Probably the number one question we get asked is whether or not couples counseling can save a relationship or marriage.
Since many might be skimming the article or are short for time, we’ll cut to the chase and say, yes it can – with some caveats.
We’re not just saying that because we’re counselors. According to a survey run by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 97.1% of couples said they received the help they needed and more than 80 percent said that couple counseling had a positive impact on their relationship.
But, of course, that’s not the whole story and life is never so simple. I mean, if it worked 100% of the time there would never be divorces, right?
When it won’t work
As powerful and beneficial as couples counseling and relationship therapy can be for the long-term health of a relationship, it is not a magic pill. Unfortunately, many put off couples counseling until much later in the relationship, often only bringing it up as a last resort when things have already deteriorated to the point of no return.
If you finally get around to changing your oil after the check engine light has been on for a couple of years simply adding in the oil is probably not going to solve your car problems. It’s the same with couples counseling.
When you put off counseling until the dying stages, you lower the likelihood of its effectiveness.
Also, if you’ve put off couples counseling until something major like affairs, abuse, or other destructive patterns have developed it is often too late for counseling and therapy to help.
When it will work
Relationship therapy’s effectiveness depends on a number of factors outside the counseling session itself. The good news is that you do have control over some of these factors.
The number one factor that determines how successful couples counseling will be is the commitment level of both partners. Obviously, both partners in the relationship need to approach counseling with an open mind and heart. If everyone is committed to change, there is a high chance that couples counseling will be successful.
Many times, the act of showing up and proving that you are committed to the relationship’s success is already an excellent start that helps set the couple on a path to resolving conflicts. With both partners seeing that the other will commit to saving the relationship, they can move on to learning new patterns and communication styles.
Relationship counseling is often significantly more beneficial the earlier you start it. For example, it is much easier to learn communication skills before major fights have occurred. Studies show that couples who start counseling services earlier in their relationship are more successful and have happier marriages.
You can even start couples counseling before you’re married. That way, you ensure you go into your relationship with healthy habits and patterns for better communication.
Couples counseling can benefit your relationship in many ways
It’s important that couples stop thinking of relationship counseling as “divorce therapy” or “divorce counseling”. Even if your relationship is going along smoothly, there are benefits to seeking counseling services like couples counseling earlier in your relationship.
If you’re fortunate enough to have started off your relationship smoothly, that doesn’t mean a major life change or event cannot disrupt that peace. It’s essential you develop and train the necessary communication skills to work through difficult situations before something major happens. You wouldn’t want to drill a fire escape plan during an actual fire, would you? Every profession, sport, or activity requires guided practice to get better. Relationships are no different.
Some of the many benefits of couples counseling can bring to your relationship:
- Improve your communication skills
- Guide you to see unhealthy relationship patterns
- Mediate conflicts to help you resolve them in a more productive way
- Help you find that original spark and grow closer again
- Give you perspective to see the bigger picture in your relationship
- Provide the strength to move past an affair
- Facilitate building stronger trust in your relationship and one another
- Teach you how to set healthy boundaries
There’s no stigma with couples counseling
Unfortunately today, a stigma still exists in the minds of many about relationship counseling and therapy in general. Studies show that only one in four couples on the verge of divorce seek out marriage counseling or any form of professional therapy. A large part of the reason people don’t seek out couples counseling is because of misconceptions they have about what couples counseling is and what goes on in a relationship therapy session.
Another large part of that is people equating couples counseling with “divorce counseling”. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As people, we tend to think of “saving” something in immediate terms. It’s easy when something is visibly going wrong to think of making changes. However, if we can change our thinking to longer-term solutions, we see that “saving” a marriage begins long before problems present themselves. We can save a relationship by investing in it early, ensuring that it is well-maintained for any eventual bump in the road.
Yes, couples counseling can save your relationship or marriage, but it is much more effective the earlier you get started.
If you would like to get started building a better relationship, please contact us today. We have a team of therapy professionals available to help you today.