Foundation of every good relationship should be love, of course. However, relationship and marriage require some effort as well. If you want to have a happy marriage, you need to constantly work on it. This being said, you and your partner have to build your relationship on mutual trust and support. You need to work together to overcome different problems you may encounter down the road.
According to Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, a licensed mental health counselor, marriage rates supposedly are on the decline. As White states, it’s an oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, and that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. Divorce rates also vary with the partners’ level of education, religious beliefs, and many other factors.
Do You Need a Marriage Counselor?
Conflicts in a relationship and marriage are normal. However, when conflict wins out couple’s connection, disappointment is inescapable. And sometimes partners are not able to handle the challenges in their relationship or marriage on their own. They find themselves caught in the net of accusations, arguments and lies.
This is usually the moment when couples consider seeking help of a professional relationship counselor, if you want to save your marriage. As its name suggests, usually partners seek counseling for couples together. In some cases, however, one of the partners decides to work with the counselor alone.
There is a variety of marriage counseling options available today. According to Mayo clinic staff, marriage counseling can help couples in all types of intimate relationships — heterosexual or homosexual, married or not. In this article we will walk you through some of the most common reasons people look for marriage counseling.
Reasons to Seek Marriage Counselling
According to practice and numerous researches, some of the main reasons people search for a marriage counselor include: partner’s infidelity, sexual problems, in-laws interference, marriage for the sake of the children, communication problems, stressful life events and different points of view.
1. Partner’s Infidelity
The latest studies suggest that men are more likely to cheat on their partners than women. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), 25% of men in the U.S. admit that they’ve been unfaithful to their significant other at least once during their marriage, opposite to 14% of women.
As per AAMFT, in the age of social media and technology, a new crisis of infidelity often referred to as the emotional affair has emerged. People who never intended to be unfaithful are unwittingly crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships, particularly in the workplace and on the Internet.
In fact, they say that when talking about emotional and sexual intimacies without intercourse, the percentage of unfaithful partners increases by 20%.
What To Do When You Discover Partner’s Infidelity?
Discovering that your spouse was unfaithful is one of the hardest truths to accept. After he or she admits the infidelity, the whole array of emotion emerges, from disbelief and shock to anger, depression and anxiety.
After such discovery, many people realize that they cannot forgive infidelity and decide to end the marriage. On the other hand, some people decide to give their marriage a second chance. However, they may struggle with their decision afterwards if they didn’t really forgive in their heart.
In this case a certified marriage counselor can help you build a trust in a partner again and reestablish a healthy relationship. In the most cases, the counselor will work with the both partners, but if a great deal of animosity between spouses is present, individual sessions may be a better option.
Also Read: How does cheating affect your marriage!!
What This Means in Practice?
For example, Amara, 27, seeks therapy because she is feeling very guilty for cheating on her partner. She recently ended the affair, but she has not yet revealed her infidelity to her partner and is terrified of doing so, as she does not want this relationship to end and does not want to hurt her partner’s feelings. Amara feels she “ought” to tell her partner but is not sure that doing so is the best course.
The therapist helps Amara clarify and evaluate what her motivations for telling or not telling might be and the possible consequences of each path. Once Amara has decided that her commitment to honesty requires her to tell her partner, the therapist helps her prepare for this task and to manage her anxiety afterwards. Couple’s work with a different therapist is recommended to help the pair recover further.
Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., a family therapist, in her article observes that most typical reason that couples consult her after one spouse has had an affair is concern for their children. She also recommends that each partner has an individual therapist.
According to psychiatrist Gail Saltz, the author of The Power of Different, infidelity can be a big reason couples seek therapy. However, she says that infidelity is often used as means to end the relationship. Still, she believes there is a hope. “About one third of couples who come for infidelity do resolve the issue and stay together, though”, she states.
2. Intimacy Problems
Sometimes expectations related to couple’s sex life may cause big problems in a relationship. If partners find their intimacy needs incompatible, one of them, and more likely, both of them suffer. Work stress, birth of a child, financial struggle and other life’s challenges have different emotional impact on different people.
A lot of couples have difficulty with sex and intimacy. According to some reports, low sexual desire in women and premature ejaculation or lax erections in men are the most common sexual problems in North America.
David Schnarch, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and a certified sex therapist noted that according to a survey in the U.S., 71 percent of couples reported having sex no more than once or twice a month. Only 29 percent had sex at least once or twice a week, which everyone thinks is the norm.
Intimacy Difficulties and Other Problems
Intimacy dissatisfaction usually leads to other, emotional and communication problems in a relationship. Confidential and objective marriage therapist can help you and your partner find out the reason for your diminishing intimacy and work out the way back to happy and healthy sex life.
