Can Marriage Counseling Save My Marriage?

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.

Communication Collapse

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.

What Is Premarital Counseling and How Does It Help?

93% of Americans today believe that a healthy marriage is one of the most important things in life. Research shows that couples who attend counseling have a 30% better chance of enjoying a successful and healthy marriage. Also, meta-analytic reviews suggest that premarital education programs are generally effective in producing immediate and short-term gains in interpersonal skills and overall relationship quality (Carroll & Doherty, 2004). Finally, a meta-analytic study found that premarital education programs appear to be effective at improving a couple’s communication (Fawcett et al., 2010).

Many people believe that counseling is only for couples who are actively experiencing problems in their marriage or committed relationship. However, premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner are equipped with the tools necessary to have a successful and satisfying marriage. During premarital counseling, you may discuss topics including, but not limited to, finances, conflict resolution strategies, and communication skills to prepare both partners for their commitment to one another and the relationship.

What Exactly Is Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is a specialized form of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. By undertaking premarital counseling before the wedding, you and your partner have the chance to build a healthy relationship that will provide a strong foundation for your union. Premarital counseling can help couples of any gender, race, or religion address their expectations and concerns about their marriage.

Who Can Benefit From Premarital Counseling?

Many people assume that counseling is only for people with problems or for couples in crisis. This is far from the truth. Participating in premarital counseling helps you and your partner learn how to identify issues and handle problems that may arise at some point in your marital life.

Therefore, premarital counseling is highly recommended for couples who are engaged and aiming to get married. Premarital counseling is a form of family therapy designed to help couples stay connected during difficult times. This type of counseling offers partners a variety of tools and strategies to resolve conflicts.

Issues Addressed in Premarital Counseling

Let’s talk about common topics and issues addressed in premarital counseling.

Conflict resolution: Premarital counseling addresses the ways each partner resolves conflicts and how you can improve your ability to compromise on issues where you disagree.

Communication: You will discuss communication with your partner and address any adaptive or maladaptive methods of communication you may have.

Expectations: Premarital counseling encourages each partner to discuss their expectations for each other and the marriage so you can work toward finding ways to compromise. Furthermore, it helps partners understand what constitutes a successful marriage.

Values and needs: Research has shown that partners with similar values and needs have a better chance of staying together. Counseling addresses this important factor and helps partners acknowledge their values, personal beliefs, and needs.

Finances: Premarital counseling also addresses financial issues. Are you able to discuss your financial problems? Partners often avoid discussing sensitive topics like money, especially when one of the partners is overspending. This can create conflict, so a premarital counselor will address issues like this and assist you resolve them as a couple.

Family: Do both partners want to have children? If not, are both partners aware of this? If you both want kids, how many does each partner want? When is it time to start a family? These and many other issues regarding families are addressed in counseling.

Intimacy and sex: Are you and your partner comfortable or uncomfortable discussing sex? Do you both feel intimate? What does each of you expect in terms of a sexual relationship? In a successful marriage, couples can talk freely and honestly about sex, so premarital counseling raises these sensitive topics and explores each partner’s limits.

The Goals of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling examines your relationship in an objective manner and helps you learn how to interact in a healthy and productive way. Premarital counseling also addresses cultural issues and how they affect the relationship. It examines how personal values and beliefs or family history affect how each partner perceives the relationship and behaves during everyday life, and how cultural differences might cause crises in the relationship. Counseling will help you identify your differences and develop methods to manage them successfully.

Address and Eliminate Dysfunctional Behaviors

Premarital counseling helps couples identify and eliminate dysfunctional behaviors, such as control issues, addiction, and dependency.

Improve Communication

Good communication is the secret ingredient for a healthy marriage. Premarital counseling helps couples learn effective ways of communication, letting you and your partner express your thoughts and feelings openly, in a healthy, supportive, and safe relationship.

Identify Couples’ Strengths

Premarital counseling can help partners identify the positive aspects of their relationship and their overall strengths. Understanding of the stronger aspects of your relationship and acknowledging the positive parts will help you build resilience and a stronger foundation upon which to maintain a healthy marriage.

Eliminate Emotional Breaks, Isolation, and Avoidance

Many couples have difficulty expressing their feelings, so they end up avoiding each other. This type of avoidance will eventually lead to serious problems in the relationship. Premarital counseling will assist you in learning how to openly express your feelings in a way that brings you closer together rather than leading to further avoidance behavior and, in the end, isolation.

The Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling offers many benefits to ensure your marriage will be stable and happy, which is obviously the main benefit of counseling before marriage.

Another important benefit is that it helps couples develop and strengthen the skills that are necessary for resolving conflicts in a marriage and maintaining a healthy relationship. You and your partner may have different ideas of what it means to be happy. By discussing this beforehand, you can set common goals to work toward together.

