Marriage counseling is traditionally done with both parties present. Some therapist will interview or see each party individually at first or sometimes during the therapy. Unfortunately many couples wait until the last minute to seek marriage counseling. By that time one or both parties tend to be ready to call it quits.
Does marriage counseling work?
Although some friends and family predict doom and gloom because so many marriages fail, it does not have to be that way. Marriage counseling with an experienced and skilled therapist can promote the recovery from this desperate stage in your marriage.
The message is “Do not give up”. A therapist is not capable of making your partner love you. That is both of your jobs, but your commitment is necessary.
What to expect from couples therapy.
One of the first places to start in marriage counseling is to focus on communication skills. In the initial stages of most relationships there is lots of time together for the couple, little outside world stress so it seems simple to convey love and caring to your partner. As the demands of life increase and time becomes precious (growing your career, buying a house, additional finances and children) there is actually less time to communicate your love or express your needs in the relationship. Communication tends to be business like; “John has a game tonight”, “I have to work late this weekend”, “You never seem to be home.”
Your therapist will focus on communication skills and problem solving. The old adage is: You can tell anybody anything if you say it the right way. A therapist can help you verbalize your needs the right way. Remember: if your concerns are not heard you cannot fix them.
Your role in marriage counseling.
As part of marriage counseling each party must assume responsibility for their emotions, their behavior, and their values. Each partner needs to be able to describe what they like or do not like with out getting defensive. Psychological defenses are unconscious and automatic. This keeps couples from communicating or even hearing each of your concerns. Couples are more likely to blame each other which generally results two responses. In one the partner shuts down, freezes the other one out. The result, is there is no communication for days. At times defensiveness may escalate into angry hurtful comments or even physical conflict.
In marriage counseling the therapist is the person that can hear both parties’ concerns, express that clearly, point out any defensiveness, and clear the barriers to open communication and problem solving.
Your partner may be doing something that hurts your feelings without even knowing it. They may also become defensive when they realize they have hurt you, which implies they did it on purpose but that is not true. Marriage counseling will help accepting responsibility for your feelings and actions.
Do both partners need to go to marriage counseling?
Sometimes one partner wants marriage counseling but the other does not. Although it is no longer considered marriage counseling, but individual counseling, it does work.
Marriage partners develop patterns of behavior. These patterns, mostly unspoken, are developed over time, some are positive and some are not. When a partner tries to convey how they feel to their spouse, their partner may respond by getting angry, stomping out of the room, with days of silence to follow.
Marriage counseling is about changing the way the couple interacts because it no longer works for them. Change how one person reacts in the relationship and their partner most likely will change as well.