Many couples report that therapy saved their relationship when they were on the brink of separation or even divorce. Couples therapy is hard work and requires dedication from both partners. During couples therapy, partners are asked to discuss the events in their lives and in their relationship that led them to seek therapy. Processing these events may give rise to difficult emotions like anger and disappointment. Because of this, it may seem that the relationship is getting worse before it gets better. As with any form of therapy, there are no guarantees, but a couple’s success in therapy is directly related to the motivation of both partners and their willingness to stay the course when things get tough.
So, Will Marriage Counseling Save My Marriage?
One option when a marriage isn’t working out how you planned is marriage counseling. When it comes to keeping your marriage alive and you have tried everything else, marriage counseling is usually the last step for struggling couples. Overcoming tough times in a marriage can be hard, and marriage counseling may be the only thing that can save your marriage, or at least make you aware of your other options.
When trying to fix your marital problems, remember that if you are not 100% committed and focused on saving your marriage, you are very likely to fail. Therefore, whether a marriage can be saved or not depends on various factors that the two partners bring to the counseling sessions. If both partners have the motivation and the will, you can expect positive results. Unfortunately, most couples lose the passion or the drive, making their marriages difficult to repair.
Factors That Affect Therapy’s Outcomes
The Point of No Return
One of the biggest issues that overshadows marriage counseling is that couples tend to let their marriage fall to its lowest point before they visit a marriage counselor. Thus, there has often been substantial damage done to the marriage by the time they decide to seek professional help. One of the major characteristics of successful marriage counseling is that issues are detected and fixed early, before the marriage is too broken.
The collapse of communication is one of the main causes for the need for marriage counseling. Sometimes, couples have been burying their issues for years, failing to tell their partners how they feel. This will lead to a huge buildup of emotional suppression, which will result in psychological and even physical stress. This lack of communication is one of the main causes of affairs in marriages and can lead to a divorce before any of the issues are fixed. Staying silent in your marriage will kill your relationship, which, in turn, will kill your marriage.
It can often take a huge dramatic episode to motivate a couple to seek counseling, but the truth is, in these situations, counseling should have begun a long time ago, before things got out of control. These dramatic episodes often include affairs and threats of divorce and are usually the last straw before seeking help from a marriage counselor.
The Importance of Marriage Counseling
If issues in marriage are left untreated, it may be too late for reconciliation. Marriage counseling offers the best results when issues are detected early and communication skills are taught early in the process. To find a solution to your problems, both of you need to be motivated to do so. With the help of your marriage counselor, you will bring attention to the issues you are facing and discover the solutions. The key component here, though, is that you both must be 100% willing to listen, accept, self-reflect, and learn from your mistakes.
The Marriage Counseling Process
The first step in marriage counseling is to eliminate the out-of-control issues that are destroying your relationship. These immediate issues need to be stabilized for the process to move to the next step: working out the underlying causes of these problems.
In your session, your counselor will mention the importance of you and your partner’s willingness to learn new things about your relationship, yourselves, and ways of communicating with each other. The counselor needs to know whether you and your partner can let go of selfishness and accept responsibility in areas where you may have previously failed in your marriage. Marriage counseling requires commitment and motivation.
Ways to Predict Whether Marriage Counseling Can Save Your Marriage
Most of the time, when people seek marriage counseling, they are wondering about the success rate. Even if it were possible to answer this question, the results will not encompass a marriage counselor’s skills, knowledge, and abilities. What you need to keep in mind is that whether or not a marriage can be saved lies in a combination of factors that the two partners bring to the counseling sessions. In short, if you have the commitment and the will to change, there is a high chance that you will succeed.
Not everyone has what it takes to save their marriage.
One thing that makes repairing a marriage difficult is that most people seeking help come much later than they should have and a lot of problems have already been cemented. Usually, the partners have been silently suppressing their thoughts and emotions, not expressing to their partner how they feel until one day when the issues all come out. In some cases, one individual may express that they cannot stand their partner, while in other cases, one of the partners has had an affair, and in others, one of the partners decides that they don’t want to stay in the marriage, requesting a divorce. Keep in mind, it almost always takes a destructive episode for couples to acknowledge their problems and take the first step in accepting marriage counseling.
When the marriage reaches this stage, simply teaching communication skills is not enough. Instead, the couple is going through the worst side effects of their problematic relationship, with the partners not in the mood to be nice to each other. It takes a professional marriage counselor to help process these problems and manage the crisis to ensure that partners will not do more damage than they already have. As mentioned earlier, the first step in counseling is to stabilize the situation. This happens after an evaluation of each partner’s mental and physical history, family history, values, and beliefs. The counselor explores each individual’s thoughts and assesses their will and motivation.
Factors That Affect the Results of Marriage Counseling
– Are the partners willing to learn new things about their relationship and new ways of communicating with each other?
– Can partners let go of their ego and accept responsibility for parts of the marriage where they have fallen short? Can they stop blaming each other? Can they accept the guidance of a professional and capable marriage counselor concerning their marriage’s crisis and recovery?
– Can both partners be flexible in the face of life’s challenges?
– Will both partners commit to the healing process and keep their word to be true to each other all the time? Commitment is a combination of a “want” and a “need” to stay in the marriage, with research indicating a positive relationship between marriage commitment and improvements in the marriage (Christensen et al., 2010).
– Can both partners be empathetic and put themselves in their partner’s shoes to see and feel how the other person sees and feels? Will the partners understand the effects of their actions and accept responsibility?
– Will partners who suffer from mental health issues invest in treating and managing themselves? For example, research found a bi-directional association between depression and marital discord, meaning that depression may cause marital problems, and vice versa (Denton et al., 2003).
This list could go on and on, and some factors are hard to describe. These characteristics are required from both partners in a marriage so they can work through things in a healthy way and reach an outcome that will satisfy them both. For partners who lack some of these characteristics, it is a good idea to start working on them along the way.
Marriage counseling is not for the faint of heart and takes commitment, willingness to change, and hard work. Furthermore, successful marriages require respect, communication, consideration, and mutuality.
Interesting Statistics on Marriage Counseling
The results of studies on marriage counseling consider marriage counseling to be an effective approach that can significantly reduce marital distress (Dunn & Schwebel, 1995; Shadish & Baldwin, 2003).
Stats from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy present interesting numbers regarding marriage counseling, showing that, after receiving marriage counseling, almost 90% of couples report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health. Furthermore, in another study, satisfaction in marriage after counseling was assessed and it was found that 66% of partners presented an improvement after counseling (Byrne et al., 2004). Finally, results from a similar study displayed that approximately 48% of couples exhibited either improvement or complete recovery in marital satisfaction at a five-year follow-up (Foote, 2014).
Byrne, M., Carr, A., & Clark, M. (2004). The Efficacy of Behavioral Couples Therapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couple Distress. Contemporary Family Therapy, 361-387.
Christensen A, Baucom B, Atkins DC, Yi J: Marital status and satisfaction five years following a randomized clinical trial comparing traditional versus integrative behavioral couple therapy. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010, 78: 225-235.
Denton WH, Golden RN, Walsh SR: Depression, marital discord, and couple therapy. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2003, 16: 29-34. 10.1097/00001504-200301000-00007.
Dunn RL, Schwebel AI: Meta-analytic review of marital therapy outcome research. J Fam Psychol. 1995, 9: 58-68.
Foote, L., Premarital Counseling. 2014.
Shadish WR, Baldwin SA: Meta-analysis of MFT interventions. J Marital Fam Ther. 2003, 29: 547-570. 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2003.tb01694.x.