Even the most wonderful relationships have their challenges. Depending on how you deal with these challenges, it can make your relationship stronger or push you apart. Especially with married couples, stressors experienced can come from many different sources and it’s challenging to deal with these stressors in a healthy way.
When is Marriage Counseling recommended?
Couples seek counseling for any number of reasons, from power struggles and communication problems to sexual dissatisfaction and infidelity. Though marriage counseling is recommended as soon as continued unhappiness arises in a relationship, studies show that couples will not try to find help until they have been unhappy for an average of six years. And yet, the more time has passed, the more difficult it may be to repair the relationship.
For this reason, relationship counselors at Wellness TC3, often recommend marriage counseling to couples even before they “tie the knot”! As the saying goes: “Prevention is better than cure”. Couples who wish to explore possible areas of conflict or concern that may cause later difficulty or dissatisfaction in a marriage, greatly benefit from counseling.
In premarital counseling sessions, couples can discuss differences of opinion, personal values, and their expectations of the marriage. Premarital counseling may uncover more issues than a couple originally sought to discuss, but this can be beneficial as it can allow couples to discover whether they truly are compatible before they marry.
Presently, there are a host of different approaches to relationship counseling. At Wellness TC3, we use Imago relationship counseling. Imago relationship counseling explores how we unconsciously choose partners who reflect back the very things we might benefit from working on ourselves. In couples counseling, the relationship is the focus, although each partner should also expect to focus on self-improvement and self-awareness.
Expectations and Goals of Counseling
Successful relationship counseling depends on each partner’s motivation and dedication to the process, and couples can expect to become better listeners and communicators and to find new ways to support one another. Goals will be established by the couple under the guidance of the counselor, and in order to achieve these objectives, each partner must be prepared to acknowledge and understand their role in the relationship.
Frequency, Duration, and Effectiveness of Counseling
Relationship counseling is often held once each week, but this may vary depending on your therapy goals and whether you are also attending individual or group therapy sessions. At Wellness TC3, we recommend 2-3 day Intensive Counseling sessions as results and re-connection occurs much quicker. Although this is a short-term process, couples need to understand that healing takes time, and ultimately, the counseling process will proceed for as long as the couple is committed to seeing it through or until resolution is reached.
PREDICTORS OF MARRIAGE PROBLEMS
Perhaps the biggest predictor of marriage problems is poor/negative communication and can be so damaging that it often leads to divorce. Healthy communication in marriage is key! With the unique communication techniques of Imago relationship counseling, this source of marriage problems can be greatly affected in a positive, constructive way.
When partners continually avoid conflict or engage in heated arguments, it is often the case that communication problems ensue; resentment builds, and repairs are never made. John Gottman, who collected decades’ worth of data on marriage and relationships, identified the lack of adequate repair following an argument as the biggest contributor to marital unhappiness and divorce.
Imago relationship counselors know one of the first steps in improving a relationship is to teach each person how to regulate their emotions, stay calm, and use healthy communication skills to resolve problems new and old, and many partners see improved communication skills as a result of counseling.
Some other common sources of marriage problems are children; daily stress; money; busy schedules and bad habits.
Children are a blessing and can bring wonder and meaning into our lives. However, having children can bring additional stress into a marriage because the caretaking of children requires more responsibility as well as a change in roles. It can also be a source for more disagreement and strain, and reduces the amount of time available to bond as a couple. This combination can test even the strongest marriage.
Daily stressors don’t need to lead to marriage problems, but they can increase problems that already exist. General daily stress can test patience and optimism, leaving couples with less to give to one another emotionally.
Financial difficulty and fighting over money is one of the most common marriage problems that couples face. Especially in tough economic times, financial stress can actually cause more daily stress, and more conflict over things unrelated to money.
Again, while busy schedules don’t automatically lead to marriage problems, they do present a challenge that needs to be worked through. Couples who are very busy may find themselves generally stressed as well, especially if they’re not taking care of themselves with quality sleep and good nutrition.
Sometimes couples experience marriage problems that could be solved if the two could notice their habits and change them. People don’t always make a conscious decision to argue over petty things, nag and be critical, or leave messes for the other to clean, for example. People just get into negative patterns of relating, fall into lazy personal habits, or get into a rut that they perpetuate out of habit.
Fortunately, these marriage problems can be worked on. Even if only one partner is consciously trying to change, any change can bring a shift in the dynamic of the relationship, which can bring positive results.