Marriage counseling can be intimidating. You and your spouse are in a room with a complete stranger, airing your dirty laundry and asking for help. In marriage counseling, conversation starters can include your upbringing, your spouse’s social media contacts, your weight gain, financial mistakes, or your partner’s perceived parenting failures. Then you’ll get to disclose details about your sexual frequency and perhaps touch on unmet intimacy needs. Throw in a side of in-law blaming, a little complaining about household chores, some general bickering and you’ve got a picture of what comes to mind when most people hear the words ‘couples therapy’.
There are plenty of reasons why entering into couples therapy might not be something you and your spouse are particularly excited to do. Even so, marriage counseling with a well-trained and experienced therapist can improve your relationship and the quality of your life in a multitude of ways.
In reality, couples counseling is nothing like it’s portrayed on television. A respectable marriage counselor does not invite you in and encourages an environment of accusation, complaining, and blame. Even in the most contentious relationships, screaming matches are fairly uncommon and the overall air of the room is that of peaceful communication and cooperation, rather than hostility.
We wanted to share some of the benefits of couples therapy and highlight the reasons you may want to try this with your spouse. So, we did a little research and found some truly compelling accounts of how couples counseling has improved and strengthened all kinds of marriages. Read on for eight practical reasons you may want to try couples therapy.
- Couples therapy is typically quite successful. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), couples counseling is about 75 percent effective. The APA measures effectiveness with outcome studies using a tool called the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Couples complete a questionnaire before they enter into couples therapy and then again after the therapy has ended. Researchers have found that the vast majority of couples report less relationship distress after completing couples therapy, with the positive benefits lasting several years thereafter.
Dianne Grande, Ph.D. wrote about the 75 percent success rate in Psychology Today. Dr. Grande says, “Outcome studies have included couples therapy for high-stress clients such as military couples, veterans with PTSD, parents of chronically ill children, and infertile couples. Results are also positive and substantial across different cultural groups.” Dr. Grande also mentioned that roughly 25 percent of couples who didn’t seem to have successful outcomes were often in abusive relationships wherein the abuse had to be dealt with first before the other issues could be addressed.
Overall, most couples have extremely positive experiences in marriage counseling and consider it a success. It’s often quite helpful to have an objective professional mediate and encourage constructive and positive conversations between a husband and wife.
- You can find your best friend. Sometimes it takes some serious effort to really get to know someone – even someone you live with. Marriage counseling can be a wonderful way to begin to learn more about your spouse and what makes him or her tick. Your spouse, in turn, will learn all sorts of new things about you when you bare your soul in couples counseling sessions. And the two of you will inevitably grow closer as a couple and as friends.
The friendship you have with your spouse will flourish in couples therapy. As you heal together, you will create or strengthen a strong bond. You may find that you’re married to a person that you also really like. Many times, couples discover beautiful friendships hidden in their marriages. You can find or rediscover your best friend in couples therapy.
- Marriage counseling will help you get to the root of certain problems. Often in marriage, one person might be deeply hurt by his or her spouse, but won’t bring it up. Then later, the person ends up flying off the handle over something relatively insignificant, like a towel left on the floor or a broken dish. Arguments over the little annoyances in marriage might be what leads a couple into therapy, but the counselor will quickly cut through the smokescreens and get to the root of what’s truly causing contention in the relationship.
Rachel Eddins, of Eddins Counseling Group in Sugar Land, Texas says, “Ultimately, we are products of our past – good or bad. For that very reason, uncovering the roots of what fuels your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is an important part of marriage counseling. Getting to the bottom of an issue will help you shed the baggage you’ve carried around for far too long and remove that weight and open yourself up to wonderful possibilities.”
Once you’ve found the source of problems in your marriage, you can begin to fully understand each other and work towards a solution. A good therapist will make short work of getting to the root of the problem and help you make a plan for reconciliation.
- It’s a safe place to talk about sticky subjects. It’s difficult to tell your spouse that his mother is too meddlesome or he’s not satisfying you in the bedroom. Conversations that are so delicate can go south quickly if they aren’t approached with a great deal of care. Why not broach subjects like this with a professional therapist on hand to help mediate and keep things civil?
