Many couples think of marriage counseling as a last resort to be considered only when you are on the verge of divorce. Only when couples have exhausted all other options, do they finally throw up their hands and ask for outside help.
Many times, however, this might mean that one partner already has a foot out the door, or that the marriage has been so starved of affection or so full of resentments, that not even a skilled couples therapist will be able to bring the lost connection back.
Marriage Counseling is Preventative:
In reality, marriage counseling is no different from a healthy diet or a membership to the gym. It is a highly beneficial experience that helps your marriage stay in good shape, and prevents much more costly and negative outcomes down the line.
A marriage requires on-going attention and care, and the best time to see a marriage counselor is early on when you first begin to notice that your relationship is changing for the worse.
The following are some early signs that you might benefit from marriage counseling:
- You find yourselves arguing about the same issues time and time again
- Arguments become more frequent and take you longer to recover from than they used to
- You each struggle with difficult feelings such as loneliness, anxieties, or self-doubts that you mostly keep to yourselves
- You both have a tendency to jump to negative conclusions about your partner's motivations and intentions, and don't give each other the benefit of the doubt
- You spend increasing energy on protecting yourself from rejection from your partner, or trying to avoid negative interactions by keeping thoughts and feelings to yourself
- You secretly begin to wonder if you really want the same things in life and if your personalities are really compatible
- Your sex life has become more of a power struggle and one of you often feels pressured to have sex or feels rejected and gets their feelings hurt
- You don't spend a lot of time with each other and often don't feel as connected or bonded as you would like to
- You don't quite feel as known by each other as you would like and rarely have conversations with each other about other things than chores
These little signs of disconnection can quickly turn into an abyss of alienation and despair.
Don't Ignore Early Signs of Disconnection:
Marriage counseling can help you look at your marriage before irreversible damage is done. You don't wait until you have a heart attack to reduce your intake of saturated fat, so why should you wait until you are close to divorce to consider marriage counseling?
Marriages that fail, do so, not because partners are incompatible, but because early signs of disconnection were ignored and allowed to destroy the relationship over time.
How Can Marriage Counseling Help?
Marriage counseling sets the stage for having difficult but needed conversations about your relationship and about your individual needs and feelings.
Marriage counseling is not about asking partners to change who they are, assigning blame, or telling you how to think or feel. Instead it is about allowing you to become more fully who you are. You will learn to have conversations about your needs, feelings, and thoughts that make you feel more heard and seen, and will be better able to express yourself in ways that allows for both greater individuality, and greater connection.
Individuality and connection are not opposites, but rather enhance each other, since we can feel more connected when we are more fully ourselves, and can be more fully ourselves when we feel fully connected.
Marriage counseling gives you the skills you need to have conversations about difficult topics without starting a fight, and gives you the tools to re-find your equilibrium when you slip up and end up hurting each others feelings or misunderstanding each other.
Smart couples who realize the importance of investing in a healthy marriage, also realize the importance of marriage counseling as a valuable resource in times of increased distress. Marriage counseling should not be a last resort for couples, but rather a welcome tool. It is an investment in a long enjoyable life together.
About Me: I am Rune Moelbak, Ph.D., psychologist and couples therapist in Houston, Texas. I provide marriage counseling to couples who present with a variety of issues. To read more about my services, visit: www.bettercouplestherapy.com