Less than 5% of divorcing couples seek marital counseling!
According to renowned marriage and relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, less than 5% of divorcing couples seek marriage counseling. Why do most couples in trouble fail to get professional help? What are the benefits of couples counseling? If you are experiencing marital difficulties, the information below is intended to encourage you and your partner to consider couples counseling as a way to gain perspective and skills needed to improve the quality of your marriage or relationship, overcome a relationship crisis and/or save your marriage.
Relationship skills must be learned
Listed below are some of the benefits and other important information about marriage/relationship counseling and how it can help:
1. You need to “earn” your way out of a marriage.
Perhaps you’ve heard the preceding phrase, made popular by television psychologist and author Dr. Phil McGraw. “Don’t consider divorce,” says Dr. Phil, “Until you’ve investigated every potential avenue of rehabilitation. Unless you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you’ve tried everything there is, then you’re not ready to be discussing divorce.” Divorcing couples who never attempt to solve their problems by seeking the help of counseling, are throwing their marriages away without even trying.
2. Seek help early.
According to Dr. Gottman, the average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems. Keeping in mind the fact that half of all marriages fail in the first seven years, the average couple lives for far too long with unhappiness. Marriage therapists agree that more couples can be helped if they seek help earlier, and if you wait too long to seek marriage counseling, the odds are against you.
3. How can marriage counseling help?
Marriage counseling is generally provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists provide the same mental health services as other therapists, but with a specific focus – a couple’s relationship.
Marriage counseling affords you and your spouse numerous ways to bring about change that you would not normally know how to accomplish on your own. It provides a safe and supportive environment for you to identify and communicate the issues, feelings and behaviors that are bothering you, to facilitate understanding and positive change. A qualified marriage and family therapist can provide instruction, coaching and feedback to help you develop new skills to improve your marriage, including:
- Learning ways to communicate better
- Learning how to argue in a healthier way
- Learning how to resolve conflict and problem solve in a productive manner
- Learning appropriate expression, disclosure and resolution of painful emotions
- Learning how to state your needs clearly and openly within your relationship
- Learning how to work through unresolved issues
- Learning how to negotiate for change within your relationship
4. Marriage counseling is hard work.
For marriage counseling to be effective, you must approach counseling with a realistic attitude. Don’t expect a quick fix, or that the counselor will be doing all of the work. Marriage counseling is hard work for the participants. The process of unlearning bad habits and learning new, more effective habits is often intense, frustrating and exhausting. Expect the process to be difficult and take time, but that it can be worth the effort.
5. How did I contribute to this problem?
The reason to participate in counseling is to learn how to change. You must be willing to change to make counseling work. A sure sign of your willingness is asking yourself, “How did I contribute to this problem?” Simply put, you got yourself into this mess and now it’s up to you to change it. Taking responsibility for your share of your marital problems is the first step toward finding effective solutions. Don’t expect to change your partner. No one has the power to change another person. Instead, focus on learning what you contribute to your marital problems and changing your own attitude, behavior and skills.
- NOTE: Some problems within a relationship may reach beyond the scope of therapy. Relationships in which physical or sexual abuse is an issue, may require other forms of intervention. Do not endanger yourself or your children by remaining in an abusive relationship. Seek professional help immediately.