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How Do You Know if Your Marriage Needs Counseling?

Many couples see marriage counseling as a last resort or as something that is only for “failed relationships,” but this perception couldn’t be farther from the truth! Couples therapy can help strengthen relationships in any stage or under any amount of stress. Whether you’re preparing to move in together, planning a wedding, or celebrating the arrival of your third child, couples therapy can help find small cracks and fix them before they spread. Or if you and your partner are facing major challenges, couples counseling can help you overcome them together.

One of the best marriage counseling tips is to get started sooner rather than later. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all. In this article, we’ll go over some of the common signs that you and your partner should consider couples therapy. Let’s dive in.

Do We Need Marriage Counseling?

Relationships are hard. Sometimes, we need an outside perspective to separate us from frustrations and look at the bigger picture. Working with a marriage counselor gives you access to their outside perspective, their  experience in healing relationships, and their desire to use their skills towards the best outcome for you and your partner.

Seeking the help of a marriage counselor can have four key benefits, helping you and your partner to:

  1. Identify the root causes of your relationship issues and negative feelings
  2. Resolve budding issues before they grow into major problems 
  3. Actively pursue self-improvement that helps your relationship
  4. Rekindle your relationship and deepen intimacy

How Often Should Couples Go to Therapy?

While there is no set amount of time that couples therapy can last for, most couples attend therapy for 4-10 months. During the duration of their therapy, couples typically attend 2-4 sessions per month.

However, when scheduling your couples therapy sessions, it’s important to remember that each couple is unique. How long it takes for you and your partner to see results and how often you find it beneficial to attend sessions can—and often will—vary greatly from other couples. 

How Do You Know When Your Marriage Needs Help?

You and your partner don’t have to wait for a catastrophe to start attending marriage counseling. In fact, marriage counseling works well as preventive care. If you identify problems while they’re small, you can overcome them together before they threaten the stability of your relationship. Early counseling  also helps couples plan and achieve their common goals and sets a solid foundation for the rest of your journey.

Of course, marriage counseling can also be extremely valuable even in the hardest of times for your relationship.

Whichever stage your relationship is in, here are some of the most common signs that you and your partner could benefit from marriage counseling:

  • You have mismatched desires for intimacy: Emotional and physical intimacy can enhance relationships when both partners are on the same page for what they prefer to give and receive. However, if one partner has expectations that the other partner doesn’t fulfill, it can cause frustrations for both people. Marriage counseling can help each partner communicate their desire for giving and receiving intimacy and help couples rekindle their desire for intimacy they felt early on in the relationship.

  • You are holding onto hidden feelings of resentment or bitterness: Bottled up feelings hurt the person holding them and can go unnoticed by their partner until they erupt into negative actions. Marriage counseling gives couples a safe space to express their feelings, so they can work with their partner on ways to resolve what causes those feelings of resentment and bitterness. 

  • You avoid spending social time together: It’s important for each partner to maintain their own life and sense of identity. Too much codependency can place an unreasonable burden on someone to provide everything for their partner. However, having little to no connection outside of the home can also be a sign of trouble. Marriage counseling provides an opportunity for couples to analyze why they prefer spending so much time apart and look for ways they can integrate portions of their social life. 

  • You have arguments that are lasting, unresolved, and repetitive: Arguments are a part of every relationship, and in many cases, they are a healthy way to communicate boundaries and come to a resolution. However, arguments that come up again and again can be a sign of underlying issues. Marriage counseling can help couples get to the root of repetitive arguments, so they can settle those disputes and come out stronger for it. 

  • You feel the need to keep major and minor secrets: Keeping important things from your partner—like major financial decisions—can ruin the trust in a relationship. While this may seem obvious to many couples, it’s also important to be honest about the little things, too, like friendships and where you spend your time when you’re away from your partner. Marriage counseling can help couples uncover why they feel the need to keep both major and minor secrets, and develop a plan to share those secrets to be more honest going forward. 

  • You lack the ability to communicate without fear: Relationships need communication to remain healthy, but sometimes, one or both partners find it hard to express what they’re feeling. Fear of embarrassment, not being understood, or negative repercussions (like shouting or violence) can keep individuals from expressing what they’re actually feeling. Marriage counseling creates a space in which each partner can voice what they’re feeling, while a counselor moderates the conversation so each party can be heard, safe, and understood. 