Also, premarital counseling helps partners identify any possible issues that could negatively impact  their marriage later on, giving you the opportunity to discuss your wants, needs, and expectations before marriage. With the help of a counselor, you can work to cope with your differences.

No matter how much a couple love each other, they may still have some anxiety over the thought of a lifelong commitment. Counseling can help partners deal with this anxiety by giving them the opportunity to deal with possible causes for anxiety and work through them.

Finally, couples often approach their marriage with fears about the longevity of their relationship. Premarital counseling can help you identify and confront your fears about forming and maintaining a healthy marriage.

Understanding the Aspects of Premarital Counseling

Education, Expertise, and Experience

Couples seeking premarital counseling should accept services only from specialized and certified professionals who hold the required education and experience. A premarital counselor needs to have specific knowledge and expertise, so couples should be careful when choosing a counselor.


All professionals are obliged to protect their clients’ information, so couples should expect that the counselor they choose will explain their right to confidentiality at the outset of therapy. Counselors should also explain when they may need to disclose some specific information, for example, to authorities.

Types of Premarital Counseling

There are different types of premarital counseling depending on your personality or your background. Choosing the right type of premarital counseling will increase its chance of effectiveness and ensure that you will benefit from the experience as much as possible.

Online Premarital Counseling Sessions

For couples who would prefer to receive counseling in the comfort of their own home, online premarital counseling will bring them closer to achieving their marriage-related goals in privacy and comfort. Online premarital counseling may include online counseling and self-guided sessions, among other methods.

One-on-One Premarital Counseling

This is the most traditional and commonly-used method of counseling. Premarital counselors conduct face-to-face sessions and help couples tackle their issues and develop the appropriate tools to resolve any future problems in their marriage.

Group Sessions and Open Discussion

While group sessions don’t focus solely on one couple, they can be a valuable experience. Group sessions can be used by couples for engaging purposes and to elicit helpful discussions that will teach them different perspectives and ideas. Couples will have the opportunity to learn how others deal with problems and how others maintain a happy marriage. Couples should keep in mind that privacy is at risk here, due to participation of other people.

Give yourselves the chance to build a strong foundation.

You and your partner need to understand that committing to each other can be challenging. You may find yourselves facing and discussing issues that you would rather ignore, but facing and resolving these issues is how you and your partner grow in your relationship. Don’t try to ignore issues in your relationship, and never isolate yourself from your partner. You and your partner are allies in life. Banish the idea that there are winners and losers in a relationship. You are both equals in your partnership, and you have 50-50 stakes in whatever makes you happy or shakes your relationship. Take advantage of the time you spend with a counselor to create a safe zone that you will nourished for years to come to build a healthy, trusting, and loving relationship with your spouse.


Carroll, Jason & Doherty, William. (2004). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Premarital Prevention Programs: A Meta‐Analytic Review of Outcome Research. Family Relations. 52. 105 – 118. 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2003.00105.x.

Fawcett, Elizabeth & Hawkins, Alan & Blanchard, Victoria & Carroll, Jason. (2010). Do Premarital Education Programs Really Work? A Meta-analytic Study. Family Relations – FAM RELAT. 59. 232-239. 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2010.00598.x.

What Should We Expect From Marriage Counseling?

You may be wondering what to expect from marriage counseling. Seeking marriage counseling can spike your anxiety levels, which often stops couples from getting help. Knowing what to expect from the process and therapeutic sessions can take some of the mystery out of the process, and it will help you make the right decision and seek help.

Why Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling is for couples that seek to improve their relationship or have become unsatisfied in their marriage. They may feel that their relationship is stuck and fixated on the same issues over and over again. Marriage counseling is useful in helping couples move on from conflict and create an environment which is both emotional and intimate for both partners. Even if the relationship is already considered relatively good, marriage counseling can improve emotional connection and intimacy, transforming the relationship onto a satisfying and more fulfilling. Marriage counseling offers a neutral and safe place for partners to explore their relationship.

Marriage Counseling FAQ

What will we learn in marriage counseling?

Marriage counseling will first of all uncover the real causes of distress in your marriage and will help you quickly resolve issues before they escalate to resentment. Partners will find ways to support each other’s goals and dreams, and will offer a supportive and positive environment. You will both look at past experiences, including your childhood, old habits and defenses that may impact your relationship, and you will explore each other’s empathy and learn how to understand and forgive each other. Furthermore, marriage counseling will give you the tools in order for you to improve emotional connection and through learning, you will both learn how to love each other again.

Is marriage counseling only for couple sessions?

You may be wondering whether marriage counseling requires only couples sessions. In fact, marriage counseling will not always be as a couple. While couples sessions are the basis of marriage counseling, there are usually some issues you need to work on by yourself, especially when one of the partners has certain skills and the other needs to take their time to build up to that level. Also, there are times when partners need to work out trust issues from their past. However, keep in mind that marriage counseling does not work when it is delivered only individually. For marriage counseling to be successful, you need to make sure that both you and your partner are committed to the therapy.

