Marriage Counseling and Couple’s Therapy
In the same way we all have different fingerprints, backgrounds and impressions of the world, we all have different ways of communicating. Our differences can attract us to one another, potentially leading to exciting new experiences that may even change our opinions and beliefs.
However, differences can also lead to disagreements or discord, even within the most secure relationships.
A couple facing persistent issues and/or disagreements may feel like they are experiencing the relationship equivalent of getting a car stuck in a ditch. Instead of moving forward, the wheels spin, sometimes digging the car in deeper. In this metaphor, the ditch usually represents an old argument or dispute that one or both partners repeatedly bring up without ever reaching a resolution.
To expand on the metaphor, the stuck car may need the assistance of a tow truck to get out of the ditch. Like the car and the tow truck, the troubled couple may benefit from the guidance of an experienced marriage counselor to get them to a better place.
With the assistance, goals and communication tools an experienced relationship counselor provides, the couple can learn to reconnect and collaborate, ideally leading to a happier, healthier and more stable existence.
How Does Marriage Counseling Work?
Movies and television shows often depict an exaggerated version of marriage counseling, which can lead to misconceptions or even a reluctance or refusal for some individuals to consider couple’s therapy. This is unfortunate because the goal of couple’s therapy is to create a safe place where both partners can openly discuss issues in the relationship.
Couple’s therapy prevents the couple from reverting back to old patterns that intensified problems. The therapist directs a shift in communication that allows listening and understanding to replace previous patterns that hindered progress.
What Happens in Couple’s Therapy?
Couple’s therapy begins with you and your partner meeting with the therapist as a couple. As the name suggests, most of your sessions will be together as a couple unless the therapist requests individual sessions to explore your individual history or your partner’s in greater detail.
The first session consists of discussing problems in the relationship and examining the possible causes. Once the issues are identified, you can all begin working together to improve communication and understanding.
Honesty during the process will increase the likelihood that therapy will lead to a more fulfilling relationship.
A relationship is a journey, and a couple’s therapist can be a valuable navigational resource, especially when the terrain proves difficult or when you and your partner can’t seem to agree on which direction is best.
During the next sessions together, your therapist will likely encourage the two of you to set goals. This may sound scary, particularly if you fear your partner’s goals do not align with yours. However, even with different perspectives, you can still work together to find the best path forward.
Fears and Feelings
Some people mistakenly assume that marriage counseling is a small step away from divorce, but that is not the case at all. In fact, by helping you both learn to communicate more effectively and work through issues, couple’s therapy can provide you with the necessary tools to repair rifts in the relationship.
Couple’s therapists are objective. A couple’s therapist will not tell you what to do or try to make decisions for either of you. Your therapist is a helpful guide, not a backseat driver.
If your partner is reluctant to enter couple’s therapy, he or she may fear being blamed or criticized. Communicate that this is not the intention and do not make the therapy sound like a last resort or a threat.
Let your partner know that the purpose of marriage counseling is to figure out the source of the discord, so it can hopefully be overcome.
Communication seems like a simple, natural and easy exchange of information and understanding. After all, if we are speaking the same language, why does it seem like things still get lost in translation?
Some threats to open communication are behaviors that we may not be aware of on our own. Some of these behaviors only emerge in times of stress, yet others may be a routine that we frequently fall into without realizing it.
Repeated disagreements can cause us to get defensive. Suddenly, everything feels like an attack, which may prevent a partner from feeling able to communicate honestly.
Another response that can be detrimental to communication is when a partner shuts down and refuses to continue discussing an issue.
Along with defensiveness and refusal to communicate, bitterness, unresolved anger and resentment can all halt communication and threaten your compatibility.
Eliminating the Distance
Sooner or later, all relationships experience some form of conflict among partners. This is unavoidable. Each partner is an individual with a perspective as unique as a fingerprint. You won’t see eye to eye on every issue. This becomes a problem when the conflict begins to overshadow or define the relationship.
If laughter has left the relationship only to be replaced by an argument that you both keep repeating or if life events created stress that is negatively impacting your relationship, you and your partner might need help eliminating the distance that has grown between you. An experienced and empathetic marriage counselor can help you navigate that distance.
You may be wondering what happens with most couples who receive marriage counseling. Over 98 percent of families and couples surveyed by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists indicated high levels of satisfaction following family or couple’s therapy, and 93 percent said the therapy provided them with effective tools for dealing with issues. Respondents to the survey also said that therapy helped them improve their health and wellness at home and in the workplace.
It is natural to feel curious about a potential timeline for marriage counseling. Every couple is different, and the length of time it takes to work through problems also varies.
The outcome of marriage couple’s therapy may be that you move forward as a couple, but it could also lead to you both deciding that separation is best. No matter which outcome awaits, your therapist will be there to help you and promote a positive journey forward.
The more you trust your therapist, the easier it is for him or her to help. Naturally, you and your partner may have difficulty being open and honest in the beginning but try your best. The sooner you work through the issues, the sooner you can leave them in the past.
Couple’s therapy is a powerful relationship tool. Many couples report noticeable positive changes within the first few sessions. Some of the changes reported were that couples felt better equipped to resolve past incidents, identify conflicts and recognize anger and how to work through it. Instead of falling into old patterns, many couples were able to build a closer partnership.
If you feel that you and your partner may have taken a wrong turn in your relationship, consider couple’s therapy to get you going in the right direction. If you would like more information, consider contacting one of our experienced therapists at the Jacksonville Center for Counseling.