It’s a question most couples have asked themselves at one point or another: do we need marriage counseling?
Studio 5 Contributor Dr. Liz Hale explains when a relationship problem has crossed the line.
In most marriages, one or both partners resist the idea of counseling. We are even more resistant to thinking about getting help with our relationship than we are with personal depression or anxiety. Some believe they can’t afford it, while others find it inconvenient. Many view marriage therapy only as a last desperate attempt to save a failing marriage. What’s even more surprising is the fact that many people avoid going to marriage counseling because they fear the counselor will make matters worse, inevitably causing marital death and divorce!
The fact is, marriage therapy is a tremendously valuable resource, and an expert marriage counselor can not only save a marriage in trouble, but keep a marriage strong for a lifetime. So when do you know it’s time to seek a marriage professional?
Is It Time for Marriage Counseling, If:
• There is Physical Abuse?
No! It’s best to work with individual therapists specializing in domestic abuse recovery. Only after the abuse and abuser’s problems are resolved will marriage therapy be appropriate.
• There is an Addiction?
No! When one or both partners struggle with addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sec, etc., work individually in addiction recovery and resolve enabling issues in order to give marriage therapy an effective chance.
• There is Infidelity?
Yes! When marriage has been hit by the presence of a third-party, regardless of an emotional or sexual affair, get help immediately from a marital therapists specializing in infidelity recovery. Infidelity and infidelity resolve is a complicated matter. A popular warning often associated with high-risk behavior is appropriate: “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!”
• There is Continual Fighting?
Yes! Repeated fights can corrode trust and connection. Of course, conflict is healthy but only when done in a constructive manner. Couples counseling can help couples change their arguing style so they can resolve their problems in less harmful ways. There will always be about dozen irreconcilable conflicts. The marriage masters do not resolve their conflicts, they manage them.
• There is Expressed Marital Dissatisfaction?
Yes! Even when only one partner is unhappy it’s not just a problem for that person but for the relationship itself. Couples counseling can sort out the genesis of the concern and the contribution of each party. Issues from childhood, past relationships, poor communication skills sets are all appropriate matters for marriage counseling. Consider having this agreement upfront: When even just one of you is unhappy, BOTH of you need help in marriage therapy.
• There is Consideration of Divorce?
Yes! It is never too late to develop relationship-enhancing skills. Ending a marriage does not mean ending the pain and frustration. Particularly when children are involved, there is no such thing as divorce; you will forever-more be connected to this person. Commit to a period of experimenting and learning together in marital therapy, rather than forcing yourselves to choose between putting the relationship back together or dissolving it. Take 90 days, suspending the decision to divorce or not, and become an expert in marriage before you become a statistic in divorce.
• There is Mediocrity in Marriage?
Yes! There are many reasons relationships get stale and need a refresher course. Too many times couples avoid rocking the boat so issues get moved to the back burner, undiscussed and unmanaged. Children leave home; you no longer know what to say to or do with each other; discussions are minimal; the sexual connection dries up; you no longer look forward to seeing each other; and boredom sets in. A qualified marital therapist can shed light on your relationship and help you breathe life into it, once, again.
Consider taking a relationship workshop together or get involved in a relationship-enhancing program; read personal or relationship-growth material together, or break out of your normal routines and do something drastically different, like travel, see a play, try a new restaurant or sport, or do something else surprising or novel. Most importantly, turn towards each other and move forward, hand-in-hand, committed to learning together.