If the thought of sharing your deepest insecurities, hopes, and fears with a complete stranger, you're not alone. After all, you're in an unfamiliar space bearing your soul to someone you hired to help solve your marital problems—an already delicate subject. It's definitely intimidating at first, but so many couples find the process incredibly helpful because it introduces you to ways of healing that may not have occurred to you in a lot of cases. If you've found yourself going through a rough patch in your relationship or considering divorce, you consider seeking professional help before pulling the plug on your marriage.
Simply making the decision to seek counseling is a major step forward (and one that you and your partner should be proud of yourselves for taking). Of course, the real work is about more than just showing up to appointments: Your success is dependent on the effort and commitment you both put into it. Once you and your spouse are committed to putting in the time and the work to save your marriage, you can begin to learn, grow, and move forward.
Ahead, discover eight tips to help your marriage counseling be as successful as possible.
Discuss Your Goals Beforehand
Although going into therapy with the same goal as your spouse seems simple, it's usually a little bit more complicated. For instance, you may think that you already do have the same goal (to stay together), but does that goal come with any conditions or terms? If so, can you agree on them? It's not uncommon for one or both of you to wonder whether staying in a marriage is right for them, but having different agendas will make therapy much more difficult.
It's vital for you and your partner to share the goal of saving your marriage. You can still get counseling if you're not yet in this place, but the focus of your sessions will be different until you are both on the same page. After all, if neither of you are interested in staying together, you wouldn't have come to counseling for help, right?
Commit For at Least Six Months
Couples therapy is usually slower-paced than individual therapy because there are two sets of thoughts, opinions, and goals to work through. The dynamics are a little more complicated: Two people working together requires a significant amount of time for evolution and change. We'd say to give therapy a chance for at least six months because it may take some time to feel comfortable opening up both to your partner and to your counselor.
Focus on Repairing Damage
Threatening to file for divorce during a time when you've agreed to get counseling completely undermines the purpose of therapy. Therapists work hard to create a safe space for people whose relationship may be on shaky ground, and bringing up divorce during a fight will only set you back.
The key to therapy is being open-minded, so even if your discussion turns into an argument, remember why you're there: to strengthen a potentially weakened bond.
Prepare To Work on Yourself
Although your relationship is the focus of the therapy, you should also be prepared to make improvements on yourself as an individual. A relationship comprises two content individuals, so your happiness is crucial for a successful marriage. If there are things you need to work on, now is the time. It may be helpful to spend some time thinking about behavior or trait you exhibit that could cause problems in a relationship.
Share Your Feelings
Although your therapist has your best interest at heart and wants to help you through this challenging time, you may benefit from sharing the issues with your close friends and family, too. After all, they know you and your spouse on a more personal level than your therapist. That said, try your best to only confide in friends and family who are supportive of you. For example, if you discuss your issues with someone closer to your spouse, you may not get the best advice.
Schedule your marriage counseling and do your best to prioritize it above any other plans. For instance, if you're getting a group for dinner, and the only time that seems to work conflicts with therapy, you may want to consider sitting this social gathering out. Like we said, for at least six months, therapy (and working through your marital issues) should be at the top of your list of things you care about.
Understand the Issues
It's easy to get stuck in negative patterns of behavior when you've been in a relationship for a long time—especially if there are already a few issues at play. Even though you may be completely convinced that you're right, be open-minded to the fact that maybe you aren't. Perhaps you're both right. Before you start therapy, try to address (whether internally or with your partner) what the issues are so that you know where to start the conversation.
Bring Your Best Self To Therapy
Dealing with marital problems can be very stressful. It often affects every area of your life which comes with its own daily issues. As difficult as it may be, counseling will be the most successful if you and your partner can be mature, resourceful, and hopeful during treatment. Even when you don't want to, try to treat each other with respect and dignity.
Marriage therapists are there to help you solve your problems in a way that you and your partner likely aren't able to do on your own. In fact, many divorces could have been prevented if couples chose to work on their marriage earlier, rather than later when problems arise. With the proper help and the ability for you and your partner to commit to working on your relationship, you may be able to save your marriage.