It’s fair to say every marriage has its ups and downs and sometimes imagining that “happily ever after” you’ve always dreamt of turns out not quite how you thought it’d be. Before long, you feel a certain distance between you and your significant other and notice it growing every passing day; and before you know it, you find yourself scrambling to save a failing relationship and above all, a marriage.
It feels like you’ve tried everything, doesn’t it? Talking, making some amends and all yet, it hurts to see your efforts failing, and the thought of being so close to a point that leads to being strangers with every passing moment is straight up terrifying, let alone unimaginable.
» Signs you need a relationship counselor
» What happens in relationship counseling?
» What to expect from marriage counseling?
» Is marriage counseling helpful?
» Does marriage / relationship counseling work?
» Can I go to marriage counseling by myself?
» Couples counseling vs. individual therapy
» Divorce and pre-divorce counseling
» Premarital counseling
» Tips on what to look for in a relationship counselor
» Relationship counseling online
» How much relationship counseling cost?
Signs you need a relationship counselor
One of the biggest tells would be the lack of communication.
A deteriorated interaction is very hard to come back from by yourself; it shouldn’t necessarily mean no exchange of words taking place — even negative exchanges can contribute to you feeling judged or looked down at, which eventually leads both of you being afraid to even initiate a conversation, even the slightest one such as a simple “hi”.
Now this is where it starts getting worse before you know it: Eventually both of you are living separate lives and affection withheld becomes a weapon or punishment, secrets become common, and the whole purpose of staying together starts to become a question.
Other situations that may warrant a visit to a counselor include:
- You want different things from your relationship.
- You have different views about money.
- Your relationship seems to be stuck in a cycle where same issues keep coming up.
- You feel like you are walking on eggshells.
- You either avoid conversations or bicker constantly.
- You are contemplating an affair.
- You have a lot of secrets.
- You can find 54 signs of deteriorating relationship and a free interactive quiz here »
What happens in relationship counseling?
The main goal here is to offer a neutral environment where both of you can express yourselves freely, eventually working towards an objective and logical understanding with you two talking about the issues you face or maybe finding what those issues even are. The session will start with some very basic questions about yourselves; they get more uncomfortable from there and will come towards topics such as behavior, habits, and communication and, eventually, your personal life.
You may find yourself in a new scenario where you’d be saying things you wouldn’t mean, which can be really hurtful or offending, and hence, it might take some effort to express your feelings in a clear and tactful way in order not to worsen your relationship.
What to expect from marriage counseling?
It is essential to know what you’re getting into and what to expect at the end of the day from your counselor. Keeping the fact that they’re just human like you and not some magical beings that can, or will fix your problems with the wave of a wand. It is crucial to know that reconciling requires time and effort, both things you must be willing to invest in, the both of you.
There are going to be sessions, and most of them uncomfortable, where both of you will have to be brutally honest about your problems. Expect the counselor to assist you in navigating your problems and working towards those solutions. There may be some personal questions from your past all of which are designed to make you reflect, communicate and induce certain behaviors and responsibility; this is sometimes aided with some homework that the both of you might have to do.
The final say, of course, will always be in your hands but taking the extra step might be helpful who knows? Also, it’s a good idea to be mentally prepared for sharing your experiences and rephrasing them in advance to be clear and to avoid any potentially relationship worsening situations.
Is marriage counseling helpful?
Speaking straightforwardly, marriage counseling will not always work and nor is it supposed to be taken as an easy fix for your marriage. It, however, does help you understand the problem at hand far better than most people can do on their own, and this alone can make relationship counseling worthwhile to consider.
One of the key factors when it comes to counseling is timing, the effectiveness of your sessions will be directly proportional to the motivation you and your spouse have towards fixing things. Motivation itself is one aspect that may have a tendency to deteriorate rapidly, and hence, it is a good idea to start working towards solutions or on how to avoid them as soon as you identify a problem.
Unfortunately, most couples end up taking too much time to realize that a session might be due — statistics show about six years of unhappiness is taken before making the trip, which is more than enough time to drift away from each other, plenty of time in which some lines may be crossed where returning from is simply too late.
In the end, do remember it all comes down to the two of you when it’s time to make decisions, and the only help your counselor will provide is helping you identify problems and merely suggest possible directions to proceed into.
Does marriage counseling work?
Keeping up with the point in the previous section, the majority of couples realize that a lot of precious time has slipped away by the time they make their first appointment. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too late. The factors that determine the success of your marriage are too many to state for the article, but time, motivation, commitment, and dedication are some of the important ones.
Your consultant acts as a consultant and not a fixer; they would offer you new perspectives on things, offer newer ways of recognizing and acting towards certain problems and of course, offer you a neutral territory to navigate your relationship with your partner.
Keep realistic expectations and know that all sessions are targeted towards your relationship dynamics. It now becomes the responsibility of the partners to put in their efforts and start accepting each other’s faults and stay motivated to save their relationship. The counselor will be your guide throughout this phase.
Can I go to marriage counseling by myself?
