Despite what you see on Facebook and Instagram, no relationship is perfect.
Every couple experiences patches of being out of sync. For some, it’s like they’re always on different wavelengths. For others, it’s a rare occurrence.
It takes hard work, communication, and understanding to make a marriage work. Sometimes, you lose your way and you need to find your way back.
You’ve thought about going to counseling, but you want to know, “Does marriage counseling work?” In this article, we tell you five things you need to know about couples therapy to get the most out of it.
Does Marriage Counseling Work?
More than 827,000 couples file for divorce every year and while that number is on the decline, there’s still a 50% chance a marriage ends in divorce. The cold, hard truth is, you can go to marriage counseling and still end up getting a divorce.
Not every couple that gets divorced went to therapy and not every couple that goes to therapy will get divorced. But studies show that couples who go to counseling find satisfaction after their sessions end.
There are a lot of reasons couples choose not to go to couples therapy. These include:
- Couples who worry about the cost of therapy.
- They’re embarrassed.
- They don’t want to put in the time or work.
- They view counseling as failing at their marriage.
- They don’t care if the marriage works or fails.
Therapy isn’t magic pixie dust that fixes all your problems. But there are ways to increase your marriage counseling success rate. We go over five ways below.
1. You Must Want to Save Your Marriage
The number one thing you must take into counseling is the desire for your marriage to work. If you have it set in your mind that your marriage is over and you’re getting divorced, counseling won’t work.
You must go into therapy with an open mind. You have to prepare for the therapist to dig deep into your relationship to heal the painful wounds.
In the end, you have to feel that the pain of divorce is greater than the pain of what you’re going through in your marriage. In other words, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make your marriage healthier and stronger because you can’t bear the thought of divorce.
There is one caveat to wanting your marriage/relationship to work and that’s abuse. If you’re in an abusive relationship, domestic violence experts don’t believe couples therapy will work. They suggest individual counseling instead.
The main reason they give is that abuse isn’t a “relationship problem.” The issues lie within the abuser. Many victims are also fearful of speaking out against their abuser.
2. Find a Marriage Counselor
It’s very important to find the right counselor for you and your marriage. That includes finding a therapist who specializes in marriage and family counseling. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t hire a probate attorney to handle your divorce, would you?
Marriage and couples therapists have extensive training when it comes to building stronger relationships. They treat a range of clinical problems like depression, anxiety, and individual psychological issues.
They’re prepared for the emotional support you and your partner need and will teach you the tools to strengthen your relationship.
3. Keep Your Problems Between the Two of You
Even if you decide counseling isn’t for you, be wary of sharing the intimate details of your marriage problems with co-workers, friends, family, and on social media. If you decide counseling is right for you, never tell anyone what you discuss with your therapist.
Telling everyone your marriage problems takes energy from your relationship. You can say you’re only venting, but this behavior encourages a “victim mentality.” Without meaning to, you’re using a poor-me attitude to gain sympathy.
People who care about you will feed into that mentality and you’ll start making excuses instead of taking responsibility. While these people do care about you, they don’t have the training to be your therapist. They can often encourage more negative behavior when they think they’re helping.
An incidental result of sharing too much with others is that their opinion of your spouse can change. They’ll start having negative feelings toward your spouse that aren’t warranted. You may be able to overcome the problems within your marriage and move on, but they may not be able to.
This can make relationships outside of your marriage difficult to maintain. You don’t want to visit a family member during a holiday if their behavior toward your spouse is reprehensible because of things you’ve told them.
4. Don’t Play the Blame Game
A marriage takes two people to make it work and often two people cause it to fail. A lot of couples walk into therapy with a mindset of “This person does this or that” and doesn’t take responsibility for their actions and behavior.
If you want to heal the pain and strengthen your relationship so your marriage has the best chance to succeed, you have to let go of blame. You have to assume you’re as much of the problem as your spouse. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, assume some part of the responsibility anyway.
The exception is if you’re in any kind of abusive relationship or if your partner has a severe mental illness or shows signs of sociopathy. In these cases, you may be better off getting individual therapy.
5. The Sooner you Seek Help, the Better
One of the biggest mistakes couples make is waiting too long to seek help. They use therapy as a last resort or the final step before a divorce. Studies show that the earlier you seek counseling, the greater your chances of satisfaction/success.
Some research suggests getting premarital counseling will increase the couple’s marital satisfaction. Talk about seeking help early!
Therapy provides you with the tools you need to communicate in a healthy way and have empathy. You can’t learn that early enough.
Get the Compassionate Therapy You Need
You’ve asked, “Does marriage counseling work?” and we’ve shown you it can. Having an open mind is important, but even more, so is finding the right therapist for you.
At Town Center Psychology, Dr. Teresa Helms offers marriage and couples counseling without judgment. Dr. Helms provides a safe environment for couples to work together to make their relationship stronger. Through her compassionate approach, couples can finally heal from painful emotional wounds and move forward.
If you’re in the Harrisburg, NC area and would like to meet with Dr. Helms to see if she’s the right therapist for you, contact her today to schedule an appointment.