If you feel that something isn’t right in your relationship, it may be tempting to find reasons not to go to therapy. These reasons are often rooted in uncertainty, so let’s take a closer look at why someone might not want to go to couples therapy:

Can a Marriage Be Saved Without Counseling?

In some situations, a couple can save their marriage without counseling if they have the tools to improve their relationship and the dedication to see the process through. However, it’s often beneficial to work with a professional because they have experience working through the types of problems that you’re going through. It can also be beneficial to meet with an impartial third party for an unbiased perspective.

A common fear—and reason that some people avoid counseling—is that a marriage counselor could encourage divorce. However, at Well Marriage Center, our counselors are marriage-positive and do not recommend divorce. We believe that your relationship is worth saving, can be saved, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

How Do You Know If It’s Too Late for Marriage Counseling?

It’s never too late for marriage counseling unless either you or your partner no longer wish to stay together. One of the reasons that couples may avoid counseling is because they don’t want to be told that it’s too late to heal their relationship. However, the fact that both members don’t want their relationship to end is a really good sign that it can be saved. Marriage counselors can provide the tools, space, and consistency for couples to recommit to their relationship and find ways to improve it together.

Find a Way Forward with Well Marriage Center

If your relationship feels tense, stale, or disconnected, it doesn’t mean it’s time to call it quits. Instead, consider working with a couples therapist to find ways to heal and rekindle your relationship. You want your relationship to succeed, and at Well Marriage Center, our professionals do, too. 

Give your relationship the time, space, and chance to recover. Visit our website to learn more, and if you’re ready to sign up, fill out our Intake Form to get started. 




7 Marriage Counseling Questions to Strengthen Your Relationship

Marriage counseling questions allow you and your partner to dig deeply into issues, identify root causes, and remember why you fell in love in the first place. A couples therapist can guide you through these questions, offering marriage counseling tips to promote productive conversations. Some answers might be hard to hear, but the resulting discussions usually lead to a healthier, stronger relationship. 

But what questions are asked during couples therapy, exactly? If you haven’t been to couples therapy before, it’s helpful to know what to expect. A great place to start is this list of the seven most popular marriage counseling questions compiled by our relationship experts here at Well Marriage Center.

What Kinds of Questions Do Marriage Counselors Ask?

When you first start counseling, there are common questions marriage counselors ask so they know how they can best assist you. Here are a few you might encounter: 

  • What’s the timeline of your relationship?

You’ll need to spend some time in your initial counseling sessions giving your therapist the background story of your relationship. Run through the major events, like getting married, having kids, changing jobs, experiencing trauma, and anything else that sticks out to you. With this context, your counselor can provide unique solutions to support you and your partner or spouse.

  • What did you initially admire in your partner when you first met?

It’s easy to forget what made you fall in love, especially in the midst of hard times. This question is meant to remind you both of those happy experiences in the early days of dating. Thinking positive thoughts about your partner can help balance the stress of sorting through your current relationships challenges.

  • What are your communication styles?

Styles of communication are typically divided into four categories: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. The assertive style is what couples should strive for. It involves asserting your own needs through direct, honest, and respectful communication. If communication is a weak point in your relationship, not to worry—a licensed counselor can walk you through couples therapy exercises for communication to get you both where you want to be. 

  • Why did you seek couples therapy?

Some couples seek counseling purely to strengthen their relationship, but most couples usually have problems they want to address. Studies have shown that some of the top relationship stressors include lack of commitment, infidelity, too much arguing, financial problems, substance abuse, health problems, and lack of familial support. Responding to this question is the time to put these issues on the table and address what you hope to achieve in counseling.

How Can I Make My Marriage Counseling More Effective?

If you’ve taken the time to read through these questions and consider them in the context of your own relationship, you’re already on the right path. As long as you and your partner are willing to put in the work, you raise your chances of coming out the other side stronger than ever. 

However, an experienced and skillful marriage counselor will certainly help! Our team of licensed counselors at Well Marriage Center are well-versed in pro-relationship practices and relationship science. These counselors have aided couples in overcoming almost any challenge you can think of, from parenting issues to infidelity and beyond. 

Whenever you think the time is right, you can start the marriage counseling journey by filling out our short intake form. Our intake coordinator, Melinda, will walk you through the process and answer any question you may have.

We’ve heard the same statement from couples after counseling time and time again—“I never would have imagined our relationship could be this good again.” We would love to help you and your partner feel this way, too.

