Have you ever been in the midst of a conflict with your significant other and wished that you could rewind, start over, and reset? Maybe you didn’t know how to heal the emotional wounds that were inflicted in the heat of the moment—and still don’t.
Sometimes an expert is required to help our love and pain renegotiate their living arrangements, and that’s the role of our marriage counseling therapists at Thriveworks. These marriage counseling experts serve as objective, highly-trained third parties who can help clarify relationship issues, build interpersonal skills, and solve painful problems.
Their job is to help convert all those tight, constricted, distressing feelings you both feel into positive action. We wrote this guide to marriage counseling, so you’ll know what to expect from your very first to your very last therapy session, and how you and your partner might benefit from expert relationship guidance at Thriveworks.
What Is Marriage Counseling?
Marriage counseling, also called relationship counseling or couples therapy, is a form of therapy that helps significant others bridge their divides, work through their issues, and improve their relationships. This type of therapy can also help couples breathe new life into their romantic bonds and reinforce the reasons that brought them together in the first place.
Marriage counseling relies on therapy sessions between both partners and a shared therapist, who will listen closely and try to distill and simplify any issues affecting the relationship. Then, they will collaborate with couples on a personalized, evidence-based course of action to help solve their relationship’s problems.
Many different kinds of couples seek marriage counseling, and marriage counseling therapists can also facilitate pre-wedding discussions for non-married or engaged couples during premarital counseling sessions.
What Type of Issues Can Relationship Counseling Help Solve?
Relationship counseling can help to solve many different types of issues, including but not limited to::
- Jealousy and possessiveness
- Opposing values
- Repeated conflicts
- Different visions for the future
- Life transitions (empty nest syndrome, new parenthood, etc.)
- Substance use
- Allocation of household responsibilities
- Mental health issues
- Emotional distance/detachment
- PTSD, grief, or loss
- Differences in parenting styles
- Lack of trust
- Financial distress or disagreements
- Sex or intimacy issues
- Internal or external boundaries
- Lifestyle differences
You don’t need to have an acute problem in your relationship to benefit from marriage counseling. Many married couples come to therapy sessions in order to strengthen or maintain what’s already working for them.
Who Can Marriage Counseling Help?
Marriage counseling can help many different couples, including those who are:
- Suffering from severe financial stress
- Struggling to have productive conversations
- Struggling with boundaries or codependency
- Struggling physical intimacy and connection
- Dealing with fertility issues or pregnancy stressors
- Dealing with separation anxiety, attachment issues, or abandonment issues
- Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities at home or at work
- Feeling that their relationship has lost its spark
- Disagreeing on seemingly everything
- Fighting over extended family or in-laws
- Arguing about raising kids and parenting styles
Marriage counseling is a compassionate resource to help you and your partner enhance your emotional health and your relationship. You both get to determine the goals of therapy and get to determine what direction the sessions will take.
Couples Therapy vs. Marriage Counseling: What’s the Difference?
There’s no difference between marriage counseling and couples therapy, as they are both interchangeable terms for talk therapy that’s designed to benefit intimate partners in romantic relationships. Our mental health professionals, as stated before, can meet with domestic partners, new couples, co-parents, couples with open marriages, those who are divorced, and even long-term friends.
We also have therapists who specialize in LGBTQ+ couples, couples from different cultural backgrounds, and more. All relationships deserve care – and all relationships require work to maintain them.
Does Marriage Counseling Work?
Yes, marriage counseling works – research studies have shown that marriage counseling can be beneficial for many couples. It provides a safe and neutral space for couples to express their thoughts and feelings, learn effective communication and problem-solving skills, and gain insights into their relationship patterns. It can help couples navigate through challenges such as infidelity, financial problems, parenting conflicts, and differences in values or goals.
If you and your partner are considering marriage counseling, it’s recommended to research and find a qualified and experienced therapist who specializes in couples therapy. With Thriveworks, we offer both online marriage counseling and in-person sessions to help improve your marriage or relationship.
Is Marriage Counseling Really Worth It?
At Thriveworks, we believe many relationships to be worth improving—thus making marriage counseling entirely worth it for most couples. Here are some key points to consider about marriage counseling when deciding if it is worth pursuing, as it can improve:
- Communication: Couples counseling often focuses on enhancing communication skills, which can be invaluable in resolving conflicts, expressing needs, and understanding each other better. Learning effective communication techniques can have a long-lasting positive impact on the relationship.
- Problem resolution: Couples counseling can help identify and address underlying issues causing distress in the relationship. It provides a structured framework for exploring problems and finding solutions together. A skilled therapist can guide the process and offer tools and strategies for problem-solving.
- Emotional intimacy: Even in relationships without significant problems, couples counseling can still be beneficial. It can strengthen the bond, deepen intimacy, and help couples grow together. It provides an opportunity to explore individual and shared goals, values, and aspirations.
