Many couples report that therapy saved their relationship when on the brink of separation or even divorce. Couples therapy is hard work and requires dedication from both partners. During couple’s therapy, partners are asked to discuss events in their lives or relationship that have led them to seek therapy. The processing of these events may cause difficult emotions to arise such as anger or disappointment. Because of this, it may appear that the relationship is getting worse before it gets better. As with any form of therapy, there are no guarantees. A couple’s success in therapy is directly related to the motivation of both partners and their willingness to stay the course when things get tough.

So, will Marriage Counseling save my marriage?

One option that comes up when a marriage isn’t working out how you planned, is marriage counseling. When it comes to keeping your marriage alive and you have tried everything else, marriage counseling is usually the last step for struggling couples. Overcoming the tough time in a marriage can be very hard, and when it comes to the rescue, marriage counseling can be the only thing that can save your marriage, or at least make you realize other options.

One thing you need to keep in mind in order to fix your problems, is that if you are not 100% committed and focused on saving your marriage, you are very likely to fail. Therefore, whether a marriage can be saved or not, depends on various factors that the two partners bring to the counseling sessions. If both partners have the motivation and the will, you can expect positive results, unfortunately, most couples lose the passion or the drive, therefore making their marriage difficult to repair.

Factors that affect therapy’s outcomes:

The point of no return.

One of the biggest issues that overshadows marriage counseling is that couples tend to let their marriage fall to its lowest point in order for them to be alerted and visit a marriage counselor. Thus, there is often substantial damage done to the marriage by the time they have decided to seek for professional help. The significant characteristics of successful marriage counseling is that issues are detected and fixed early, before the marriage is too broken.

Communication collapse.

Collapse in communication is one of the main causes for the need of marriage counseling. Sometimes couples have been burying the issues for years, failing to tell their partners how they feel. This will lead to a huge buildup of emotional suppression, which will result to psychological and physical stress. This lack of communication is one of the main causes of affairs in marriages that can lead to a divorce before any of the issues are fixed. Being silent in the marriage, will kill the relationship, and in turn will kill the marriage.

The EVENT.

It can often take a huge dramatic episode that will motivate the couple to seek counseling, but the truth is that counseling should have begun a long time ago, before things got out of control. These dramatic episodes often include affairs and threats of divorce, and usually is the last action before seeking help from a marriage counselor.

Importance of Marriage counseling.

If issues in marriage are left untreated, it may be too late for reconciliation. It is a fact that marriage counseling offers the best results when issues are detected early and communication skills are taught early in the process. To find a solution in your problems, both of you need to be motivated to find one. With the help of your marriage counselor, you will bring attention to the issues that you face and you will discover the solutions to fix them. The key component here though, is that you both must be 100% willing to listen, accept, self-reflect and learn from the mistakes.

The process of marriage counseling.

The first step to marriage counseling is to eliminate the out of control issues that are destroying the relationship. These immediate issues need to be stabilized, in order for the process to move to the next step which is working out the underlying causes of the problems.

Things the counselor will mention in the sessions include the willingness of you and your partner to learn about your relationship, new things about yourselves and new ways of communicating with each other. The counselor needs to know whether you and your partner can let go of the selfishness and accept the responsibilities in areas where you failed in the marriage. Marriage counseling requires commitment and motivation.

Ways to predict if marriage counseling will save your marriage.

When people seek marriage counseling most of the time, they are wondering about the success rate. Even if it was possible to answer this question, results will not represent a marriage counselor’s skills, knowledge and abilities. What you need to keep in mind is that whether or not a marriage can be saved, lies in a combination of factors that the two partners bring to counseling sessions. In short, if you have the commitment and the will to change, you will succeed.

Not all partners have what it requires to save their marriage.

