There are several reasons a couple may seek professional assistance to improve their relationship. Couples therapy can be effective, especially if you start going to marriage counseling as soon as you notice a problem. Once you and your spouse have decided that you want to give couples counseling a try, you’ll need to find a qualified counselor that both you and your significant other feel comfortable with. This may mean that you’ll need to interview a few therapists until you find the right fit.
Here are a few marriage tips to keep in mind if you and your partner are seriously considering counseling.
Do you really need marriage counseling?
You and your spouse could be considering counseling for a number of reasons. Some people face a higher risk of divorce due to getting married while they are very young, having a family history of divorce, or facing severe and constant financial challenges. It is best to receive marriage advice if you face these issues, but these are not the only reasons counseling could be beneficial.
Think about the aspects of your marriage that may contribute to your stress levels or cause significant conflict. You should ask some questions about yourself, your spouse, and your relationship to determine if therapy is right for you. For instance:
-Do you and your spouse disagree on spiritual or religious matters?
-Do you and your spouse criticize one another which causes you both to become defensive?
-Do you and your spouse withdraw from each other as a coping mechanism?
-Do you often feel anger or resentment toward each other, or do you feel indifferent?
-Do you often feel that you and your spouse don’t have anything in common?
-Have you experienced abuse, addiction, or infidelity in your marriage?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are at a higher risk for an unhappy marriage that could possibly lead to divorce. Counseling could help you improve your relationship, and the earlier you start the process, the more beneficial it will be.
It is also important for you to have realistic expectations when it comes to your marriage. This will encourage you to implement effective methods for conflict resolution. You should also make sure that you and your significant other are compatible with each other and share similar values even before marriage to increase the chances that you’ll be happy once you get married.
Does counseling really work?
Emotionally focused therapy (EFT), a method developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, has been studied and found to be the most effective form of counseling for couples. Research indicates that EFT lasts for months or even years and works well for couples of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
A study from 2017 indicated that counseling for couples was especially effective on a group of veterans who varied in age and race. The subjects’ relationships improve after a year and a half of treatment. Another study from that same year found that couples improve from EFT after two years of treatment. A study from 2015 revealed that people who underwent EFT were better able to deal with infertility.
Is counseling worthwhile?
Therapy for couples can be worth it if you and your spouse want to find ways to effectively and consistently improve your partnership. You may want to go to therapy at various phases in your relationship to address issues that may arise as you grow and learn together.
For instance, younger couples can benefit from therapy to help them create healthy habits and strategies that they can carry on throughout their marriage. One study indicates that premarital counseling can also empower couples to come up with an active plan to keep their relationship strong.
It is also crucial for both parties in the marriage to want to make positive individual changes while seeking to improve the relationship. Therapy is especially beneficial when both people are willing to acknowledge their imperfections and make the necessary changes. Dr. John Gotten states that couples that get counseling before problems get out of hand may benefit more from therapy than couples who wait until they are closer to getting a divorce. However, even couples who are seriously thinking about divorce can benefit from counseling sessions.
How do healthy couples deal with conflict?
It is important to note that even when a couple is happy, they will experience issues and have disagreements in their marriages. Research suggests that happy couples tend to have arguments about some of the same things unhappy couples argue about.
Dr. Gottman’s research explores happy couples and discovered that even though these couples have conflicts, they know how to properly handle arguments because their marriages are built on a foundation of true friendship and affection. However, unhappy couples may struggle more with disagreements because their foundation is not as strong.
The things couples argue about also have an effect on how the conflict affects the marriage. A study published in the journal Family Process revealed that happier couples usually focus on issues they can resolve quickly and efficiently. Couples who are unhappy tend to center their conflicts on underlying issues that have long been a problem in their marriage which makes it difficult to reach a solution. Knowing the difference between issues that can be delayed for a while and issues that need resolution right away can lead to fulfilling long-term relationships.
Be aware of emotional calls
One of the biggest indicators of how to predict the success of a marriage is how spouses treat emotional calls.
Emotional calls are the small attempts that couples makes to connect with each other. These “calls” can be attempts to receive affirmation and attention from a spouse. Years of research prove that spouses in healthy marriages engage with about 86% of their partner’s emotional calls while those in unhappy marriages only respond to emotional calls 33% of the time.
These facts are alarming which is why the main objective of counseling is to assist both spouse understand their partners emotional needs and develop a sense of empathy for one another. This information leads many professionals to believe that all couples should give counseling a try. Therapy sessions will help spouses improve their response to emotional calls and assist them in recognizing their their partner needs more attention or affection. After all, even couples who are healthy and in love miss each other’s emotional cues 14% of the time.
Do you have a happy marriage?
Before you answer this question, it’s crucial to remind yourself that marriage changes over time. All relationships have their ups and downs and there are times when you will be annoyed or even angry with your partner. Your marriage is in a constant state of fluctuation and you need to be prepared for the adjustments you and your spouse will have to make.
Make sure that you’re clear about your emotional state to help you determine if you have a happy marriage. You can use the 1-10 scale to rate your satisfaction in your marriage. Once you come up with a number, explain your answer to yourself.
If your number is between 1 and 4, your marriage needs repair. If you chose a number that is between 5 and 7, your relationship has room to improve but you still have a strong connection with your partner. Your relationship is a “feel-good” one if your rating was between 8 and 10. No matter what category you find yourself in, you could still benefit from going to marriage counseling with your spouse.
Going to counseling is some of the best marriage advice you could receive. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists says that the rate of success for couples who attend counseling and participate in therapeutic activities during and in between sessions is 98%.
When it comes to marriage counseling tips, you should book an appointment with a therapist at the first sign of an issue. It is also a good idea to get counseling during your engagement to prepare your mind and emotions for the commitment of marriage.
Marriage counseling consists of having a safe place to express your concerns and feelings about your marriage and your partner. Marriage counseling sessions also involve listening to what your spouse has to say and learning how to respond to their needs without being condescending or judgmental.
To get the most from your therapy, it is recommended that you attend between 12 and 24 marriage counseling sessions. It is also a good idea to repeat this cycle every few years or when you go through significant changes in your marriage or life overall.
If you’re taking good marriage advice, you’ll know how well your counseling sessions are going. Taking therapy seriously and using your sessions as an opportunity to be honest with your partner and empathize with them can improve your marriage and ultimately save you from divorce.