How many sessions will we need?

This is a difficult question to answer because every couple is different. However, good marriage counseling stimulates changes within a few sessions. You should be able to notice an improvement in how you understand your problems and deeper insights about yourself and your partner early in the counseling process.  

What will the process be like?

Going into your first session of couples counseling can be intimidating at first. There are three separate phases of treatment in marriage counseling, as follows:

Initial Phase: The beginning of treatment focuses on building a relationship or alliance between the counselor and each member of the couple. The first session is spent learning more about each individual person and your relationship as a couple. Your counselor may inquire about your relationship history and assist you in identifying goals for treatment. Here, the counselor will get to know each of you on a personal level and may ask about anything from your childhood to how you met each other. Many people feel discouraged after the first session, thinking that counseling is just a bunch of questions without actual change happening. But while these questions may seem unimportant, they are essential to the therapist understanding your story and how you got to where you are.

As your sessions continue, counseling explores the root of your problems. Some of the most common problems that couples face include arguments, avoidance behavior, and intimacy issues. No two couples have the same problems, but identifying your problems is an important step towards healing. As you share your concerns, your counselor will look for the underlying issues and will develop goals, reaching the working phase of marriage counseling.

Working Phase: During the working phase of treatment, the counselor will use evidence-based models to assist you and your partner in reaching your identified treatment goals. You may be asked to complete interventions during sessions to practice skills such as active listening and healthy communication. Often, your therapist will even assign homework so you can practice these skills outside of your sessions, as well.

Closing Phase: Finally, the working phase leads to the closing phase. The closing phase consists of reviewing the couple’s progress toward reaching their identified goals. The counselor ensures that the skills learned during therapy can be applied to the couple’s life outside of therapy as well. Successful marriage therapy occurs when couples demonstrate an ability to solve problems on their own without the help of their counselor.

How to Make the Best of Your Search for Marriage Counseling

Research for the counselor that fits your needs.

It is important to go out there and find the appropriate counselor that will help you fix your marriage. You can discuss with others and get references or you can use the internet to search through counselors’ profiles. When you have an idea of what you want, make a small list of the possible counselors. Include both male and female counselors and have a visit both individually and as a couple or call them. Compare and contrast. It is always a good idea to ask counselors about their approach on the assessment and the treatment process. Have your questions ready, because counselors will not spend a lot of time listening to your story.

Marriage counseling can be a therapeutic process, but there are some things to prepare for before committing to counseling with your partner. Here is a list of things to have in mind:

Both you and your partner should commit 100% to attending counseling together and have common goals.

This may be obvious at the beginning, especially during the enthusiasm phase, but both of you should take time and discuss your concerns with an open mind. There are times where partners approach counseling with ‘mixed agenda’ meaning that one of the partners seeks reconciliation while the other seeks divorce. Not saying that approaching counseling differently will lead to failure, but if you both decide to proceed with counseling keep in mind that the more dedicated you are to the process and the more common ground you have, the more effect counseling will have on your relationship, resulting in healing and growth.

You and your partner should aim to create a comfortable and safe counseling environment.

It is important that you and your partner find a counselor who offers the environment you both want. In marriage counseling, both partners should feel safe and comfortable expressing their needs and wants. Each partner should feel heard.

Signs That Marriage Counseling May Not Be the Answer

Individual therapy may be your best solution instead.

Even if you have some troubles in your marriage, marriage counseling might not be the first step. Sometimes, each partner needs to resolve their own individual issues before stepping into marriage counseling. Unresolved issues from the past can affect relationships in the present. By resolving individual issues first, you can then step into marriage counseling, focused on working out the remaining issues with your partner.

The counselor is not fit for you and your partner.

It is possible that a certain counselor is not an ideal match for you and your partner. A good counselor will both make you feel comfortable and safe in the therapeutic process. Don’t waste your time with unfit professionals.

Just going to sessions without commitment does not count as work.

Counselors will not magically fix your problems. They can teach you skills and help you communicate more effectively, but you need to put in the work. If you are not focusing on the homework and time between sessions, then counseling is not for you.

Don’t go into counseling thinking it will change your partner the way you want.

Many people think that marriage counseling will change their partner, but in reality, you can only change yourself. Neither you nor a counselor can force your partner to change. Your partner will change only if he or she wants to.

You are there to speak, but you won’t listen.

Marriage counseling should be an environment where both partners can express their thoughts, feelings, fears, and concerns. If you are there just to speak and not to listen to your partner’s thoughts, feelings, fears, and concerns, then you may not find a way to improve your marriage.

There is no more love.

You cannot force a marriage to work. If you are no longer happy and you have tried all your options, but you feel that there is no love left, it may be time to admit that the marriage is simply not working anymore.


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