- Mediation and conflict resolution: If there are persistent conflicts or recurring patterns of arguments, couples counseling can offer a safe environment for mediation and conflict resolution. A therapist can help navigate difficult discussions, manage emotions, and find constructive ways to resolve differences.
What Is the Success Rate of Marriage Counseling?
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) reports that after the completion of couples therapy, almost 90% of clients notice improvements in their emotional health, and over three quarters of romantic partners feel enhancements in their relationship.
What Type of Therapist Is Best for Marriage Counseling?
When it comes to marriage counseling, there are different types of therapists who can be helpful, depending on your specific needs and preferences. Here are some common types of therapists you might consider:
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT): LMFTs specialize in working with couples and families. They are trained to address relationship dynamics, communication issues, and family systems. They have a strong focus on improving the overall functioning of the family unit.
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): LPCs provide individual and couples therapy and can be skilled in working with relationship issues. They have a broad range of experience and expertise, and can address a wide range of mental health concerns through marriage and family counseling.
- Psychologist: Psychologists have doctoral-level training in psychology and may specialize in couples therapy. They are trained to diagnose and treat various mental health conditions and can provide evidence-based therapy approaches.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): LCSWs are trained to provide therapy to individuals, couples, and families. They often have expertise in addressing relationship issues, and they may work within a larger social context, considering factors such as social support and community resources.
Remember that what matters most is finding a therapist who can establish a positive therapeutic alliance with both you and your partner. A skilled and empathetic therapist who can create a safe space for open communication and guide you through the challenges you’re facing can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of marriage counseling.
7 Common Marital Problems Discussed in Therapy
Thriveworks therapists are well-versed in helping couples resolve these 7 common marital challenges (and more):
- Infidelity or trust issues
- Sex issues or lack of intimacy
- Opposing values or beliefs
- Stress at home and work
- Communication problems
- Parenting issues
- Growing apart
Many couples have discovered that marriage counseling at Thriveworks improves their relationships and can successfully address the issues above. Couples therapy is often a short-term, yet invaluable, process that can help define what really matters.
If you and your spouse pursue marriage counseling, you can expect to work with your counselor on your specific issues.
What Not to Say in Marriage Counseling
While each situation is unique, here are some things you generally should avoid saying/doing during marriage counseling:
- Blaming and criticizing: Avoid blaming your partner or criticizing them in a harsh or hurtful manner. Focus on expressing your feelings and needs without attacking your spouse.
- Insults and name-calling: Avoid using derogatory language or resorting to insults and name-calling. Such behavior only escalates conflicts and hinders the process of resolving issues.
- Threats and ultimatums: Don’t make threats or ultimatums during counseling sessions. These can create an atmosphere of fear and force, making it difficult to achieve productive and lasting solutions.
- Dismissive statements: Avoid dismissing your partner’s concerns or feelings. It’s important to listen attentively and show empathy, even if you don’t fully agree or understand their perspective.
- Bringing up past grievances: While it’s important to address past issues, constantly bringing up past grievances can create a cycle of negativity and prevent progress. Focus on the present and future instead of dwelling on the past.
- Stonewalling or refusing to communicate: Refusing to engage or shutting down emotionally during counseling sessions impedes progress. Effective communication is crucial for resolving conflicts, so make an effort to actively participate.
- Being defensive: Instead of becoming defensive and denying responsibility, try to be open to feedback and take accountability for your actions. It’s important to show willingness to work on yourself and the relationship.
- Minimizing your partner’s feelings: Avoid downplaying or dismissing your partner’s emotions. Even if you don’t fully understand their perspective, validate their feelings and show empathy.
- Bringing up sensitive topics to hurt your partner: Intentionally bringing up sensitive topics or past mistakes to hurt your partner is counterproductive and damages trust. Aim to create a safe space for open and honest communication.
- Refusing to compromise: Marriage counseling often involves finding compromises and solutions that work for both partners. Refusing to compromise can hinder progress and prevent resolution.
In marriage counseling, it is important to maintain a respectful and constructive environment to work through relationship issues. Remember, the goal of marriage counseling is to foster understanding, improve communication, and work towards a healthier relationship.
How Do I Know My Marriage Is Over?
Ultimately, deciding when a marriage is over is a deeply personal choice that requires careful reflection and consideration of your own needs, happiness, and well-being. It can be beneficial to seek professional help from a therapist or marriage counselor who can provide guidance and support throughout the decision-making process.
While every situation and relationship is unique, the following signs can serve as serious indicators that you could benefit from evaluating your relationship:
- Lack of communication: When communication breaks down and efforts to resolve conflicts or discuss important matters become increasingly difficult or non-existent, it may suggest a significant issue in the relationship.
- Continuous unhappiness: If you and your spouse constantly feel unhappy, unfulfilled, or emotionally disconnected despite attempts to address the underlying issues, it may be an indication that the marriage is no longer serving either of you.
- Loss of trust: Trust is a fundamental aspect of any healthy relationship. If trust has been severely broken, such as through infidelity or repeated breaches of faith, it can be challenging to rebuild and may suggest irreparable damage.
