Couples and Marriage Counseling
All couples experience conflict. For some it’s battles about money; for others it’s a sex life that’s lacking or a pattern of constant arguing. And the pandemic has added yet another potential stressor: more time at home together, which can exacerbate tensions or expose hidden cracks in a relationship.
Therapy can help. Contrary to what some may believe, it’s not about finger-pointing — who did what or who is to blame. Rather, couples therapy provides tools for communicating and asking for what you need.
These are seven common reasons couples seek relationship help.
1. You’ve grown apart
After years of marriage, some couples no longer engage with each other and merely coexist as roommates.
Couples often forget what brought them together in the first place, why they fell in love. If you’ve been with somebody for a long time, you’ve built a life narrative, memories and a history that you can’t recoup with someone else. Couples therapy can help reignite that.
2. You clash about money
Money has always been a contentious issue for couples but throw in additional life stressors and you’ve got an atmosphere ripe for financial friction. In a Harris Interactive poll, 36 percent of married couples said money matters cause arguments with spouses.
Clashes may stem from differing spending styles or disagreements on how to save for, and spend, for wants and needs. There may be stress about not having enough money, or inequalities in the way your earnings are being managed. Therapy helps people understand their relationship with money and the way that it shapes their thoughts about themselves and about other people. Often, the way we view and handle finances is linked to past experiences.
3. Someone has been unfaithful
One of the most common reasons for going to couples therapy: attempting to repair a breach of trust — in less delicate terms, cheating. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has found that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men report having had an extramarital affair.
But, to be sure, cheating doesn’t only mean physical infidelity. “Hiding something and being secretive is an emotional betrayal, “You might reconnect with an old flame through Facebook and think, We’re just catching up; it’s harmless. Then, all of a sudden, it’s more than that.”
How to tell when you’ve crossed the line? That’s tricky. “Infidelity means a lot of things to a lot of different people. What’s important is that partners build a shared, agreed-upon definition of fidelity within their own relationship.
If you’re tempted to stray, it’s better to try counseling now than face the fallout later. And if one partner has already had an affair, there’s definitely a way back. About a third of married couples survive an affair, but generally, they’re the ones who go for treatment and make every effort to save the union. In fact, an affair is often the impetus for dealing with things that have been avoided for years.
4. You have lots of unproductive, hurtful arguments
We all have different ways of handling conflict. Some of us thrive on confrontation; others shut down when things get heated. And then there are the passive-aggressive types. Big blowouts can leave behind tears and hurt feelings, but frequent bickering can be just as destructive.
An argument is not in and of itself a bad thing; rather, it’s the way people handle the conflict that can make it unhealthy. It’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it. It could be criticism or complaints, jabs or unkind words, or verbal abuse, like name-calling or yelling.
Couples therapy teaches you how to diffuse disagreements in a healthy way — reasonably and respectfully. So instead of throwing out something inflammatory like, “Why did you do this?” try a more encouraging tone, such as, “Help me to understand why you feel this way.” Swap pronouns, trading “you” (as in, You always do this), which puts the other person in a defense mode, for the first person (I feel like you’re not hearing what I’m saying).
Stay away from always and never. And don’t pull out the past. Recent events are what you want to talk about.
5. You are going through a big transition
Even if you and your partner are getting along fine, a big change can shake up the dynamic of your relationship, and different coping styles are going to create friction.
It could be an illness, retirement or having the last of your children move out. In the past, your children may have occupied a tremendous amount of time and energy, then they leave, and if you haven’t been nurturing your marriage at the same level, you may look at your partner and think, I don’t know who you are. I’m not even sure I like who you are.”
Suddenly finding yourself caring for an ill parent, which can consume a big portion of your time and attention, presents a different set of challenges. If your spouse doesn’t understand the stress or isn’t supportive, it can stir up feelings of frustration and resentment. Couples therapy can help you deal with the new normal by restoring the connection you and your partner once shared.
6. You love life’s lacking
In a study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2,371 recently divorced people were asked to choose reasons for their split. The number one response (from 47 percent of the participants): a lack of love or intimacy.
For some, it’s a lackluster sex life. Years of doing the same thing in the bedroom can make sex less enjoyable. Sometimes one partner is simply too tired, and having sex feels like just one more thing to check off of the to-do list. Medical issues, medication side effects and changes in your body, such as menopause, can also make sex difficult for some couples.
But little intimacies — like the occasional peck on the cheek, listening to your partner’s stories, and small gestures of kindness — can be just as important for helping you and your partner feel connected. There are plenty of couples who are affectionate and emotionally intimate but not sexually intimate. As long as you are both satisfied with whatever your situation is, there isn’t really a problem. Couples counseling is useful when one or both of you is not satisfied with your level of intimacy.
It can be difficult for people to talk about something this personal, but a good therapist can help guide the conversation and should know how to make you both feel more comfortable discussing intimate subjects.
7. You want to avoid divorce or have an amicable one
Usually, if a married couple are coming in for therapy, they’ve thought about divorce but want to see if the marriage is salvageable.
Sometimes couples have mixed agendas. One person wants to split up or get divorced, and the other one wants to save the relationship. In cases like these, discernment counseling can help spouses decide whether they want to pursue a divorce or what needs to change if they want to remain together.
If it’s become apparent that this isn’t a marriage that can work, therapy can be a way of providing for a less toxic split. “Prolonged, messy divorces have a lot to do with not being able to let go. If a couple can process ‘how did we get here?’ and get past blaming each other, they can move on in a more adult way that does less damage to everyone involved.
UNDERSTANDING RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING
Relationships are hard work! Even couples who are generally in a good place and consider themselves best friends can experience issues due to life’s curve balls. Many partners are hesitant about couple’s therapy due to the misconception that it is the last resort for couples on the verge of separation. This is not the case at all. Relationship counseling teaches couples how to navigate stressors together, meet each other’s needs, and be better partners.
WHAT RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING TREATS:
- Feeling distant or lonely despite being married or in a relationship
- Affair recovery and rebuilding trust
Loss of intimacy and sexual desire
Conflict with parenting style
Unresolved, reoccurring hot topics
Feeling like roommates more than a couple
HOW EFFECTIVE IS MARRIAGE AND COUPLES COUNSELING?
Half of the couples have reported being able to resolve or half of their concerns.
A qualified therapist helps balance differing perspectives and find common ground.
If staying together is doing more harm than good, then you can mutually make that decision in a controlled and civil setting.
You utilize several different therapeutic approaches till you find one that works.
You learn how to co-parent efficiently and work as a team for your children, and model problem solving and healthy communication for them.
SEEK HELP SOONER VERSUS LATER
Research indicates that struggling couples will wait six years before seeking help. Often, that is too late because the longer you wait, the more ingrained bad habits become and it becomes increasingly difficult to shake them. If you’re part of a relationship in distress, the sooner you seek counseling, the better your odds are of improving your relationship. Don’t wait until your marriage reaches a point of being irreparable. You deserve a relationship that makes you feel happy, loved, and safe. Relationship counseling and marriage counseling can help you get there.
If you are looping over and over within the same arguments and patterns and feel disillusioned and frustrated, it does not have to be this way! There is hope. In our therapy session, we will get you the tools to work together, stop fighting and start enjoying your relationship.