Couples or marriage counseling is for people seeking better understanding and intimacy in their relationship or considering the possibility of separation. Counseling helps couples work through these issues with a focus on the relationship as well as individual things such as self improvement and awareness.
When is counseling recommended?
Couples who start to consider counseling tend to do so because of power struggles in the relationship, communication problems, sexual dissatisfaction or infidelity. It is recommended that you seek counseling as soon as you start to feel unhappy or dissatisfied in your relationship, however, most people spend six years feeling miserable in their relationship before going to therapy. The problem with this is that the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to fix things.
Counseling is also recommended even if you’ve decided to separate rather than try to make the relationship work. Having a counselor with you can help you end the relationship in a more dignified and respectful way.
What can I expect?
Many things will be discussed throughout the counseling sessions, but you can expect communication to be a primary focus. Most relationship problems, including power struggles and conflict avoidance, center around communication. Without communicating properly with your spouse or partner it can be very difficult for wounds to heal. Open wounds left from conflicts in the relationship are the number one reason for marital unhappiness and divorce. With counseling, you and your partner can learn to regulate your emotions and use healthy communication skills that will help you resolve problems rather than let them build.
For the process to be successful, both partners need to be motivated and dedicated to improving the relationship. Your counselor will help you become a better communicator and listener and find new ways to support your partner. They will guide you through the formation of goals while remaining neutral throughout any conflicts that arise during the counseling process. You and your partner will be together for most of the sessions, but individual sessions are a possibility if needed.
What will the results be?
Couples counseling sessions usually take place once per week, but this can vary depending on your goals and whether you have additional individual or group sessions. The sessions themselves will usually be short-term, but the therapy can continue for as long as needed if the couple remains committed.
As for the results of counseling, research shows that about 48% of couples see improvement or complete recovery of their satisfaction in the relationship five years after working with a therapist. For 38%, the relationship had deteriorated further and 14% saw no change.
If you’d like to try counseling for your relationship but your partner is more hesitant, check out the advice here at goodtherapy.org along with all of their other great resources for couples counseling.