What Questions Are Asked During Pre-Marriage Counseling?

Pre-marriage (or pre-marital) counseling questions are designed to ensure you and your partner are on the same page before committing to marriage or some other milestone “next step.” Even if you’ve been together for years, you can still benefit from revisiting these questions as your relationship evolves.

  • How should you handle your finances?

There are so many factors to consider when it comes to managing finances together as a couple. It’s quite common for people to have different views on the many aspects of finance, and these differences can lead to uncomfortable arguments if not properly addressed. A good place to start is figuring out if you want joint or separate bank accounts. Then you also need to consider how you both feel about other big financial decisions, like credit cards, mortgages, loans, savings, financial goals, retirement, paying bills, and budgeting in general.

  • What do you want your physical intimacy to look like?

At the beginning of a relationship, the newness of it all can make sex and physical intimacy feel magical and exciting. And while many may think that spark fades with time, it doesn’t have to! Talking about exactly what you want from each other physically is the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen. 

  • What are your beliefs, morals, and values?

This is a big question, but maybe one of the most important. While it’s not impossible to make a relationship work with someone who has different values, it’s definitely not easy. When you align in these areas, it’s easier to approach whatever the world may throw at you as a team. Talk through topics like religion, politics, trust, ethics, respect, kids, birth control, and any other values that are a priority for each of you.

A licensed premarital counselor can help you navigate these questions with your partner, no matter what stage of the relationship you are in.




 

Success Stories: Karen and Peter

On the vulnerability of sharing success stories:

Sometimes a couple wants to share their story. We’re really appreciative of the vulnerability and trust such a feat takes, and we hope you appreciate these stories as well.

(Names have been changed to preserve the author’s privacy.)

If your relationship is struggling, or if you feel empowered to take preventative steps to keep your relationship in a good place, we’re here to work with all couples who are willing to put in the effort.

Great relationships can be built, rebuilt, and sustained.

Karen and Peter:

I know that we’re not the only couple to experience an affair.  I know it happens to people more frequently than you would think. But it had never happened to any of my friends or family, so when I found out about it, I was completely devastated. I would never blame anyone for being done with their cheating partner, but too often I think people believe that’s their only choice.

We don’t hear about couples who survive affairs, and it does happen.  I’m living proof that you can survive an affair and still be married to the same guy.

I wanted a female counselor, which is one of the reasons I found Mary. I’m really glad it was Mary. She certainly gave me time and space to talk about what it was like to be cheated on, how I felt, how angry I was, and how hurt I was. But the bigger thing she did was help me (and us) understand the affair as a symptom of bigger problems we didn’t know how to fix. It was my choice to stay and work on it. It was also his choice to stay and work on things. Now we are working on understanding what was unhealthy about our relationship and we’re working on making it better. It takes some time. It also takes working on yourself.

I wish we could have done this years ago because I definitely think it might have prevented all this.

What I’ve learned is after an affair, you cannot stay the same in your relationship. You cannot stay the same in life. You have to decide and then change. Whatever you decide, don’t carry the hurt and pain without talking to someone. Don’t do that to yourself.  If you decide to work through it, give Mary a call.  You and your husband will feel comfortable with her.  We’re really glad we did.

 

 

Success Stories: Kevin and Paula

On the vulnerability of sharing success stories:

Sometimes a couple wants to share their story. We’re really appreciative of the vulnerability and trust such a feat takes, and we hope you appreciate these stories as well.

(Names have been changed to preserve the author’s privacy.)

If your relationship is struggling, or if you feel empowered to take preventative steps to keep your relationship in a good place, we’re here to work with all couples who are willing to put in the effort.

Great relationships can be built, rebuilt, and sustained.

Kevin and Paula:

“After thirty some years together, I had always thought our marriage was in good shape, and that the ‘bumps in the road’ were typical of most marriages. But it was only after my wife took the step to reach out for help through the Well Marriage Center that I began to face the reality that from my wife’s perspective and experience things were not as good as I thought, and no matter how much our marriage may have been typical of any relationship of substantial duration, there was always room for improvement.

From the first conversation we had, I had to face the fact that making the time to listen to each other was sorely needed in ours.

While I questioned at first whether we needed outside help to do so, I’m so glad now that my wife pressed the issue and that we have followed through on our commitment to each other to make the investment of time in our marriage and to work on making our good relationship better. I’ve benefited from the time that we’ve had to really listen to each other at our sessions and for me to put many of my assumptions and my explanations aside and to really hear my wife’s frustration with my patterns of behavior over the years.

