By: Jennifer Magbanua, LMFT
Making the decision to seek marriage counseling can be very intimidating. You have to admit that your marriage is troubled and that you need help sorting it out. This takes courage. The following is a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding marriage counseling and how to decide if that is the best choice for you.
1. How do I know if we need marriage counseling?
Many couples struggle through years of marital unhappiness before seeking counseling. Often times as a last resort before divorce. If you are unhappy in your marriage getting an outside perspective can be helpful in deciding how to change the marriage to be fulfilling and happy again. Sometimes you can begin to feel so unhappy that you begin to wonder how you even ended up together. You might question if your initial love was “real” and if you made the “right” decision. While there are cases of lovers being deceived about who their partner is prior to marriage, this is a rarity. Most often everyday life begins to get in the way of romance. Spouses will relax and begin letting romantic gestures go by the wayside and worse begin exhibiting behaviors that would have been kept tightly under wraps in the early days of courtship. The friendship and intimacy begins to die because it is not being continually rebuilt. Life is like the ocean waves eroding away at the friendship and intimacy that was built up which eventually led to marriage. It is important to keep working at building each other up so that the relationship can be healthy and happy. If you notice that your marriage has lost these important components of friendship and intimacy, counseling can help you rebuild what has been lost and learn how to keep it going for the long term. You CAN be happy and feel connected to your spouse again.
2. What can marriage counseling do that chatting with my friend, sister or pastor can’t?
Although it can be cathartic and validating to discuss marriage struggles with a friend or family member in the end it does not help the marriage itself. Also, friends and family often take your side and can sometimes gain a negative view of your spouse long after you have forgiven them. A pastor is trained to give you spiritual advice which is not always the same thing as marriage or relationship advice. A marriage counselor is trained to pay attention to the behavior patterns and communication missteps, among other things, that are causing your marriage problems. A marriage counselor is also uniquely trained to offer techniques to alleviate specific marital issues. A marriage counselor is also uniquely positioned to keep a balanced perspective in a way that someone close to you may not be able offer.
3. Why is it so expensive?
Marriage counseling is an investment in your marriage and ultimately your life. Just as other professionals charge competitive rates so do counselors. There is additional school as well as ongoing training requirements to be kept informed of the latest research and discoveries in the field. When you are on the brink of divorce, it is as serious as a physical disease. Your marriage is in need of serious intervention. When you have a serious physical condition, you want the best doctor you can find even if it’s costly. Another thing to consider is that divorce is much more costly then therapy. Also, when going through a divorce, therapy often becomes necessary for each spouse and any children involved.
4. Will it take forever?
Marriage therapy length varies depending on several factors. 1) severity of the issue 2) length of the marriage 3) commitment of the parties involved 4) consistency of attendance to therapy. If you have spent 10-15 years with marriage difficulties, it will take several months to even begin to undo the damage that has been caused. As a general rule, you should expect to spend at least 6-9 months of weekly therapy with the potential for more. Often couples come in with individual issues that surface during couples therapy and need to be addressed prior to working on the serious issues within the relationship.
5. Can I attend marriage counseling alone?
Yes. Marriage counseling can benefit your marriage even if you attend alone. Much like the cogs of a watch are affected by a change in one cog your marriage is changed by any changes in you. Ideally marriage counseling works best when both partners are involved and committed to changing the marriage for the better.
6. What should I look for in a marriage therapist?
Although other types of license can do marriage counseling, a licensed marriage and family therapist is uniquely trained for marriage counseling. Ultimately the most important factor is you and your spouse’s comfort level with the therapist. Like with any type of counseling you want someone who is open, engaging, compassionate and a good listener. Another important factor unique to marriage and couples counseling is for the therapist to be a neutral party. If a counselor is taking sides in your marriage disputes it can create hostility between you and your spouse.
If you are looking for a marriage therapist call today to schedule your appointment 407-536-8877!