If the thought of sitting in a room with a stranger and bearing your soul to work on your marriage sounds intimidating, you're certainly not alone. But many couples find the process of marriage counseling incredibly helpful. 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, discover 10 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 or both partners to wonder whether or not staying in a marriage is right for them, but having different agendas will make the therapy process 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.
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 requires a significant amount of time for evolution and 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 a safe space between two people whose trust may be 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 planning an exit strategy in case you decide that your marriage is not getting better, it's best to raise concerns 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, therapy is cheaper than a divorce.
9. Understand that your problems are cyclical in nature
It's easy to get stuck in negative patterns of behavior 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 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.