Do You Need Marriage Counseling and Will It Work?

Getting help for a marriage in trouble

Couple listening to businessman
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If your marriage is having problems, you definitely should not wait too long to seek professional help. It may be hard to find the right counselor with the skills to help your relationship, but they are out there and willing to help. There are ways to to find a counselor specializing in marriage or couples therapy. You may have to meet with more than one to find the right fit. There are also ways to gauge if counseling will actually work for your marriage.

Fortunately, we do have some information on the types of couples that get the most, and the least, from marriage counseling:

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Did you marry at an early age?
  • Did you not graduate from high school?
  • Are you in a low-income bracket?
  • Are you in an inter-faith marriage?
  • Did your parents divorce?
  • Do you often criticize one another?
  • Is there a lot of defensiveness in your marriage?
  • Do you tend to withdraw from one another?
  • Do you feel contempt and anger for one another?
  • Do you believe your communication is poor?
  • Is there a presence of infidelity, addiction or abuse in your marriage?

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, then you are statistically a higher risk for divorce. It does not mean that divorce is inevitable, it may mean that you have to work much harder to keep your relationship on track. Those couples who have realistic expectations of one another and their marriage, communicate well, use conflict resolution skills, and are compatible with one another are less at risk for divorce.

 

The Effectiveness of Marriage Counseling

The science on the effectiveness of marriage counseling is being studied in great detail these days. The data from studies has at times been mixed. Some research has shown that marriage counseling is not as effective as people think, that women seem to get more from it than men, and that it might not have a lasting effect on the couple's marriage.

Despite this we think that receiving professional help before problems reach critical stage is very beneficial to a marriage.

The most studied, and effective form of treatment, is emotionally-focused couples therapy (EFT) developed by Dr. Sue Johnson. Results also show that this treatment is long-lasting and helpful with those of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well. Also, a study by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) showed that in general, families do want therapy and place a high value on the experience.

What Type of Couple Gets the Most From Marriage Counseling?

  • Younger couples
  • Non-sexist and egalitarian couples
  • Couples who are still in love with each other
  • Couples who are open to therapy and change
  • Partners willing to look at themselves and their flaws

What Type of Couple Gets the Least from Marriage Counseling?

  • Couples who wait too long before seeking help
  • Marriages with one or the other spouse set on getting a divorce
  • Married individuals who are closed to any suggestions that may save the marriage
  • Marriages with one partner addicted to alcohol, drugs or pornography
  • Marriage with one partner showing up to sessions but is not invested in the work

    Solutions Learned From Happy Couples

    John Gottman's research looks at happy couples for solutions. He has discovered that even though all couples experience conflict in their marriages, happy couples apparently know how to handle their disagreements because of a foundation of affection and friendship. Unhappy couples do not have this skill set. Generally, marriage and relationship researchers suggest that the goal of couple therapy should be to change the patterns of interaction, emotional connection and communication between the couple.

    Whatever You Do...Don't Wait to Get Help

    If you think your marriage is in trouble, do not wait. Seek help as soon as possible. Plan to budget the money and time in this treatment. The longer you wait, the hard it will be to get your relationship back on track.

    Be sure to find professional couples counseling or attend a marriage course or weekend experience as soon as warning signs appear.

    *Article updated by Marni Feuerman