Marriage counseling, or couples therapy, is a form psychotherapy aimed to strengthen intimate relationships. Couples who seek marriage counseling are often looking to resolve conflicts, improve communication, and/or improve the relationship overall. Marriage counseling is often short-term, and can be effective for a wide range of relationships struggles and problems.
Some common reasons couples seek counseling are:
- Communication breakdown – a lack of communication, or communication that has a pattern of negativity.
- Sexual problems – when there has been a significant shift in your sex life, or one partner is withholding sex as a form of punishment.
- Infidelity – if one or both partners is having an affair (or are considering an affair).
- Conflicts about children or the blending of families – differences in parenting styles or disagreements over discipline.
- Substance and/or alcohol abuse – unhealthy behaviors of one partner tend to affect the relationship as a whole.
- Financial trouble – when there is financial “infidelity” or stress from financial struggle.
- Anger and resentment – often from past hurt; can lead to partners feeling like opponents rather than teammates.
What to expect from marriage counseling
Marriage counseling involves the coming together of both spouses for joint therapy sessions with a neutral, third-party-the mental health professional, or marriage counselor. Within these therapy sessions, couples will typically learn skills that can be used to improve the relationship. The skills often surround:
- Solving problems together
- Discussing differences rationally and calmly
- Open and honest communication
- Trust building
- Exploring the good and bad parts of your relationship
- Gaining insight into the root cause(s) of your conflict
The therapist or counselor may also assign homework, or couples counseling exercises for you and your spouse to complete in between marriage counseling sessions.
When to get marriage counseling
Most couples experience some level of disagreement or discord over time. Yet, for some, it can be difficult to determine if the problems experienced in the relationship warrant going to counseling. In general, counseling is never a bad option, and for most, will only benefit a relationship or marriage, regardless of the level of conflict. That being said, there are some questions you can ask yourself if you are contemplating marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling questions
- Do you feel disrespected by your spouse?
- Do you and/or your spouse have an addiction/destructive behavior that is harming the relationship?
- Has there been a significant additional stressor in you and/or your spouse’s life that may be contributing to tension?
- Are you or your spouse keeping secrets from one another?
- Are you contemplating having an affair?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then likely it is an appropriate time to pursue professional help.
Although most seek marriage counseling once problems have arisen in the relationship, some choose to go to marriage counseling as a preventative measure. In an effort to avoid relationship struggles in the future, certain couples will attend marriage counseling soon after being married (or decide to get premarital counseling). In the same respect, some individuals have trouble getting their partner to attend marriage counseling. In these cases, it may still be beneficial to the relationship (and to the individual) to seek counseling independent of one’s spouse.
If you are contemplating marriage counseling, contact HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York at 518-218-1188 to find out more about treatment options.