When to get marriage counselling ?


It can be difficult to make the decision to get marriage help. Admitting out loud to yourself, to your partner, and to another individual that things are not as they should be takes it out of your head where it’s been living and into the real world. That can be a very scary experience. So try this instead. Consider how happy you are with your marriage right now. Now, most of us fall into one of three categories when it comes to our marriage:

  • things are bad. We’re thinking about divorce, maybe there has been an affair or some other betrayal, and overall our marriage is a source of pain and / or dissatisfaction.
  • things aren’t that great but we believe things can get better. We’re going through a tough time, or there’s a persistent issue in our marriage that causes grief and yet we haven’t done anything to solve it. We still love each other.
  • things are good, great even. Our marriage is a constant source of happiness and satisfaction in our life.

Following couples get most benefit from marriage counselling:

  • couples who are younger
  • couples who have less traditional roles in their relationship
  • couples who are still in love
  • couples who are willing to examine how they are contributing to the problem
  • couples who are willing to give therapy a try because they are prepared to change.

However couples who are least likely to benefit from relationship counseling share these characteristics:

  • couples who have waited too long to get help
  • couples where one or both partner’s wants a divorce
  • couples where one or both partners don’t want to accept any personal responsibility or put in any effort
  • couples where one partner is suffering from an alcohol, drug or other addiction

The most common issues include:

  • communication issues
  • lack of trust
  • disagreeing about core values (i.e. children, how to spend money, religion)

How to bring up marriage counselling?

Maybe it was in a conversation with your spouse that you both decided one solution for your marriage problem was to start couples therapy. In that case, half the battle is done. However if this is a conclusion that you’ve formed on your own, it’s a little bit more challenging. How do you even mention to your spouse that this is something you think you need? “You should start by emphasizing the importance of the relationship. You want to make it work. You want to see if you two can learn new ways of coping and dealing with stress.” Because your emotions might be high on the surface, I recommend thinking carefully about what you are going to say and rehearsing it until you feel comfortable. For example, “Hey. You know how much our relationship means to me. It seems like we’ve been fighting a lot lately, especially about XXX. I’ve been thinking that it would be useful to go and see someone, to get some help.” Chances are you will have an ideas as to the reason’s your spouse may not want to go, so be prepared for that. Other than they actually don’t care enough about the marriage to think about counselling, they’re set on divorce, or those other reasons marriage counseling often doesn’t work that I mentioned above, there are some common objections:

  • they don’t think it’s that bad
  • they don’t believe it will work
  • it costs too much
  • they don’t have the time
  • they don’t want to share the details of their marriage with a third party
  • they think you will blame them for all your marital problems

Try these rules for listening to objections:

  • stop, take a breath and think the word, “calm”
  • listen to understand – when they have finished speaking, start with, “So you’re saying [insert paraphrase of the discussion]. Is that right? If you were wrong, give them the chance to express themselves again, and then check for understanding once more
  • explore the thinking behind their objection. If, for example, they said that they don’t believe it will work, ask what is it about counselling that they don’t think will work. Tip – try to avoid the word “why” wherever possible. There is something super confronting about that word that gets many people’s backs up. I have a theory (completely untested) that this is because when we were kids
  • Why don’t you think it will work versus
  • What exactly is it about counselling that makes you think it won’t work?
  • now provide your response to their concerns. This is where you can add that you’ve looked at the budget and if you cut out such and such it can work, or you’ve found some online options, or you know that you’ve contributed to these problems because…

How long does marriage counselling take?

Some therapists provide brief treatment that may last anywhere from 1-3 sessions. Others work with couples for years. The average time tends to be a few months.You should expect to see your counselor once a week to keep the momentum going. Remember that having clear goals about what you actually want will help you know when it is working, and when it is time to stop marriage counseling.