Reasons to Seek Marriage Counseling and Tips to Get the Most Out of Them

Marriage Counseling Africa
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Marriage rates supposedly are on the decline. While it’s an oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults as well as children. For adults, divorce can be one of life’s most stressful life events. The decision to divorce often is met with ambivalence and uncertainty about the future. If children are involved, they may experience adverse effects such as denial, feelings of abandonment, anger, blame, guilt, preoccupation with reconciliation, and acting out.

While divorce may be necessary and the healthiest choice for some, others may wish to try to salvage whatever is left of the union. When couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is appropriate to seek marriage counseling. Here are some good reasons:

Communication

Communication may be the most common issue for which couples seek outside counsel because it's essential to the internal workings of their relationship, but not always easy to accomplish in a one-on-one conversation.

Affair

When a partner engages in an extramarital affair and the other partner finds out, a fundamental trust in their relationship is broken. To repair it, couples often need an objective third party to help facilitate the reckoning process and plan a path forward. Couples counseling provides a healing space to begin the journey toward resolution. It can help find practical and meaningful ways to navigate the treacherous waters of unfaithfulness.

Money

For many married couples, money can become a heated issue in their relationship when "what's mine is yours" doesn't always translate into sharing financial responsibility equally.

Children

While many couples know they want to have children early on in their relationship, when it finally happens, it changes the relationship — in a positive, but often exhausting, way.

Parenting style

As you and your partner go through your childrearing journey, you may have different approaches to parenting, which can become a source of tension in your relationship.

In-Laws

Ah yes, the in-laws. Every married couple has them, and even the best in-law relationships can come with some amount of emotional baggage.

Work

Like your in-laws, work is another outside force that can wreak unexpected havoc on the internal workings of a couple's relationship. When it becomes stressful, it can override everything else in your life and make you compromise your other priorities.

Sexual issues

Sex can be something that heals and brings a couple together, or it can be a battleground fraught with anxiety, embarrassment, anger, and hurt. Counselors encounter sexual issues frequently and can help.

Trust issues

After the trust is broken, relationships can be harmed or even destroyed. Part of having a stable and healthy relationship is to be able to trust one another. Learning to trust again is a slow and hard process, and it can be painful and frustrating when it doesn’t happen quickly. Counseling can educate and assist couples with understanding the process of regaining trust, and provide tools and direction to help.

Unsolvable problems

When couples argue or fight about different issues, they may be able to reach an agreement or compromise. However, some couples will not compromise on issues at all. When both partners do this, it creates a tension that can be hard to fix. People who know when their relationship is in trouble because they cannot solve their problems have already made the step of identifying the issue, which is half of the battle. The other half is difficult and requires therapy, cognitive behavior changes and a willingness to compromise.

Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Marriage Counseling


Marriage counseling can help a couple improve and save their marriage. However, for the process to work, people have to be willing to do some things that may make them uncomfortable or go against ingrained habits. Here are some of them:

People Should Have Goals For Themselves


While marriage is about a partnership, each person in a relationship has to contribute to it. It’s good for a couple to set specific goals, such as spending more time together or working together to create a budget, but individuals should be aware that their behavior may also need modification. Examples of personal goals may be to try to avoid starting fights when feeling stressed or to be more patient with their spouse. No single person in a relationship is perfect, so people should be aware that they may need to make personal changes to make a marriage work.

Couples Need To Be Open About Emotions


One common source of marital issues is when people refuse to talk to their spouse about how their partner’s actions make them feel. This may stem from believing that their spouse has ignored them in the past, but whatever the reason, many people in a struggling marriage get into the habit of hiding or bottling up their emotions. For counseling to work, individuals need to start being open about their feelings, which can be both difficult and uncomfortable. Before starting counseling, people will need to understand that a large part of the process will be talking openly about their emotions.

Individuals Should Be Willing to See Things from A Partner’s Perspective


It’s very common for people in struggling relationships to complain that their spouse never thinks about their feelings. However, this person may be just as guilty of ignoring how their spouse thinks or feels about a situation. In many cases, after several years of feeling ignored or slighted, someone may stop even trying to look at things from their partner’s perspective. If a person isn’t willing to at least try to put themselves in their partner’s shoes, counseling is not likely to be helpful.

Couples Counseling Can’t Fix Addiction and Mental Illness


Before starting marriage counseling, individuals should understand that relationship issues caused by drug abuse, alcoholism or mental illness will not be fixed by marriage counseling. Individual counseling or medical treatment is likely to be the necessary course of action to resolve these problems. This is not to say that counseling cannot help couples who have had a marriage damaged due to these problems, but couples counseling alone cannot solve the underlying issues.

Counseling May Not Save a Marriage, And That’s Okay


When couples decide to get counseling, they may be relying on this process to save their marriage. While this is entirely possible, and people who attend counseling often are able to stay together, counseling may also be about determining that two people are not right for each other. If individuals have a relationship that is damaged beyond repair or one person is not willing to work past a couple’s issues, then counseling may help them discover their relationship is unworkable. It is often better for people in these circumstances to part ways than to continue in a broken marriage.

References
Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Random House: New York.

Mayer, A. (2016). Marriage: Complete Guide for Saving and Rebuilding Trust, Intimacy and Connection. Amazon Digital.

Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (2015). Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before — and After — You Marry. Zondervan: New York.
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