Couple's Counseling or Marital Therapy is something many couple's consider when trying to figure out ways to strengthen, fix or save their marriages. I'm often asked what common issues bring couple's into counseling as well as when couple's shouldn't consider it as an option.
What I See:
There are a lot of different issues that get a couple to the point of feeling that marital counseling would be helpful, necessary or paramount. The three things that are most commonly brought up in the first session are communication issues, infidelity (at various levels) and addiction.
These are the coughs. What I mean by that is, when a person coughs they could have any number of causes for that cough. Maybe they have allergies, a tickle in their throat or their throat is dry. Maybe they have a cold or maybe it's something more serious like emphysema. Regardless, without looking into it further, it presents itself as a cough.
Couple's counseling is helpful because it gives the chance to look beyond the cough and to address the cause for it. Communication isn't the cause, it is the symptom. Infidelity and addictions aren't causes, there is usually something underneath those things that lead to that. Identifying causes is where the real work is.
What I Know:
I know that there are some situations where marital counseling is NOT the road to take. If there is physical, sexual or emotional abuse within the relationship individual counseling is more appropriate. Only when both therapists feel that the individual issues have been addressed and that it is time for the couple to begin couple's counseling is it a good fit.
There are also times when one or the other, sometimes both have decided that they are absolutely done and nothing in the world can keep them together but they do marital therapy to say that they did or to be able to use it against the other person through the divorce process. Couple's counseling is only helpful, ethical and productive if both parties are wanting to work on the marriage.
What I Wish:
Although genies don't exist, there are times it'd be nice to find a bottle in the sand. If I was so fortunate, there are a few things I'd wish for regarding marital therapy. I wish that more people would seek out premarital counseling. Premarital counseling is helpful in any engaged relationship and gives couple's an opportunity to establish ways to communicate, ways to handle hot topics and also ways to identify if there are issues that need to be addressed.
I also would wish that a couple would start counseling at the first sign that something is creating discord verses coming when hurts are far deeper than when the hurts initially started. Obviously there are times when the deep hurt occurs straight out of the gates, like when issues of infidelity occur or issues of other sexual addictions. If there is awareness that something is going on and there is a feeling from one or both in the relationship that counseling could help, pull that trigger sooner than later.
Couple's Counseling can be helpful whether it's before the marriage begins or sometime after. It is best suited for those individuals who are committed to their relationship, want to make things work and are willing to put in the work to strengthen their relationship.
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