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Marriage Counseling – All You Need to Know

It’s an oft-quoted statistic: 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. In many cases, divorce may be the best option. Two people may simply not be meant to be together. However, in many cases, two people may still love each other but not be equipped to effectively mediate the conflicts they encounter. In these cases, and even in cases where divorce is inevitable, marriage counseling can help. Seeking marriage counseling does not mean that either party is "deficient" in any way, only that they have learned coping mechanisms throughout their lives that are not effective in successfully dealing with the marital problems that frequently arise between spouses.

What Is Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling is a form of professional therapy which focuses on helping couples communicate more effectively with one another. Some couples may have lived together for years in an unhealthy situation without even realizing it or knowing they can take steps to do anything about it. Marriage counseling can help couples who have lost "that spark" to find it again, without laying the blame for the trouble in the relationships on the actions or behavior of one party or the other.

Who Can Benefit from Marriage Counseling?

When two people in a committed relationship are constantly finding themselves dealing with insoluble conflict, they can usually benefit from marriage counseling. This includes couples who are childless, have many children, have been married for years, are living together without being married, and even those who are in all likelihood headed for divorce. Marriage counseling is not indicated in cases where one spouse is being physically or even severely psychologically abusive to the other. In these cases, the victimized spouse must get out of the abusive situation and the abuser must successfully complete his or her own counseling before any reconciliation can even be considered.

How Does Marriage Counseling Work?

A trained marriage counselor focuses on improving communication between couples by teaching them to focus and share their emotions, rather than their actions. Couples may get into negative cycles which they in all likelihood learned in childhood. Most marriage counselors will start by helping their clients explore the negative cycles that they may have learned in their childhood, how those cycles were adaptive for them back then, and how they are maladaptive today. Once they have that understanding, they can begin to take a new approach with their spouse, stop the negative cycles and learn to start more positive cycles. Couples will always have conflicts, but there are healthy ways and unhealthy ways to deal with and resolve such conflicts, and marriage counseling can help couples learn these ways.
It’s important for couples to find a marriage counselor they are comfortable with. It’s natural one spouse to feel that the counselor is allied with the other, even when this is not the case. However if this sense of "two against one" is overpowering and the counselor cannot do anything to counter it, it may be more productive to find a different counselor.