You may ask “Can my marriage be saved?” or “Should stay married?” While these are complicated questions, Marriage counseling is hard work and there are no guarantees. However, spending the time to find out if your marriage can be improved is a smart decision.
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.
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 relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, 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.
It’s critical that couples see conflict as an inevitable part of a committed, romantic relationship. After all, every relationship has its ups and downs, and conflict goes with the territory. Yet couples might avoid conflict because it may have signified the end of their parents’ marriage or led to bitter disputes. Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Divorce Remedy explains that avoiding conflict backfires in intimate relationships. She posits that bottling up negative thoughts and feelings doesn’t give your partner a chance to change their behavior. On the other hand, Weiner cautions that one of the secrets of a good marriage or romantic relationship is learning to choose battles wisely and to distinguish between petty issues and important ones.
Here are a few tips that can help you find your answers.
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 timeline for change. It takes more than a few sessions to shed light on the dynamics and to begin the process of change.
How can marriage counseling help couples?
- If 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.