Elliott Counseling Group

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How Marriage Therapy Can Help

By: Elliott Counseling Group

We have all heard the horrifying statistic that 50% of marriages end up in divorce. Couples find themselves wanting to beat the odds, but many struggle with how.

Every relationship experiences problems. Some of these problems can have a quick and easy resolution; most take more time and effort. It is important for couples to distinguish the difference between solvable and unsolvable problems; areas that are within the couple's control vs. out of their control.  This is one of the primary functions of marriage therapy.

You do not need to be in a distressed marriage to be in marriage therapy. Many people with solid marriages choose therapy to help guide and enhance their relationship. However, here are some of the signs that it is time to get help and for which couples counseling can be helpful.

When you should seek couples counseling:

  1. Keeping secrets- Secrets can create disconnectedness from your spouse and ultimately, loneliness. Big secrets are obvious warning signs, but also little things: If you have connected with an old friend or bought something special just for you, but are too afraid of being ridiculed, teased or bullied if you mention it.
  2. Resentment & score keeping- If there are endless negative comments or insults and the resentment feels like a constant tennis match of name calling and bickering. If you often lose track of who started it and what you are fighting about. If you are keeping score about anything from household chores to visiting relatives.
  3. Moving your love tank elsewhere- Infidelity is an issue, whether it's emotional or physical, if you are reaching out to anyone and everyone other than your spouse to have intimate connection.
  4. Lack of sharing- You used to ask your spouse for their opinions on everything from what you should do about work stress or what the weekend plans are; but those days are gone. You find yourself making decisions without consideration for your spouse's feelings or how it might affect him or her.
  5. You've stopped "dating"- In the beginning of your relationship, you engaged in activities that kept the spark and romance alive. You sent a sweet message to start their day or you invited them out to lunch. Now, you and your spouse rarely go out and have not had a "date night" in months, maybe even years.
  6. You move from teammates to roommates- Roommates take on individual projects with no respect or thoughts towards the other person in the house. Their separate plans become your separate lives. Teammates work in tandem to accomplish goals. They share ideas for how to succeed and envision home and life plans together.
  7. You are handling stressors in different ways- Loss of a family member, moving, etc. are stressors that may be helped with individual therapy, but if you are both handling the same situation in very different ways, then couples counseling might be helpful.

When you should seek therapy alone:

If you are experiencing the following in your relationship, it might be better to start therapy alone and decide with the therapist when to bring the other half into the therapy session. This is true whether you see yourself dishing out these behaviors or on the receiving end.

Passive-aggressive behavior- It’s one thing to be snippy at each other here and there, but if many messages are stabs at inadequacy or inability to function as an adult. Comments like, “Of course you forgot, you always do” or, “No wonder I have to take care of everything, you can’t even do a simple chore.”  This could be helped directly with couple’s therapy, but might be better sorted out in individual therapy first. 

Fear of rage- If one of you has to walk on eggshells to avoid conflict or if there is are any threats to safety including intimidation.

Abuse- Whether physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse the abused spouse should get the help they need to remove themselves from the situation. This does not mean the relationship can’t be saved, but it is best addressed in the total safety and confidentiality that comes with individual therapy first. Abusers should seek help as well. All quests for help will be confidential when consulting with professionals.

How therapy can help

Couple’s therapy can help you and your spouse validate and accept each other, gain insight, and learn to manage differences. As we said, it is important for couples to distinguish the difference between solvable and unsolvable problems; areas that are within the couple’s control vs. out of their control.  

Therapists will be looking at the processes between the couple rather than the details of a particular argument. Therapist may suggest specific skill building tools to improve the couple’s communication. There is a need to develop skills for talking about these problems and finding workable solutions.

Starting couple’s therapy can feel daunting at first. Many couples may feel discouraged or embarrassed as they argue in the first few sessions in front of the therapist. However, couples that commit to therapy begin to create a process for overcoming their difficulties. Engaging in therapy can provide relief as you learn to share your feelings openly and honestly in safe ways that can be heard.

Successful outcomes are possible when both spouses are equally invested and open to making positive changes to their relationship. But it often happens that one spouse is more reluctant than the other. That’s okay, too. It has also been shown to be helpful for each spouse to work with an individual therapist in addition to couple’s therapy. Your therapist will discuss that with you.

Marriage therapy is effective for committed couples whether legally married or not.

*Disclaimer: Never remain in a situation in where your safety or the safety of others is at risk.

References

Temple, M. (2006, January 01). When Your Marriage Needs Help. Retrieved August 03, 2016, from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/when-your-marriage-needs-help/marriage-needs-help-booklet-overview

Ellison, L. (2015, January 29). 5 Signs of a Bad Marriage No One Talks About. Retrieved August 03, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lindsey-ellison/5-signs-of-a-bad-marriage_b_6574616.html