Yes, you can. For one reason or another, your partner may choose to opt out from even going, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Going alone also has its perks. For one, during solo sessions you’ll have a much easier time opening up alone than in front of your spouse watching.
Another reason would be the therapist can get you some really good insights on how to move for change, and even one person putting in positive behavior can go a long way and may even, at the end of the day, get your spouse to join in with you.
Even if you decide to go for individual sessions, the experience can give you a perspective of how the relationships look like, give your ideas on how to behave, communicate and act, all of which can contribute to your peace of mind that at least you’re willing to take a step towards trying to fix problems.
Couples counseling vs. individual therapy
Although both have their own set of pros and cons, both try to fulfill a more or less, similar purpose. You can say individual therapy is more focused on you and strategizing on how you would behave and is designed to give you a self-reflective opportunity to eventually work towards a more accepting atmosphere when it comes to your relationship.
Couples therapy, on the other hand, is more intensive and would focus the both of you working towards the problem. The therapist may enter the couples way of life more directly and would work out the dynamics of communication and living together. Habits and routines are altered, and the counselor would work according to the feedback from the both of you instead of just one and would make suggestions accordingly towards improvements.
A safe way to go about it would be to start with individual therapy where you find and understand the situation from an outside perspective and make changes to yourself accordingly. Couples therapy would be a good idea when the both of you have identified the issue and are willing to work on it together.
Divorce and pre-divorce counseling
Marriage is right up there as one the most important transitions in life and rightly should be carefully navigated through; and just like that, divorce, unfortunately, also qualifies as a significant relationship transition and bears heavy on everyone involved.
In pre-divorce counseling, the involvement of a counselor can help both parties communicate effectively during the whole process and sort out any concerns regarding the split. This can involve parenting, feelings and emotions — having someone to consult about it can prove to be very useful.
Divorce is a painful and traumatic occurring; some people manage to navigate their way through the pain, sadness and grief without anyone’s help while others actively seek help regardless of their personal strength. It is important to mention that seeking help doesn’t mean weakness but a proactive and effective way of dealing with the problem. Bad feelings may seep into all aspects of your life, and over a long term, can be harmful. Personal health and well-being is what post-divorce counseling targets primarily.
Any reason such as self-hate or self-loath, a bleak outlook on life and periodic phases of depression, sadness and worthlessness all point to being symptoms of bad aftermath of a divorce and in these cases it is crucial to seek help of any kind.
Not all counseling arise in situations of distress; it sometimes can act as a protective measure before leaping into marriage. There is nothing wrong with verifying that you and your partner can withstand the test of time.
The benefits of premarital counseling are many — one of the most important ones is that it helps you prepare for the long haul together for the future, going over plans, personal ambitions, and careers.
Better wisdom may be absorbed on how to proceed when certain situations arise and all this comes from a shared story from the counselor instead of do’s and don’ts from some textbook, which connects with you more on an emotional level.
Moreover, when sharing the prospect of sharing the future together, couples have opportunities to know more things about themselves and each other in a new light, all of which can ensure you’re making the right call to proceed with the marriage.
Premarital counseling can go a long way in contributing and bringing some realistic considerations and facts for a couple on the brink of making the import leap together.
What to look for in marriage or relationship counselor
One of the most important factors to consider before applying for counseling does not come from you but the service itself. The therapist has the most crucial role to play here and may be the single biggest reason for the success or failure of your marriage, and you couldn’t be more careful when choosing one.
The therapist should be impartial to the both of you and should place his biases towards making thing between the both of you work out as the single top priority.
On top of that, they should be someone you know you can be completely comfortable talking to and could openly share your problems and concerns with; this forms the entire basis of your sessions and could be very dangerous if this step is missed out on.
Research their qualifications and make sure they have the required specialized training and relevant experience, therapists who qualify for mental health don’t necessarily have the relevant experiences or the specialized training to offer insight and recommendations when it comes to steering your marriage.
Relationship counseling online
In many situations, online relationship counseling can be a better option. Perhaps you live in a rural area where you don’t have access to therapists; or it could be that you feel the urge to talk to a therapist and are not willing to wait for an appointment. In case of couple counseling, it might be much easier to convince your partner to talk to a counselor online rather than going to a clinic.
Online counseling typically allows you to chose between audio, video and chat sessions, and in some cases you are even allowed to message your therapist in between sessions. Another big plus is that finding your perfect counselor is much easier when using an online service.
How much relationship counseling costs?
Typically, therapists charge between $50 and $250 per hour; to be effective, however, a session might last more than an hour and you may need more than one session, which may lead to even more expenses. In addition, most insurance plans will not cover your marriage counseling costs. Online counseling can cost as low as $35 to $70 per week for unlimited access to your counselor.
Whether it’s troubles in marriage, the brink of separation or immediately after, before committing or just out of curiosity, there is no doubt that marriage counseling can offer new and constructive insights on how to proceed, looking for problems and working towards the most viable fix for any relationship problem.
It is important to remember the role of therapy here is purely advisory and would act as guidance for the couple to navigate their way through rough waters, but it is absolutely crucial to keep in mind that actual change and actions must come from the both of you if problems are to be addressed towards.