Couples seek marriage counseling for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to infidelity and issues with communication, or for pre-marital counseling. According to research by Dr. John Gottman, an expert in the field of marriage therapy, the average couple waits 6 years before seeking help for marital problems. Yet, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years. Waiting too long to seek marriage counseling allows negative patterns of interaction, as well as resentment, to build up over time. This often results in divorce or separation that could have been prevented with marriage counseling earlier in the relationship. If both partners are willing to commit to each other and to the process, marriage counseling programs have a high rate of effectiveness in helping them recover from most relationship issues.
When is the right time to consider marriage counseling services? Here are some signs you may need to act fast:
There is negative communication or no communication at all.
Negative communication includes anything that leaves one partner feeling emotionally drained, judged, shamed, and insecure. Negative communication also includes your tone; it is not always what you say, but how you say it that matters. In relationships, negative communication can escalate into emotional abuse.
Furthermore, while maintaining healthy communication can become a challenge in the strenuous livee of a modern married couple, major problems arise when there is no communication at all. A marriage counselor can help you discover new ways to communicate with each other. Once communication is lost, it is hard to get it back, so you need to act fast.
You are afraid to express your thoughts.
It becomes a problem for the relationship when one or both partners is afraid of talking. This may involve anything from expressing thoughts about everyday activities to discussing money, or even annoying habits. A marriage counselor will help you and your partner put thoughts into words in a healthy way within a safe environment and will help you understand what you are truly talking about and accept each other’s thoughts respectfully.
Partners see each other as enemies.
You and your partner are on the same team, providing each other with support and someone to lean on. If it begins to feel as if you are enemies, constantly at odds, then it is time to seek help from a professional to guide your marriage’s recovery.
Partners keep secrets from each other.
Not spending 24 hours a day with each other and enjoying different habits may be beneficial for the relationship, but when partners keep secrets from each other, something isn’t right.
One partner has had an affair or is fantasizing about one.
Having an affair or fantasizing about one may be a signal that you want something different from what you have. While it is possible for a married couple to survive after one partner has had an affair, it is better to get professional help before acting upon your thoughts. When both of you are honest and committed to the counseling process, the marriage may still be repaired.
One of the partners has lost financial control.
Losing control of your finances can be just as damaging to your marriage as a sexual affair. If one partner keeps the other in the dark about spending money or needs to control everything, then the matter should be discussed over counseling so it can be solved.
Partners argue over the same things over and over again.
Everyone has their own behaviors and things that drive other people crazy. Small things, like laundry and untidiness, among others, can be the cause of fights. Partners don’t always recognize why these fights keep happening or what they can do about it. A marriage counselor can help you and your partner discuss these issues and figure out the real cause of your problems.
A partner feels that everything would be okay if the other person changed.
You need to keep in mind that the only person you can change is yourself. If you are waiting for your partner to change, you will be waiting forever. When you seek marriage counseling, your counselor will help you better understand who you are and what your goals are.
Act fast when there is:
When communication is absent, one or both partners consistently react negatively to the other, and any efforts to resolve issues become a negative experience. That being said, toxicity in relationships includes physical and emotional abuse. If your relationship has reached this point, act fast and seek help before it progresses to the next stage.
A Frozen Marriage
After a while, toxicity freezes your marriage. This means all arguments and breaks in trust are preserved, leading your marriage to plateau. If you are in this phase, seek help fast and let a marriage counselor help both of you find the willingness to try again.
What Not To Do
According to the literature, distressed couples take an average of 6 years to decide to seek marriage counseling. Waiting too long to receive professional help allows negativity to become a habit. Years of negative interaction can damage your marriage, creating a toxic relationship with mistrust, resentment, and avoidance that can be difficult to heal. The sooner you break this habit, the better. Any couple can reach a positive outcome through marriage counseling, and getting help sooner rather than later is an investment for you and your partner.
How Counseling Can Help Your Marriage
You may feel that your marriage is constantly challenged and are seeking counseling in the hope of turning things around. At this moment, you may be wondering whether marriage counseling can really help and whether it is worth the time and money. If dysfunctional patterns of behavior are identified early, the process of change can begin. A married couple will begin to explore their problems from a new perspective and will recognize and resolve conflicts. Partners will build trust and improve their communication, and this, in turn, will lead to healthier interactions. All this is the result of marriage counseling. In a safe environment, both of you can decide to repair your marriage and start over or end the marriage and move on. Furthermore, you can:
One of the goals of marriage counseling is to improve communication. Whether you are newly married or are new parents, maintaining healthy communication is key. Through marriage counseling, you will learn specific skills and techniques that will help both of you listen, understand, and respond to one another effectively, respectfully, and with more empathy. Your counselor will initially help you practice these skills in your sessions, and then you will be asked to practice them at home. Over time, you and your partner will learn new healthy and respectful ways to interact with each other.
To be intimate it means to be open, vulnerable, and able to share your thoughts and emotions. Marriage counseling will help you improve intimacy so that you can both feel safe and have fun. Sex will no longer feel like a chore, and the relationship will make you feel both satisfied and complete. Through marriage counseling, you and your partner will learn how to feel more connected to each other, both physically and emotionally.
Transform a boring marriage into a fun marriage.
Marriage counseling is not always about problems. In fact, some couples seek counseling because they just feel bored. It is important to always try to bring fun and excitement back into your relationship. Marriage counseling will help both of you discover new interests and experiences you can share with one another. Having fun in your marriage will make you fall in love with your partner all over again.
Now that you know all about marriage counseling, let me help you make your choice.
Choose your style of counseling.
There are many different therapeutic approaches out there. What you need is a marriage counselor who is experienced and knowledgeable, but who is also a professional who does not try to impose a static approach. There are several methods out there, but a skilled professional will be able to use a variety of methods to meet your needs and ensure the best results. Marriage counseling is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it should be tailored to your needs.
Spend your money wisely.
Most couples want to save money and feel like they are getting a good deal, but at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Think of the cost of marriage counseling as an investment. If you put your money into a profitable investment, you will earn positive returns. Spending your money wisely by choosing a highly skilled professional ensures that you get results. You are not only increasing your chances for a positive outcome, you are also saving money in the long run.
Your relationship is what matters most!
You may have been together for some time, and your marriage has problems, but you love your partner so much that you still want to spend the rest of your life with them. A marriage counselor will help both of you look closely at your problems. Through marriage counseling, your marital life will be assessed, and you will understand any problems that exist and how they are impacting your relationship. You will open up and share your problems while the skills you gain—empathetic listening, understanding, and forgiving—heal your marriage. The most important thing is your own commitment and the will for personal growth, even during the most vulnerable of times.
John Gottman, Ph.D., (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (Norton Professional Books), WW Norton & Company, Inc., p. 6.
Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Random House: New York.