Deciding to try marriage counseling is a big step. For many couples, going to see a professional for help with their relationship feels like a last resort. It’s only after months — sometimes years — of struggling with frustrations, hurt feelings, and smoldering resentments that marriage counseling starts to seem attractive. And sometimes it takes a flat-out crisis to finally push couples through the door.
This tendency to delay getting help is understandable. (Who wants to go to marriage counseling?) But the truth is that couples who are pro-active about getting help for their relationship sooner, while they still like, trust, and appreciate each other, tend to have a better outcome in marriage counseling. If couples wait too long, negative patterns can erode their relationship to the point where there is not enough goodwill or trust left for even the best marriage counselor to piece back together. For many couples, the idea of bringing a third party into their intimate relationship is scary — or just plain out of the question. Healthy couples are enlisting counseling professionals to help work through sticky patches, large and small, and are better for it.
Relationships require work and are bound to face challenges large and small. Simple, everyday stressors can strain an intimate relationship, and major sources of stress may threaten the stability of the relationship. As long as each partner is willing to address the issue at hand and participate in developing a solution, most relationship problems are manageable, but when challenges are left unaddressed, tension mounts, poor habits develop, and the health and longevity of the relationship are in jeopardy.
Couples often seek couples or marriage counseling when relationship problems begin to interfere with daily functioning or when partners are unsure about continuing the relationship. Couples often approach counseling with the expectation that a therapist can help in some way—though they may not know just how they expect the therapist to help. Some couples may want to develop better communication skills, enhance intimacy, or learn to navigate new terrain in their lives. Others may expect the therapist to mediate their arguments, or take sides and declare which partner is right. Relationship counselors are unlikely to take sides or recommend that a couple end their relationship. Instead, they will allow the therapy process to unfold naturally without a predetermined goal of “saving” the relationship.
Strain can be placed on a relationship when stressful circumstances affect the couple as a whole, or even just one of the partners. Chronic illness of one person, for example, can impact the well-being of both partners. Many couples struggle with communicating effectively and feeling that they are heard by their partners, as well as differences in parenting, political views, or expectations. Severe stressors include infidelity, loss, depression, work situations, relatives, illness and serious mental health issues.
Sexologist and Relations Counselor