Although many people feel hesitant to openly talk about their sexual life in front of a therapist, you should keep in mind that couples counseling is a safe place to start the conversation about this issue.
There is a great chance that your marriage will suffer if you don’t get along with each other’s families. In addition, if you find your or your partner’s family nosy and purposely interfering your relationship, it may be a good idea to look for a marriage counselor’s professional support and advice.
As per study of Terry Apter, Ph.D., a Senior Tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge, among the 49 couples who participated in her research men often chose to protect their mothers against their wives. They saw a wife as stronger, tougher, and therefore as the one who should make allowances. People in a relationship or marriage often experience loyalty dilemmas.
What Can You Do?
For example, Fred and Lucy have been married for three years. Fred’s mother and Lucy don’t get along very well and he often feels pressured to choose sides. When he supports his mother, his wife feels betrayed. The same goes in the opposite direction as well. Fred and Lucy would probably benefit from marriage counseling in order to sort out the family dynamics and dysfunctional relationships.
Also Read: In-Laws Interfering in Your Married Life?
4. Staying Together for the Sake of Children
Some couples believe that staying together no matter what is better for their children. However, staying in a dysfunctional marriage because of the children can do more harm than good. Parents that often fight or don’t communicate at all are setting the behavior model for their kids. Couples that stayed in a marriage for the sake of your kids sometimes seek out a marriage counselor for support.
Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W., a psychotherapist, marriage counselor and author, offers his advice to couples that decide to keep their marriage for the sake of children. He suggests that spouses should commit to the process of facing life challenges and model that commitment for their children. He explains that people need to face their fears, embrace them and choose to stay married from a healthy place of growth and hopefulness, not succumb to the deprivation of a joyless life.
5. Communication Problems
Communication difficulties in a relationship usually leave both partners stressed, anxious and frustrated. When two people cannot talk and find a solution to their problems, they either tend to withdraw and avoid conversation when possible, or have tendency to be aggressive.
According to marriage counselors from GoodTherapy.org some of the situations that might contribute to communication issues in a relationship include:
- Childhood stress
- Physical or mental health issues
- Misinterpretation of another person’s statements or motivation
- Failure to understand another person’s point of view
- Cultural barriers
- Linguistic differences
- Poor listening skills
Reaching this point in a relationship when spouses notice aforementioned patterns in their communication means that they might benefit from a marriage counselor’s service.
6. Major Life Events
The most stressful life events such as a death of a family member, major illness, job loss or moving may be too overwhelming for person’s coping mechanisms. If one or both of the partners struggle to overcome stressful life situation, seeking professional marriage counseling may be a good idea.
Couples therapy in this case might help the affected couple learn useful stress management techniques and address their feelings.
Lesli Doares, a couples consultant and coach, believes that the best indicator that a couple should seek help is any time there is a major change in the relationship.
7. Different Points of View
If couples have different life philosophy or different parenting approach, miscommunication and arguments are almost unavoidable.
Mark Sharp, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Not Lonely at the Top: A Relationship Guide for the Courageous, Successful Single Who Hasn’t Found the Love They Want proposes that probably the most common sign couples should see a therapist is “if they start to see a repetitive conflict between them that they can’t find a way to change.”
This is happening because of different perspectives about important matters that two people in a relationship have. Couples therapy in this case can help you and your partner develop constructive ways to manage conflicts and learn effective communication skills.
Furthermore, marriage counselor might be able to help you learn how to make compromises and agreements about the things that you and your partner have different standpoints about.
Success of Marriage Counselling
According to William Doherty, Ph.D., marriage and family therapist and co-founder of The Doherty Relationship Institute, studies show that, in the hands of a good counselor, marriage counselling is successful 70- 80% of the time.
In the latest years online marriage counselling became another available options of couples therapy. This form of counseling is convenient for those couples who want to stay anonymous or don’t have time to travel to therapist’s office for scheduled appointments. It is also very convenient, since you can participate in your marriage counseling session from the coziness of your home.
Whether you decide to choose traditional or online/phone therapy, relationship counseling sessions can help you get your marriage back on the track. Always keep in mind that marriage counselor is not a referee that takes sides or makes decisions. Marriage counselor is a professional who can help you overcome the problems in your marriage and nurture your relationship.
In a supportive and confidential atmosphere, a counselor can help you and your spouse practice productive communication skills, emphasize the positive aspects of your relationship and develop constructive ways to sort out conflict situations in your relationship.