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Does Marriage Counselling Really Work?

Does Marriage Counselling Really Work?

Marriage counselling can be a very effective way to resolve difficulties between spouses, but it’s not a cure-all, nor does it work for everyone. In fact, there is a very specific demographic of couples for which marriage counselling is most successful. For many other couples, it can place even greater strain on their relationship.

Marriage counselling works best if you are:

  • Very recently experiencing difficulties in your relationship.
  • Young and/or recently married.
  • Both willing and determined to make the relationship better.
  • Can afford a certified, experienced and compassionate counsellor.
  • Have a good rapport with your counsellor.

Marriage counselling can be destructive if:

  • You’ve been experiencing complex marital issues for years.
  • One of you is not interested in putting in the work.
  • You are under financial strain.
  • Are unable to find the ‘right’ marriage counsellor.

Let me explain. When it comes to facing up to your problems, personal or shared, the process can be a very painful and challenging one. None of us love looking at the personal flaws that may be contributing to the failure of our relationship. When you add a third person into the equation, most people’s instinct will be to defend themselves to this third party (the counsellor), often against the interests of their partner. It sounds weird, I know, but in this way a counsellor can actually prove a more destructive ingredient to your relationship’s dynamic than a lack of one.

When Only 1/2 of the Marriage is Willing to Mend

It’s also extremely difficult to extract a positive outcome from counselling if both spouses aren’t 100% invested in making it work. Counselling is expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining – in a nutshell, it can be a very unpleasant and trying experience. If one member of the relationship is at all flighty, resentful or “checked out”, the process can come to an end long before any positive results are noticeable.

married couple fighting

Let’s also be very clear on this: if your problems stem from money disputes, paying hundreds of dollars per hour to discuss them will feel at best ironic and at worst really, really unhelpful. Skimping on the cost of a counsellor ain’t gonna improve things either.

You lead busy lives. So does your counsellor. Scheduling a time that works for all three of you is a challenge in itself, and booking your first appointment or the time between appointments could be weeks, in which time things can easily deteriorate more.

When a Family is Involved

On top of all this, if you’ve been married for a long time and have children, a mortgage, and years of unvented anger or resentment or lies to contend with, counselling is going to be a very long journey for all three of you. It takes time for a couple to build a rapport with a counsellor; for a counsellor to gain both spouses’ trust; and for the spouses to open up to one another (in front of a third person, no less) in an honest and vulnerable way.

The further back in time your problems go (and I’m not just talking marital – plenty of people carry issues they’ve had from childhood into their adulthood and marriages, maybe never really “dealing” with them), the more you and your counsellor have to unpack, and the more time and money you will have to spend.

Does Marriage Counselling Really Work?

So, with all this in mind it might feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place. But there is a solution that addresses each of these challenges and:

  • can be just between you and your spouse
  • does not require your spouse to be on board (if they’re no longer invested)
  • is affordable
  • can be implemented immediately and consistently, in your own time
  • gives you the opportunity to realize and face up to your personal issues in a less confrontational way

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have to life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

That’s all for now. Good luck and happy mending!