Six reasons why marriage counseling fails (or at least appears to fail- part one)

Professor grading paper with Epic Fail written in a composition book isolated on whiteWhy marriage counseling fails? Not many years ago, I was under the assumption that a good marriage counselor had the power to completely change the course of my relationship.

I was also under the assumption (as some are) that everything would turn around quickly (in one or two sessions) and my partner and I would be all better- never to have serious problems again. But I mostly stood corrected. While couples counseling can certainly help, sustaining a relationship is very complex. And what happens outside of session is the most important part.

Perhaps it feels emotionally safe and secure in a therapist’s office, and we leave feeling hopeful and inspired. However, when real life strikes again, things appear for some to go south again. Why? Did marriage counseling fail?

Consider the following.

#1: Your marriage counselor appears to pick sides.
Keep in mind that couples counseling can be and often is challenging for both partners. However, if you feel like your marriage counselor is consistently favoring you or your partner, something is not right. A skilled marriage counselor will take a stand for the greater good of the relationship. It is helpful for the counselor to point things out to partners and hold each accountable when necessary. However, it is NOT okay for him or her to take sides for a sustained period of time!

If you feel your marriage counselor is siding with you or your partner, I advise you to address this quickly. This helps you to be an advocate for yourself and for the relationship. It also gives your counselor the opportunity to repair any mistakes before you decide to possibly prematurely end counseling feeling resentful. It is important that you have a strong therapeutic relationship with your marriage counselor as that has been proven to have a large influence on how things go. So please speak up!

#2: You began marriage counseling too late.
Sometimes couples wait so long to begin counseling, that they have accumulated a seemingly insurmountable pile of resentment. Some couples feel too worn down or angry to work things out, and separating seems like the best option. Other couples have emotionally disconnected and one or both partners have a foot out the door.

I strongly encourage you to come in at the first sign of things not being right. As a rule, little things become bigger if we don’t nip them in the bud as quickly as possible. Please don’t sweep things under the rug. The more you do this, small piles of dust become plateaus and mountains. It is easier in the long run to deal with things as they happen. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until it’s too late.

#3: The assumption that counseling would provide a quick and permanent fix for your relationship problems.
You had a great first, second or third session. You leave the office, and things are feeling really good between you and your partner. But then, bam, you get home and an argument follows. What led to this?

In the counseling office, disagreements are analyzed, dissected and slowed down. In real life and real time, it does not work that way! When even the slightest bit angry, people often go from zero to 90 in a split second and interactions occur at lightening flash speed. Please do not look at these kinds of arguments as a setback or failure. It takes time and repetition to practice slowing down in real life when an argument occurs, and this goes against our biological instinct.
But slowing down is a must as slowing down helps us find our empathy. So be patient with your partner and with yourself. When we are learning new ways of being with each other, it takes practice. A quick and permanent fix will not happen overnight.

Stayed tuned for part two coming soon!

Please feel free to call or text me at 303-475-2757, email me at suzanne@susmith.com or click on the schedule option at the top of this page to schedule a free 20 minute no charge phone consultation to see if counseling might be beneficial to your relationship.

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