There are some topics that you may not want to even speak about inside your home or at a coffee house. A marriage counselor’s office is a particularly ideal spot to bring up uncomfortable topics or reveal surprising information to your partner. It’s a safe zone with a trained professional who can help each person process startling or disappointing information appropriately.
- Your sex life will improve. It’s not uncommon for couples to report a greatly improved sex life after marriage counseling. Dr. Andrea Bonior, author of Detox Your Thoughts: Quit Negative Self-Talk for Good and Discover the Life You’ve Always Wanted, says, “Sexual issues can be both a symptom and a cause of relationship problems, which means it is often at the forefront of a couple’s day-to-day complaints. Sometimes the change is obvious and frustrating – a couple goes from frequent physical intimacy to almost none, and it is jarring. Other times, it’s a gradual freeze from being fulfilled by each other sexually to barely being satisfied.”
A skilled marriage counselor can help the two of you express your feelings about sex and begin to work on a plan to improve that connection. Couples counseling can even enhance the sexual relationship in a marriage where there are seemingly no problems in the bedroom. The closeness and vulnerability a couple of experiences during marriage counseling can bring them much closer emotionally, which may result in a better physical connection.
- It will improve the way you communicate. Most couples can use a little help communicating from time to time. Marriage counseling can help improve the way you speak to your spouse and listen to him or her as well. Chuck, over at Marriage Guardian, says, “Good couples therapy helps to get your perspective across to your spouse when you can’t, and helps you see your spouse’s perspective. This isn’t just about learning ‘communication skills.’ It is also about realizing how another person can hold a point of view that conflicts with yours. It’s not that either of you has to change your thinking, but just accept that the other person can have a different, but still valid, perspective.”
As you work together in therapy, your partner will see that you truly do care about his or her perspective. You will learn to express the care you have and receive it too. Conversations, even the rather sticky ones, will not be as difficult and your communication will undoubtedly improve.
- You will begin to heal old hurts. Especially in long term marriages, spanning ten years or more, there are lots of hurts and old wounds that lie beneath the surface. No one wants to bring up every little thing that bothers them in a marriage. Couples counseling can help spouses unveil some of their hurts and express the issues in a constructive way, without blaming or demanding sympathy. Just speaking about these seemingly small grievances and being heard can help a person begin to heal.
- Marriage counseling can help you work together. Your relationship doesn’t need to be on the rocks to benefit from couples therapy. Eddins says, “Marriage counseling can be of so much benefit, even when you’re not in choppy waters. Sometimes, you may just need a little extra help to continue on the right path or make an informed and wise decision as a couple.”
It’s a great idea to buy an hour or two of counseling when you’re looking to make big changes and you want some guidance as you work together on the best plan. A good marriage counselor can help the two of you put your heads together and agree on a course of action.
A note on finding the right couples therapist. Just like any other professional, there are mediocre marriage counselors and there are great ones. Surprisingly, many therapists have not been formally trained in marriage or couples counseling, but they offer the service regardless.
When you’re looking for a couples counselor, inquire about his or her training and experience. Look for a therapist who has lots of experience working with married couples, has trained in the field, or has done a supervised internship with a marriage counselor. A licensed marriage and family therapist is often a good choice.
During the first appointment, you should be able to tell if the therapist is a good fit for you and your spouse. Don’t settle for an impressive degree on the wall. You need a counselor that you’re both comfortable with. It may take a few tries to find the right marriage counselor. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to the process that you wholeheartedly seek out the best one for your particular situation.
Consider couples therapy. All marriages have problems. Not one of those beautiful couples that send you the gorgeous family photo Christmas cards every year has a perfect relationship. Not one. Every marriage is composed of two imperfect humans and is destined to hit a few bumps and potholes along the road of life together. Consider enriching your marriage and smoothing out the kinks with couples therapy. It can be extremely beneficial and help foster a happy and healthy relationship for years to come.
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Are there advantages in doing couples therapy or marriage counseling? (N.D.). Retrieved from: http://www.marriageguardian.com/couples-therapy.html
Bonior, A. (2017). Should you go to couples therapy? Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201709/should-you-go-couples-therapy
Eddins R. (2017). Do you need marriage help? Retrieved from: http://eddinscounseling.com/marriage-help-benefits-couples-therapy/