and homes take up a lot of time and can often, subtly and slowly, become more of a priority than the marriage.

Talking out loud with a professional therapist in marriage counseling often helps couples recognize the damage that has been done and find ways to repair the damage.


 2. Skills to resolve conflict

Developing the skills needed to talk about differences is a good reason to see a marriage counselor.

Many couples do not know how to talk through or negotiate differences and they will either avoid talking about them all together or they will develop a relationship that is fraught with conflict.

A marriage counselor can certainly teach couples ways to start complaints softly, avoid some of the major mistakes such as becoming defensive, judgmental or disrespectful and learn ways to effectively deal with intense emotions until both are calm.

3.  Communication 

Marriage counselors often hear “I have no idea what he is thinking most of the time.” and “She expects me to read her mind” or “He should know by now what I need from him in order to feel important.”

There are many reasons why folks don’t talk out loud about their thoughts, feelings, desires and needs from not feeling important to being afraid of conflict … and many reasons in between. A good marriage counselor can help folks understand why they have that struggle and, more importantly, how to talk out loud effectively.

4.  Depression and anxiety and the effects on the relationship

Sometimes depression and worry are caused by problems in the relationship. At other times, they are part of a person’s “wiring”. Whatever the case might be, couples benefit greatly from talking with a marriage counselor together.

Loving spouses can find ways to support, challenge or lovingly encourage their partner to seek help, notice when signs are there for deeper concerns or strategize ways to think or act differently.

When problems are caused by the relationship, marriage counseling may be integral to any healing for the depression or the worry.

5.  Remarriage and step families

The divorce rate for step families is higher than for first marriages, especially if there are children. An experienced marriage counselor can educate couples about the common stages, problems and clear ideas for ways to make a difference.

6.  Affairs

An affair is one of the biggest crises that couples face and there are many things that need to be talked about and worked through in a calm space and with someone who is experienced in helping couples during this time.

Not talking about the affair or talking way too much are both mistakes. There is a balance of answering questions and listening to feelings that is important. There are also ways to repair damage to the relationship as a result of the affair and heal problems that might have been in the marriage before the affair began.

Online Marriage Counseling … Can it Work As Well?

With any of these problems, online counseling can be helpful, particularly if couples are motivated to do some of the homework, reading or exercises. Email counseling can be helpful for some couples because it allows them to be open and vulnerable in calmer ways. Reading and writing can provide the chance to think things through before being reactive.

No matter what format you use, get help for your marriage. An investment in counseling is far less expensive financially and emotionally than a divorce.

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