Seeking help from a marriage counselor is not unlike seeking help from a mechanic. It makes little sense to take your car into the shop a month after it started making a horrific noise. By that time, too much damage may have been done and your engine may be beyond repair.
By the same token, the effectiveness of couples counseling is directly related not only to the willingness and motivation of both parties to put in the effort, but also to the timing. The time to consider couples therapy is not when one (or both) people have already thrown in the towel.
For instance, in some relationships, when one or both partners have already decided to end the marriage, they may use counseling as a “safe space” to drop the news on their spouse. This is obviously not the best timing to attempt counseling.
Sometimes issues are too ingrained and longstanding for counseling to be truly effective. If a couple has been building up resentment toward one another for five or more years before seeking help, it may be too late. While couples counseling is a wonderful way to help couples reconnect and heal, it is not a miracle cure.
When and How Couples Counseling Can Help
It’s important that both individuals truly want the relationship to work. When both parties are willing to invest time and energy, marriage counseling can be the catalyst for real and lasting change.
It is also important that couples choose a therapist who’s a good fit. Both spouses must feel comfortable with the therapist for any progress to be made.
So, how exactly can marriage counseling help? In a number of ways:
- Counselors help couples identify toxic behavioral patterns and give them tools to make adjustments.
- Each partner can gain new insights and perspective into the relationship.
- Tools help couples resolve conflicts with grace and respect so escalation can be avoided.
- Partners can begin to build trust and improve communication.
If you and your partner decide to try couples counseling, here are some tips for success:
- Take it seriously. Commit to the work and do it.
- Be open. If you’ve chosen the right therapist, you should feel free and safe to discuss your true feelings and needs. Don’t hold back. In order for therapy to work, both people have to have the courage to be vulnerable.
- Avoid the blame game. Each person must take responsibility for their part.
- Be realistic about how long it will take before real change begins. While you can begin using tools immediately, healing won’t happen overnight.
- Commit to weekly, if your relationship needs CPR commit to weekly sessions for the first month or two. Then when some ineffective patterns have been interrupted, go biweekly and later every three weeks.
If you and your partner are experiencing relationship problems, don’t wait to get help. The sooner you do, the more likely your issues can be resolved. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring counseling, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.