One thing that makes repairing the marriage difficult is that most people seeking help, come much later than they should have, and a lot of problems have already arisen. Usually, the partners have been silently suppressing their thoughts and emotions, not expressing to their partner how they feel until one day the issues come out. In some cases the one individual may express that they cannot stand their partner, while in other cases one of the partners has had an affair, and in others, one of the partners decides that he doesn’t want to stay in the marriage, requesting a divorce. Keep in mind, it always takes a destructive episode for most couples to acknowledge their problems and make the first step in accepting marriage counseling.

When the marriage reaches this stage, simply teaching communication skills is not enough. Instead, the couple experiences the worst side effects of their problematic relationship, with partners not being in the mood to be nice to each other. Therefore, it takes a professional marriage counselor to help process the problems and manage the crisis to ensure that partners will not cause more damage than what has already been made. As mentioned earlier, the first step in counseling, is to stabilize the situation. This happens after evaluation of each partner based on mental and physical history, family history, values and beliefs. The counselor explores each individual’s thoughts and assesses the will and motivation.

Factors that affect results from marriage counseling.

– Are partners willing to learn new things about their relationship and new ways of communicating with each other?

– Can partners let go of their ego and accept responsibility for parts of the marriage that they have fallen short? Can they stop blaming each other? Can they accept the guidance of a professional and capable marriage counselor concerning their crisis in marriage and the recovery of it?

– Can both partners be flexible with life’s challenges?

– Will both partners commit to the healing process and keep their word to be true to each other all the time? Commitment is a combination of ‘want’ and ‘need’ to stay in the marriage, with research indicating a positive relationship between marriage commitment and improvements in marriage (Christensen et al., 2010). 

– Can both partners be empathetic and put themselves in their partner’s shoes and see and feel how the other person see and feels? Will partners understand the effects of their actions and accept responsibilities?

– Will, partners that suffer from mental health issues, invest to treating and managing themselves? For example, research found a bi-directional association between depression and marital discord meaning that depression may cause marital problems and vice versa (Denton et al., 2003).

This list can go on and some factors are hard to attain. But these characteristics are required from both of partners so that they can work through things in a healthy manner and have an outcome that will satisfy both of them. For partners that lack some of the characteristics, it is a good idea to start working them along the way.

Marriage counseling is not for the light hearted and it takes commitment, willingness and hard work. Furthermore, it is a fact, that successful marriages require respect, communication, consideration and mutuality.

Interesting numbers about marriage counseling.

When going through studies regarding marriage counseling, results consider marriage counseling as an efficacious approach that can significantly reduce marital distress (Dunn & Schwebel, 1995; Shadish & Baldwin, 2003). 

Stats from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy present interesting numbers regarding marriage counseling, showing that after receiving marriage counseling, almost 90% of couples report an improvement in their emotional health, and nearly two-thirds report an improvement in their overall physical health. Furthermore, in another study, satisfaction in marriage after counseling was assessed and was found that 66% of partners presented improvement after counseling (Byrne et al., 2004). Finally, results from a similar study displayed that approximately 48% of couples exhibited either improvement or complete recovery in marital satisfaction at a five-year follow up (Foote, 2014).

References:

Byrne, M., Carr, A., & Clark, M. (2004). The Efficacy of Behavioral Couples Therapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couple Distress. Contemporary Family Therapy, 361-387.

Christensen A, Baucom B, Atkins DC, Yi J: Marital status and satisfaction five years following a randomized clinical trial comparing traditional versus integrative behavioral couple therapy. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010, 78: 225-235.

Denton WH, Golden RN, Walsh SR: Depression, marital discord, and couple therapy. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2003, 16: 29-34. 10.1097/00001504-200301000-00007.

Dunn RL, Schwebel AI: Meta-analytic review of marital therapy outcome research. J Fam Psychol. 1995, 9: 58-68.

Foote, L., Premarital Counseling. 2014.

Shadish WR, Baldwin SA: Meta-analysis of MFT interventions. J Marital Fam Ther. 2003, 29: 547-570. 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2003.tb01694.x.

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