When you think about marriage counseling, what are the images that come into your mind? Someone with a perfect marriage trying to tell you how to live your life? A referee to help you decide who is the “winner” of the great Taco Tuesday Feud, or the “Thrilla in the Vanilla Aisle”? Or is it just the last box on the “I can get divorced and say I did everything” checklist?
There is a tendency for us to see asking for help in any form as admitting failure. If we can’t do it ourselves, then it can’t be done. This is particularly true of counseling, and marriage counseling is no exception to that. On average, couples wait 6 years before seeking help for their marital problems (Gottman, J.M. 1994). This means that couples will often come to counseling as a last ditch effort to “save a failing marriage” when the bitterness, resentment, and contempt have taken a deep hold in the relationship, and they can’t see a way forward.
Marriage Counseling IS NOT a Miracle
There are never any guarantees in counseling; this is especially true for marriage counseling. Coming into a counselor’s office with a list of problems and saying “fix it” is going to lead to disappointment (especially if “it” is your partner.)
Marriage Counseling IS a Working Process
No counselor can promise to mend your marriage if you are unwilling to participate in the process. Marriage counseling is work, and the couple needs to be willing to do the work in order to see the results!
Marriage Counseling IS NOT About Solving Problems
John Gottman, Psychologist, researcher, and founder of the Gottman Institute, has identified that in healthy couples, 69% of conflicts are based on perpetual, unresolvable problems. Which means that less than 1/3 of your fights are actually about solving a problem. It is far more likely that it’s the pattern of conflict that is causing the problem; which is much more in a therapist’s wheelhouse.
Marriage Counseling IS About Opening Dialogue
By identifying the patterns that cause conflicts to escalate, a marriage counselor can help you and your partner have constructive, meaningful dialogue about areas of conflict in your relationship. By sitting together on the couch, you can say to your partner that your relationship is more important than winning. We can really only make movement in conflict by coming to an understanding of what is happening in one another’s world.
Marriage Counseling IS NOT about Communication
“Okay,” you might be saying, “I can see that it takes work. I can see that opening dialogue in my marriage is what really needs to happen. But how am I supposed to do those things if we can’t communicate? Communication is the problem!”
Difficulty communicating is one of the most painful parts of a hurting relationship. But “communication” is not the problem. I’m willing to bet that you can communicate with your coworkers, friends, and even casual acquaintances pretty well. If communication was the problem, you would likely be having problems in more than just your marriage. Poor communication is not the disease of your relationship; it’s a symptom.
Marriage Counseling IS About Deepening Your Connection
When a couple calls and says that they are not able to communicate, a marriage counselor will most likely interpret that complaint as the couple having difficulty connecting. Having difficulty connecting with one’s spouse leads to a breakdown of communication by reducing our ability to bounce back from small, everyday hurts that we experience every day.
Marriage counseling can help mend the connection by helping you and your partner look at your relationship in a more positive manner; as a generally good thing. While this may sound simple, it can be difficult to work through those old wounds to be able to come back together with the one you love.
Hopefully this has helped you demystify marriage counseling!
If you are looking for a marriage counselor, please contact us at 940-565-8300! We would be glad to help you and your partner deepen your connection, strengthen your commitment, and build the marriage of your dreams!