Our process individually and together at the Well Marriage Center has also helped us build on what was and is a good relationship by taking the time to recognize what has made it such.

I’ve particularly benefited from identifying the ruts that I’ve fallen into that seem to go hand in hand with us men and that, while benefiting me on many levels in my life, tended to isolate me and work against me in my relationship with my wife.

Being able to talk with the therapist and coach, and with my wife, about those behaviors in a non-judgmental and accepting environment has been liberating and relationship changing. Looking back, I wished I had pursued such an opportunity much sooner.

In truth, I’m amazed that my wife put up with me as long as she did, and at the same time I’m grateful that she gave me this chance – certainly way beyond a second chance – to work with her at the Well Marriage Center on smoothing out our bumps in the road. Many of which have been my own.


 

Success Stories: Sydney and Andrew

On the vulnerability of sharing success stories:

Sometimes a couple wants to share their story. We’re really appreciative of the vulnerability and trust such a feat takes, and we hope you appreciate these stories as well.

(Names have been changed to preserve the author’s privacy.)

If your relationship is struggling, or if you feel empowered to take preventative steps to keep your relationship in a good place, we’re here to work with all couples who are willing to put in the effort.

Great relationships can be built, rebuilt, and sustained.

Sydney and Andrew:

“My wife and I had been married 22 years when we came to Well Marriage Center for help. Sydney is a night-owl and has always liked reading in bed until late. I had found a new job that forced me to be up early in the morning. I started sleeping in our guest room and bringing my clothes with me for the next morning.

Before we knew it, I was pretty much living in the other room and we were stuck in a rut. We had been sleeping apart for about 3 years, which destroyed our intimacy and had us both feeling very disconnected with each other.

I don’t think I realized how alone each of us felt in our marriage until Sydney told me she didn’t know if our marriage would make it–she described it as a “catastrophic disconnection.”

We needed help. What we appreciated about Michael Fronce from the very beginning was his confident and warm demeanor. He spent the first meeting learning all about what had initially attracted us to each other and what had allowed us so much marital success before now.

I swear, we left that first session feeling really upbeat and hopeful; that set the tone for all the work we were about to do. Michael worked with us on the concept of “us” and the concept of “team.” He helped us explore some pretty deep attachments we had formed and how they had been injured, damaged or rerouted over the previous few years.

He wanted me to be honest with this write-up, so let me just say, it’s really vulnerable work.

Good marriage counseling probably doesn’t work unless you are both able to humble yourselves. But when you start to feel that trust come back and that safety come back…it’s worth it!

Sydney and I together decided to redesign our bedroom and create a space we could both feel good about and comfortable in. We had equal say and worked through it with Michael. Over the past several months we’ve broken out of our ruts and have changed our routines. We’re feeling truly excited to have our connection back.

Bottom line: we felt really confident in Michael from the very beginning, which was a big deal for both of us considering we had friends who had bad marriage counseling experiences. We could tell he knew what he was doing.  I’d recommend him to all my friends. Both Sydney and I have told Michael that his support, knowing we weren’t alone, had made all the difference in the world.”


 

Success Stories: James and Susan

On the vulnerability of sharing success stories:

Sometimes a couple wants to share their story. We’re really appreciative of the vulnerability and trust such a feat takes, and we hope you appreciate these stories as well.

(Names have been changed to preserve the author’s privacy.)

If your relationship is struggling, or if you feel empowered to take preventative steps to keep your relationship in a good place, we’re here to work with all couples who are willing to put in the effort.

Great relationships can be built, rebuilt, and sustained.

James and Susan:

“A year ago I made the strongest decision of my life: I decided to ask for help with my marriage. I guess you would say my wife and I had the “typical” suffering marriage. We talked less and we fought more. It seemed like we were always critical or negative. We withdrew from each other in almost every way. Marriage became harder than it had ever been before. I finally agreed with Susan to give counseling a try.

I wanted to choose Glen for a variety of reasons, but the main one was because he’s done a lot of work with men, especially around anger issues.  I didn’t really have an anger problem, but I figured someone who could help angry men probably wouldn’t be a waste of my time or money. Susan liked his experience and focus on couples therapy. (We actually agreed on him.)

