by Haleigh Couture
Every relationship takes work. Sometimes you can fall in and out of love with your partner. Life gets to us, and things change. After all, we are all different people. We each have our ways of coping with life’s challenges.
But as partners, especially in a marriage, commitment to each other and working through those challenges help to sustain a healthy relationship. Some couples may need some help, which looks different in each relationship. While some may seek guidance to help rekindle the flame, others may need help to walk away from an irreversibly failing partnership.
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WHO SHOULD SEEK MARRIAGE COUNSELING?
Simply put, marriage counseling doesn't just cater to those couples in dire need of a marriage savor. Marriage counseling is encouraged long before problems may appear in a relationship. Sarah Falk, a licensed clinical social worker, encourages premarital counseling: “Premarital counseling provides topical discussions over major life factors such as spirituality compatibility, parenting styles, money mindset differences and so much more,” said Falk.
In a sense, couples counseling before marriage can be beneficial because the couple is not yet tied down or legally bonded to each other. “If the couple is already married or has been committed to one another for years, counseling may be most useful at the outset of a problem that isn’t resolved within a day or two,” Falk continued. “If there is an issue that is lingering or nagging, that is a good sign the couple may benefit from an objective third party to guide them to resolution.”
AT WHAT POINT IN THE RELATIONSHIP SHOULD THE COUPLE SEEK COUNSELING?
According to psychologist and relationship coach, Wyatt Fisher, a couple should seek counseling when they are at an impasse on important topics in their relationship. In cases where infidelity or bad habits are taking place in the relationship, it is best to seek counseling before these negative habits plague the relationship, which prevents the issue(s) from festering. Resentments can quickly manifest if issues are left unresolved.
HOW LONG SHOULD COUNSELING LAST?
“Couples usually need marriage counseling for 3-6 months for weekly sessions to heal resentments and create new ‘normals’ in their relationship,” said Fisher.
It is important to note, however, that there is no set time limit for how long a couple should remain in counseling. It is entirely subjective and ultimately comes down to the goals intended for each relationship.
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“If both people are highly motivated for change and want to do whatever is necessary to better their relationship, treatment may not take as long,” said Falk. “The length and depth of the problems presented can often determine the intensity of treatment in counseling. If there is a long history of mistrust, infidelity, or just plain bad habits, it may take longer for the couple to make necessary changes or to heal, which in turn could require more time in therapy.”
DOES IT BENEFIT THE RELATIONSHIP?
In short-yes. However, it is not simply a matter of showing up to counseling. To achieve true success, both partners must want to reflect on their parts in the relationship and make the proper changes to better their marriage. Like every relationship, the motivation and desire to sustain the relationship can’t be one-sided.
“The effectiveness of marriage counseling largely depends on the investment each individual is willing to put into the process,” said Falk. “If both people are highly motivated for change and wish to make the marriage work, marriage counseling can be highly effective.”
A COUNSELING SUCCESS STORY
“When I got counseling in my marriage, I knew for sure it was worth it,” said Kelly. “The problem was evident around our 4th year of marriage. My spouse, Joseph, and I tried to ‘fix’ the problem for a few years. We got counseling before the problem got so bad that one or both of us became resentful or hateful - of either the marriage, each other, or both.”
Although Kelly and Joseph have a very unique relationship, re-committing to marriage with each other every five years - the bottom line is that even in short increments of marriage, it is perfectly normal to seek help from a third party. “Counseling was very beneficial. I learned, among other things, about skills like creating strong boundaries between Joseph and me. Joseph learned to hear my feelings as feelings, not as complaints.”
Marriage counseling or relationship counseling, in general, is not just for those on the brink of a break-up or divorce. Counseling can be used for any relationship status. Forget the stigma—relationships are not doomed to fail if you and your spouse resort to counseling. This is a great opportunity for you and your partner to learn more about each other.
Consider it a means to developing healthier habits to carry into your relationship. Counseling can provide comfort and closure to the relationship by instilling open communication between both willing participants. Now, let’s not sugar-coat things. Sometimes, people are just not meant to be and situations may change. Feelings may change. Counseling can shed light on these emotional changes and guide the couple to make an informed, healthy decision on how to proceed either in the relationship together or independently.
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, psychologist and relationship coach
Sarah Falk, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Illinois www.keystonecounselors.com
Annmarie Kelly, Influencer Author, The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm