Choosing a partner and staying together through life’s twists and turns is rarely simple. When we choose to get married and raise a family together, unsurprisingly this only adds to the complexity.
Whether you have the odd tiff, full-blown arguments or you have simply stopped having fun – very few relationships exist conflict-free. When this (one of our most important relationships) begins to falter, our health and happiness often suffers. While for many of us our first instinct is to try and work through problems alone, it can be incredibly useful to seek outside help.
When Is Couples or Marriage Counseling Recommended?
People in relationship seek counseling for any number of reasons, from power struggles and communication problems, to sexual dissatisfaction and infidelity. Though counseling is recommended as soon as discontent arises in a relationship, studies show that on average, partners will not seek therapy until they have been unhappy for six years. And yet, the more time has passed, the more difficult it may be to repair the relationship. In some cases, a couple who has already decided to separate may pursue therapy in order to end the relationship amicably and respectfully.
How can counselling for couples help?
When we have been in a relationship or marriage for a long time it can be easy to fall into a trap of not listening to the other person or not communicating our needs clearly. Sometimes talking to someone with no connection to yourself or your partner is all it takes for you to gain perspective. What couples counselling offers here is the chance to speak to someone with no preconceived notions of who you are as a couple, with the added bonus of having skills and training behind them to guide you through your concerns.
The overall aim of couples counselling is to help you do the following:
- Understand how external factors such as family values, religion, lifestyle and culture affect your relationship.
- Reflect on the past and how it operates in the present.
- Communicate in a more constructive way.
- Learn why arguments escalate.
- Negotiate and resolve conflicts where possible.
As your counselling sessions progress, you and your partner may find a way of overcoming your problems, or you may decide it is time to part ways. Either way, hopefully counselling will offer you the space to grow and decide what you would like the future to hold for both of you.
Expectations and Goals
Successful therapy depends on each partner’s motivation and dedication to the process, and couples can expect to become better listeners and communicators and to find new ways to support one another. Goals will be established by the couple under the guidance of the therapist, and in order to achieve these objectives, each partner must be prepared to acknowledge and understand his or her role in the relationship. It is not uncommon for conflict to arise within therapy sessions, but ethical therapists will strive to remain neutral and avoid taking sides.
Some relationship counselors offer supplemental individual sessions to each partner as a matter of course, and some may offer individual sessions upon request. Therapists who specialize in relationship counseling are likely to have a marriage and family therapist license.