I know I’m supposed to do more of our story than a testimonial, so I’ll just start with this: I had no idea what to expect in couples therapy. I didn’t know if it would be easy or if it would be really hard.  To be honest, a year later, I think it’s a little of both.

The first month was definitely the hardest because a lot of stuff bubbled up to the surface. Luckily, Glen did two things that probably helped save us. First, he integrated a lot of positive behavior stuff. I didn’t think it would be that great but it was remarkably effective and really changed the way we spoke to and acted towards each other. He’ll be able to explain it better if you see him.

Second, he confronted me early on my work issues. This was a big issue for us, but Glen did it in a way where you could definitely tell he’s worked with guys before.

I didn’t want to storm out of his office. It was a breakthrough for me and led to some really powerful re-prioritizing.

We haven’t been in weekly counseling sessions for a whole year. We saw Glen pretty regularly for a few months while we worked through a bunch of stuff. Then we saw him once a month or once every 2 months just to check-in and talk together about our progress.

Now we’ve decided to see him 1 or 2 times a year.  It’s more of a preventive thing (he calls it wellness) so we don’t run into the problems we had before. He knows us now and what we’ve been through which we really appreciate. We’re excited to start building on the strengths of our relationship.

I’ll say this to close: you have to be willing to make some changes in your life and in your marriage. The good news, at least for us, is that your relationship really can get better. I agree with the other couple who wrote their story and said 10 months ago they never believed their marriage could be this good again. Susan and I have experienced that too and that’s why we wrote this story for Glen.  He really did help us and we’re incredibly grateful for the way in which he did it.  Good luck with your new center Glen, you’re going to do a lot of people good.

 

 

Success Stories: Nadia and Liam

On the vulnerability of sharing success stories:

Sometimes a couple wants to share their story. We’re really appreciative of the vulnerability and trust such a feat takes, and we hope you appreciate these stories as well.

(Names have been changed to preserve the author’s privacy.)

If your relationship is struggling, or if you feel empowered to take preventative steps to keep your relationship in a good place, we’re here to work with all couples who are willing to put in the effort.

Great relationships can be built, rebuilt, and sustained.

Nadia and Liam

Mary asked me to be honest with this, so here goes: when we first came to see Mary, we were ready to separate.  I don’t think I had ever felt more disconnected with Liam.  We fought most of the time, and honestly, we hurt each other quite a bit.  I know I definitely felt hurt.  I honestly didn’t think we could make it.  I cannot describe in words what that feeling is like.

When Liam and I think back to where we were, we’re thankful for two main things.  First, that we went and saw someone instead of just giving up.  And not just someone, but someone who understood what was happening to us.

Mary told us she works primarily with couples and it was obvious she had experience.  Second, we could tell from the very beginning that she wanted us to make it.  It was just a few subtle comments she made in our first meeting that seemed hopeful – at least they gave us hope.  That turned out to be really important for us.

Throughout our time with Mary she really worked hard with us to make progress, to help us understand what was happening in our relationship and also what was happening to us individually.  She helped empower us to heal some old wounds that I never even realized were causing so much pain.  And she got us working right from the beginning to communicate better, which seems like a simple thing, but for a couple that feels so disconnected, it was a big deal for us.

Today we have better self-esteem which helps us to have a better connection with each other.  We have a stronger bond that we both feel.  We are incredibly grateful to Mary – I wish I could rave more freely about her.  What I’ll say is the greatest thing about her: she will work hard for your relationship in a way that helps you feel hope.  You won’t waste your time with her – she gets you moving right from the get-go in a very safe and supportive way.”


 

What Not To Say During Couples Counseling

Before you decide to go to marriage counseling, it can seem a bit overwhelming. What are the right things to say? Is there anything you shouldn’t say? Of course, these fears can get in the way of open and honest communication between you and your partner. But couples counseling is about working together, and some things shouldn’t be said—like accusatory statements or hurtful comments.

So, when it comes to marriage counseling and what not to say, it’s important to remember that it is a team effort and everyone’s feelings should be considered and respected. 

 

Most often, couples don’t feel worse after marriage counseling. In fact, it can be incredibly successful—75% of couples, on average, are able to rekindle their relationship through couples therapy. In this blog, we’ll talk about one of the common marriage counseling issues: communication.

