A recent New York Times article indicated that on average a married couple seeks therapy after the relationship has been in trouble for six years. Imagine you have a broken leg and you don’t attend to it by seeing a physician for six years. Now consider another recent study that found that two-thirds of divorcing couples never sought therapy before calling it quits. This study is shocking because it seems to suggest they didn’t really give their marriage a fair chance by working with a professional.
For many couples, the thought of going to couples therapy is daunting, not just because they will be discussing their most private emotions and thoughts (including sexual ones), but because it feels like admitting failure. Many people wrongly think being in love shouldn’t take work. After all, it’s supposed to be “happily ever after” not “happily ever after… with weekly therapy.” However, ask any happily married couple what the secret to their marital bliss is and they will admit it takes plenty of work and commitment. Therapy can be a very useful tool in this process, especially if you and your partner continually seem to have the same argument or experience the same issues. Maintaining a marriage and solving problems within the marriage takes skills. Relationship skills that few of us naturally possess. We may feel like we have exhausted all options, but a marriage counselor can be of great benefit in teaching problem solving skills and how to ask for our needs to be met.
Below is a list of marriage counseling benefits:
- You will learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. In marriage counseling you will learn communication skills that will help you not only listen to your spouse but, to also process what your spouse is saying.
- You will learn how to state your needs clearly and openly without resentment or anger.
- You will learn how to be assertive without being offensive. Both spouses need to be able to talk about their issues without fear of hurting the other spouse. In marriage counseling you will learn that you can get what you need without having to make demands and engage in conflict.
- You will learn to process and work through unresolved issues. Marriage counseling offers a safe environment for expressing any unhappiness you feel. Getting your feelings out into the open with the help of a trained professional may be all you need. You may find that your spouse is more than willing to work together to solve the problems in the marriage.
- You will develop a deeper understanding of who your spouse is and what his/her needs are. Better yet, you will learn more deeply who you are and what your needs are.
Relationship skills needed to maintain a fulfilling marriage can be learned. A marriage counselor can teach you those skills while monitoring your progress, mediating conflict and giving objective feedback; find the right balance between empathically (not passively) listening and active and skillful engagement, without being intimidating. If the latter balance can be accomplished, a trusting relationship (necessary for good therapy) can be developed with the couple.
If you wait too long to seek couples counseling the odds are against you. Even if you feel it is too late and no amount of counseling will help the only way to know for sure is to seek professional help. Doing so will keep you from making a mistake you will later regret. If you are thinking about divorce, protect yourself from future regret by working with a marriage counselor. I cannot only help you come to terms with whether or not to divorce but can also teach you the skills needed in any future relationships should you decide to leave the marriage.