- Persistent conflicts: Frequent and unresolved conflicts that cause distress and strain the relationship can indicate deeper incompatibilities and an inability to find common ground.
- Emotional and physical abuse: Any form of abuse, whether emotional or physical, is unacceptable and can be a clear indication that the marriage is toxic and irreparable. It’s essential to prioritize your safety and seek help if you’re in an abusive relationship.
- Lack of intimacy: A gradual or sudden decline in intimacy, both physical and emotional, may indicate a growing disconnection between partners.
- Loss of shared goals and values: If you and your spouse no longer share common goals, dreams, or values, it can be challenging to sustain a healthy and fulfilling partnership.
Even if a romantic relationship doesn’t endure forever, through couples therapy and marriage counseling, individuals often learn valuable information about themselves and how they function in relationships. And later on, they can harness this knowledge, using it throughout their lives.
How Can I Save My Marriage?
Saving a marriage is a complex and personal journey that depends on the specific circumstances and dynamics of the relationship. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, here are some general steps that may help in the process:
- Open communication: Effective communication is vital for resolving conflicts and understanding each other’s needs. Take the time to listen actively, express your own feelings and concerns, and encourage your partner to do the same.
- Seek professional help: Consider attending couples therapy or marriage counseling. A skilled therapist can provide guidance, facilitate productive conversations, and help you both work through underlying issues.
- Identify and address underlying issues: Reflect on the root causes of the problems in your marriage. This could involve examining patterns of behavior, unresolved conflicts, or personal issues that may be affecting the relationship. Take responsibility for your own actions and be open to making necessary changes.
- Rebuild trust: If trust has been compromised, work on rebuilding it. This involves being honest, reliable, and consistent in your actions. Rebuilding trust takes time, patience, and a commitment to repairing the relationship.
- Make time for each other: Prioritize spending quality time together and nurturing the emotional connection. Plan activities you both enjoy, go on dates, and find ways to reconnect and rediscover each other.
- Show appreciation and kindness: Express gratitude for your partner’s positive qualities and efforts. Small acts of kindness, such as compliments, gestures of affection, and acts of service, can go a long way in fostering a loving and supportive environment.
- Seek personal growth: Focus on personal development and self-improvement. This can involve individual therapy, pursuing hobbies, or engaging in activities that boost your well-being and self-esteem. By taking care of yourself, you can become a better partner.
- Be patient and realistic: Healing a marriage takes time, effort, and patience from both partners. Recognize that change won’t happen overnight and setbacks may occur. Stay committed to the process and remain realistic about the challenges you may face.
Remember, every relationship is unique, and these steps may not guarantee the revival of a marriage. In some cases, despite best efforts, separation or divorce may be the healthiest outcome. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being and happiness throughout this journey.
How to Make Marriage Counseling Work for You
Below are some steps to follow while you begin the process of marriage counseling to foster the best experience:
- Find a qualified counselor: Look for a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or a mental health professional experienced in couples therapy (such as those here at Thriveworks).
- Schedule your first session: Schedule a first session with the counselor to discuss your concerns, goals, and expectations. This is an opportunity to assess whether you feel comfortable with the therapist and if they understand your needs.
- Work with them to set your goals: During the early sessions, the counselor will typically conduct an assessment to gain a deeper understanding of your relationship dynamics, individual histories, and current challenges. They will work with you to identify specific goals you want to achieve through counseling.
- Work on communication and conflict resolution: The counselor will help you improve communication patterns and teach you effective strategies for resolving conflicts. They may introduce techniques such as active listening, expressing emotions constructively, and finding compromises.
- Identify patterns and exploring underlying issues: The therapist may help you identify recurring patterns or negative cycles in your relationship. They will assist you in exploring any underlying issues, past experiences, or unresolved conflicts that contribute to your current challenges.
- Develop problem-solving skills from your marriage counseling sessions: The counselor will guide you in developing problem-solving skills to address specific issues. This may involve learning how to negotiate, set boundaries, and make decisions as a couple.
- Strengthen your emotional connection and intimacy: The therapist will work with you to enhance emotional connection and intimacy within your relationship. This may involve exercises to build trust, increase affection, and improve overall satisfaction.
- Do any assigned homework and practice together: To reinforce the skills learned in counseling sessions, the counselor may assign homework exercises or activities for you to practice outside of therapy. These tasks are designed to facilitate progress and help you apply what you’ve learned in real-life situations.
- Pay attention to your marriage counselor’s progress evaluations and adjustments: Regularly assess your progress with the therapist and discuss any adjustments that may be needed in the counseling process. This ensures that the therapy remains focused on your evolving needs and goals.
Remember, every couple’s journey is unique, and the duration and frequency of counseling sessions can vary depending on the specific circumstances. It’s important to approach marriage counseling with an open mind, a willingness to work on the relationship, and a commitment to change and growth.