Whether you call it therapy, marriage counseling or couples counseling, what you’re signing up for is inviting a collaborator- a therapist- into your relationship to help you and your partner grow together and nurture a warm and fulfilling relationship.
Couples suffer a great deal before deciding to seek help
In fact, according to research by Gottman, couples wait an average of 6 years of being unhappy with their relationship before getting help. That's a long time to be unhappy! Too often conflicting viewpoints, past experiences, and/or stresses of everyday life get in the way of fully connecting with your partner
Couples counseling can help to develop or restore communication, trust, and intimacy. When both partners willingly come together to be a part of the solution together, they take the first step in creating an environment for their relationship to heal and grow. And for you, your partner, and/or your kids - that might make all the difference in the world - right now.
Couples therapy offers a tremendous opportunity for partners to work towards creating better, more fulfilling, deeper, richer connections with each other.
No one is born with excellent relationship skills
If you're fortunate to have grown up in a family highly skilled in communication, conflict resolution, and trust building, you had great role models. For most of us, relationship skills need to be learned through a lot of trial and error or outside help. Couples counseling offers the opportunity to set special time aside to work on these skills in a safe and nurturing environment. You may not have been born with excellent relationship skills, but you can develop them with the proper support and commitment to change.
Becoming less reactive and more responsive
Couples will often complain how each partner knows exactly how to “push their buttons”. Once we get our buttons pushed things tend to heat up, or cool down at warp speed. A key goal in the therapeutic process becomes about how to become less reactive and more responsive. This is a highly complex process that takes time because these “buttons” usually represent places in us that are loaded with psychic energy. That is, there are places in all of us that feel unresolved, or left behind, or in some way wounded from a myriad of events and experiences long ago.
Common Issues Addressed in Couples or Marriage Counseling
Problems happen and that's okay. There may be hundreds of reasons that bring couples to the place of even considering the need for counseling. Some of the reasons that bring couples to counseling include:
- A slow & unintentional neglect due to work, life, or kids..
- The routine becomes so usual that the comfort of the predictable wears on a relationship over time without either partner knowing it.
- Communication and Problem Resolution difficulties contribute to yelling, hurtful statements and couples feeling unheard, invalidated, disrespected, scared or unappreciated.
- Trust issues, Infidelity or something acutely damaging and hurtful.
- Crisis, such as a death in the family
- Changes in sex and intimacy
- Considering divorce and need help to decide whether to restore your marriage, move toward divorce, or take a time out and decide later.
How it works and what to Expect
Research shows that couples counseling works! The right therapist has the training, experience, knowledge of evidenced-based interventions, compassion and personality to help your relationship improve.
Perhaps one of the fears that keep people from seeking help is the idea that they may be judged. In our couples counseling sessions, we don't allow finger-pointing and blaming. The therapist won't be ganging up on anyone with anyone, and we don't take sides. The goal is to provide evidence-based information, teach interpersonal skills, and create a safe space to practice skills and feel heard.
The Good Stuff and The Tough Stuff
Most couples will attest to how great they feel about the relationship when it is going well. Usually partners have times that are full of joy, rely on each other for support in life, and have many places with each other that fill them up with good feelings.
Whether couples have an abundance of good stuff, or not, the key to a successful relationship is having tools to work through the tough stuff. Let’s face it, the tough stuff in life has a longer half-life then the good stuff. Many couples attest to the experiences that a great two weeks together can be all but wiped out by one tough disagreement, or argument.
Disagreements big or small require a couple to know how to engage themselves and each other so no matter what decisions are being made, the relationship is prioritized. Like most things in life, this is much easier said than done. This is where a quality therapeutic relationship can be so valuable.
Much of the therapeutic process becomes about helping a couple learn how to be in most any disagreement and still find a way to get closer. This process takes some time because, first we must figure out what is bound up in the destructive tendencies each might bring to disagreements. Then we must learn new ways to be in the intensities so we can have more in life.
Premarital counseling is a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship before getting married. It may help prepare you and your future spouse for marriage and ensure that you maintain a strong and healthy relationship. Premarital counseling may also help you identify the difficulties in your relationship and address them before they become bigger problems. These sessions can be incredibly beneficial for couples who are beginning a new life together.
The goals of Premarital Counseling
Getting married is a big step, so it’s important to make sure you are completely ready. Premarital counseling aims to improve your relationship with your future spouse before you get married. During counseling sessions, you may discuss a wide range of topics, such as finances, family, intimacy, anger issues, and communication.
Premarital counseling may help prepare you for the conflicts you may deal with in your marriage and how to resolve them. A skilled therapist can help you and your future spouse improve your communication skills and conflict-resolution skills. By discussing your expectations and differing opinions with your future spouse in a nonjudgmental environment, you can go into your marriage with a better understanding of one another.
What to Expect from Premarital Counseling
The idea of premarital counseling may be intimidating to some couples, but there is nothing to be afraid of. Sessions are conducted in a relaxed, safe and nurturing environment, created together with you and a skilled therapist. This is an opportunity to address relationship issues early on and go into your marriage with a healthy start.
In your first counseling sessions, you may be asked to separately answer a questionnaire to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship. Your therapist could help you begin to discuss areas where you disagree, and guide you through overcoming your challenges. Do not be afraid to be completely open and honest. Your therapist is there to help you, not judge you. The more open you and your partner are, the better your therapist may help you build a strong and lasting relationship.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Premarital Counseling Sessions
In order for you to receive the needed benefits from premarital counseling, it’s important for you to make a true effort during the therapy sessions. Here are few tips for getting the most out of your counseling sessions:
Keep Your Sessions Private: Whatever you discuss during sessions should be kept between you and your partner. If you tell your friends or family members about anything that was discussed during your counseling sessions, it might break your partner’s trust.
Recognize that Counseling May Be Challenging Sometimes: Even if you and your partner have a solid relationship, respect may not always be easy. One of you may say something that the other does not like or the two of you may argue about certain issues. The important thing is that you listen to one another’s concerns and resolve your issues together.
Express Thankfulness to Your Partner: It is a good idea to let your partner know that you appreciate him or her attending premarital counseling. If your significant other knows that you are grateful, he or she may be more willing to continue these counseling sessions.
Acknowledge a Problem Exists: Some couples have difficulty admitting that certain problems exist within their relationship. This is a big mistake. If you know that there is an issue in your relationship but are not willing to admit it, there will be no point to premarital counseling. The sooner you recognize and accept there is a problem, the sooner you can resolve it.
Be Patient: The amount of time premarital counseling may take depends on several different factors, such as how many unresolved issues the two of you have and your willingness to compromise. If counseling seems to be taking longer than originally expected, remember what you are there for and keep your eye on the prize. Too many couples give on premarital counseling if things get tough and they do not get immediate gratification. If you continue with the counseling, you may be more likely to resolve your issues.
Be Willing to Change: The two of you should be willing to make changes to your behavior if it benefits the relationship. Most couples come in with a list of changes that they want to see in their partner and fail to focus on changes that they themselves can make to improve the relationship.
Have Realistic Expectations: It’s important to go into premarital counseling with realistic expectations. Don’t expect that simply attending counseling will improve your relationship or that the counselor will fix your relationship. Change happens between sessions and the responsibility and credit is yours! We can only provide you with the tools you need to make things right. It’s up to you and your partner to improve your relationship.