If the thought of sitting in a room with a stranger and bearing your soul in order to work on your marriage sounds intimidating, you're certainly not alone. However, many couples find the process of marriage counseling incredibly helpful so if you've found yourself going through a rough patch in your relationship or even considering divorce, you might consider seeking professional help.
Simply making the decision to seek counseling is a major step (and one that you and your partner should be proud of yourselves for making). Of course, the real work is about more than just showing up to appointments. Your success is significantly dependent upon the effort and commitment you put into it. Once you and your spouse are committed to putting in the time and the work with the goal of saving your marriage, you can begin to learn, grow, and move forward.
Ahead, find out ten tips to help your marriage counseling be as successful as possible.
1. Have the same goal.
Although going into therapy with the same goal as your spouse seems simple, it's often a bit more complicated. It's not uncommon for one of both partners to wonder whether or not staying in a marriage is right for them. However, having different agendas will make the therapy process much more difficult. It's vital for you and your partner to have 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.
2. Commit to making a real effort for at least six months.
Couples therapy is slower paced than individual therapy. The dynamics are complicated and two people working together require a significant amount of time to change. Additionally, the problems that bring you and your partner to counseling have likely already been issues for years (on average it takes couples six years to make it into therapy). This alone makes the process more difficult and requires a good amount of time to start making real progress.
3. Focus on saving your marriage rather than worrying about divorce.
Threatening to file for divorce during a time in which you've agreed to get counseling will completely undermine the therapy process. Therapists work very hard to create safety between two people whose trust is often quite shaky and bringing up divorce during a fight will only set you back.
4. Prepare to work on yourself as well as your relationship.
Although your relationship is the focus of marriage therapy, you should also be prepared to make improvements to yourself as an individual. It may be helpful to spend some time thinking about a behavior or trait you exhibit that could cause problems in any relationship. Understanding this will help you move forward in your current relationship.
5. Try to remember that the process isn't always fair.
It's all too easy to feel like you're the only one doing the work when it comes to marriage counseling, but telling this to your spouse or complaining to your therapist won't do any good. Even though often times there is one partner doing more "work," it's important to remember that the process simply isn't always fair. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes one partner fighting really hard for the marriage to help reel in the partner that is trailing further behind.
6. Be honest.
Rather than silently plan an exit strategy if you decide that your marriage is not getting better, it's best to raise the concern early and discuss it directly with your partner or in therapy.
7. Share your feelings with people you trust.
Try your best to only confide in friends and family who are supportive of you during this difficult time. You'll also want to avoid complaining about your spouse to just anyone because you won't always get the good, objective advice you need.
8. Prioritize therapy.
Schedule your marriage counseling and do your best to prioritize it before anything else. Be flexible with your time and budget your money if you need to. At the end of the day, your treatment will be cheaper than a divorce.
9. Understand that your problems are cyclical in nature.
It's easy to get stuck in negative patterns when you've been in a relationship for a long time. Rather than taking sides, the therapists' job will be to help you change these problematic patterns and help you and your partner see the best in each other. Understanding this from the start will be helpful while you go through the therapy process.
10. Bring your "best self" to marriage therapy.
Dealing with marital problems can be very stressful. It often affects every area of your life which likely already 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.