By David Joel Miller.
How do you get the most from marriage counseling?
Not all marriage counseling results in couples staying together. Occasionally the problem is the fit between the two parties, they should never have married. Most of the time the problem is in the individuals. Pick a new partner and you will get a new set of problems.
What do you need to do to get the most from this marriage counseling experience?
For marriage counseling to be helpful there are two things that need to happen. You need to pick the right counselor and you need to go into this experience with the right goals and attitudes. See my posts on “Why men fear marriage counseling” and “Picking the right counselor for you.”
Be serious about investing your time in counseling.
How many hours a week do you spend fighting? Do you spend a lot of time complaining to others about your partner? Do the hours of the week include lots of time for misery?
People tell me that their poor relationship is destroying their life, interfering with their work and keeping them from having a happy life.
Then they tell me they are not sure they can fit an hour appointment in their schedule. Working on a relationship takes time and effort.
Why wait till after the divorce to come for therapy because of your anger or depression?
Lots of the individual counseling I do is actually “post-divorce therapy.” People get divorced thinking that will make them happy and find they are still unhappy.
Be serious about investing your money in counseling.
People spend hundreds on nights out, concert tickets, new clothes or hair appointments and then say they can’t afford marriage counseling.
If you have children the court-ordered medication and counseling for the children will cost a lot more than what you might have invested in marriage counseling.
How much of your money is spent in the pursuit of happiness? Consider going to counseling an investment in yourself, in learning the skills you will need to get along with a partner or to be happy without them.
Don’t keep putting the problem off because some days things go better.
If you are having relationship problems the sooner you begin to work on these problems the more likely you are to find solutions that will work for both of you. Too often couples wait until the wreckage of repeated fights leaves them both convinced that even if the situation changes they still would want out of this relationship.
Every relationship has its ups and downs. When you are having that rough patch, one of you may be thinking the worst. During the times that you are able to talk with each other rationally is the best time to make progress.
Relationship counseling does not always need to be a long drawn out process. If you both approach it with the desire to work out your problems things may improve more quickly than you expect. Sometimes it is a matter of learning new skills or getting another perspective.
Don’t go to counseling to prove who is right or wrong.
A good marriage counselor will not solve the problems for you. They should never take sides. You will waste lots of time and money trying to be right and the result will be that both parties will leave the relationship angry and bitter.
Figuring out who is right is the job of a judge when you go to end the marriage. If you are stuck on making your partner the cause of the problems then you can’t focus on the solution.
The goal in counseling should be to find common ground, things you can agree on.
Repairing the damage is far more important than beating your partner into submission. Couples who stay together learn to see things from their partner’s viewpoint rather than becoming good at making that partner wrong.
Be honest with the therapist and yourself.
If you have decided you want a divorce but have been afraid to say so, being in the room with a neutral mediator may help.
If your choice is to stay married? What are you willing to change about yourself to make this work? There are ways to influence your partner (see getting others to change posts) but the fastest way to see things improve is often to change yourself. Changing you may require giving up that resentment you use over and over to beat your partner into submission.
Many couples come in unsure if they want to stay together. They know there are things about their partner that drew them together and things that are pushing them apart. One day they want to stay married and the next they think it is over. In couples like this, the “leaver” and the “stayer” may shift back and forth from day-to-day.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books