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner

In marriage counseling, tensions can get high when confronting complex  issues head on, even with a plan and a great  therapist. It’s important to remember that even in the heat of the moment, you should never attack or accuse your significant other. Remember the saying that you can’t take back what you say? That stands true, especially in vulnerable situations like couples therapy. While voicing your concern is important,  there are productive ways to speak with your partner, even in tense situations. Here are a few things you should never say to your partner. 

1. Attacks

In the heat of the moment, it might be tempting to say something you know will hurt your significant other’s feelings. Whether that’s something like “You’re so selfish!” or “I wish I never met you!” it’s important to approach those feelings in a constructive way. Attacks only produce resentment, hostility, and more distance. In a counseling session, the counselor should guide you through a productive discussion that avoids attacks and instead leads you to voice your frustrations in effective ways. 

2. Accusations

Accusing your significant other of things like intentionally hurting you or even “If you really loved me, you’d do x for me!” can place a huge burden on a relationship. If you have concerns about the way your partner approaches certain issues, you can make that known through techniques like the “I feel” statement. Try, “I feel…frustrated and overwhelmed when you don’t help me clean the house,” instead of, “You need to help me clean the house!” Of course, a marriage counselor can help you navigate those feelings and communicate them clearly and in a non-accusatory way. 

 

3. Blame

It might be tempting to make your partner feel guilty by bringing up something hurtful they’ve done in the past. But blaming them for how you feel isn’t fair. Significant others can hurt your feelings, but it’s often not an intentional outcome. Imagine you were out with friends and forgot to text that you were safe, and your partner’s response was telling you, “You must not love me because you don’t respect me and my feelings.” That’s a pretty harsh response to an honest mistake. Marriage counseling can help you avoid these reactions and fill your communication toolbox with healthy responses and approaches.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but avoiding these main three things is essential to building trust and healthy communication styles. You should aim to discuss things with your partner in a way that leads to healing inside and outside of the counseling session.  Well Marriage Center offers you several resources for the dos and don’ts of marriage counseling, so you can feel confident in your decision to work with a licensed therapist.  We want to help you renew your relationship and build communication skills in a safe and comfortable environment. 

What Should I Not Tell a Marriage Counselor

Being completely honest with your partner and therapist can be nerve-wracking. Vulnerability is tough to manage, but with a therapist, you should be able to explore your feelings more openly. Marriage counseling is a joint therapy plan that helps you navigate your relationship with someone else, which can be paired with individual sessions so you have the opportunity to share your feelings in both settings. You should always be honest with your counselor. They are there to help you, even if you sometimes disagree with their suggestions. 

While couples counseling is built to be open and honest with your partner, a therapist might inform your partner of something you’ve said individually. Counselors are there to help you and your partner figure things out together, not take sides. You shouldn’t expect to tell a therapist a secret during a session that you want to be kept from your partner. However, the urge to keep secrets might be a good thing to discuss with your therapist. They can help you plan a healthier way of dealing with or communicating secrets and feelings.

Strengths-Based Marriage Counseling

At Well Marriage Center, we believe in focusing on the strengths of your relationship. Marriage counseling is about finding renewal and success in your partnership, not tearing each other down. Our experience helping over 15,000 couples can lead you through communication, trauma, sex, forgiveness, and other issues affecting your marriage. If you want to begin your counseling journey today, fill out the intake form to connect with Melinda, our Intake Coordinator. We will tailor a plan specifically for your relationship to help you get the most out of your counseling.




 

Signs Marriage Counseling is Working

Marriage counseling can help couples get to the root causes of issues before those challenges shake the foundation of their relationship. Yet, it’s often seen as a last resort. Questions like “Is marriage counseling really worth it?” and “How do I know if couples therapy is working?” make couples hesitate starting the process. 

To help couples feel more confident in actively improving their relationship, we’ve put together this guide on signs that your marriage counseling is working. After all, counseling is a significant investment, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. The average length of marriage counseling is 12 – 20 sessions, and starting off on the right track will greatly improve your final results. So how can you tell that marriage counseling is actually helping your relationship? Let’s find out.

Does Marriage Counseling Work?

If you’re hesitating to start because you’re asking, “What are the odds of marriage counseling working?” it can help to know that the marriage counseling success rate, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), is 98%. This means that nearly all participants in marriage counseling had an overall good or excellent experience. A positive experience can include a variety outcomes, such as:

  • You and your partner are putting in the work to heal your relationship.
  • You and your partner can appreciate the positive aspects of your relationship, even during difficult times and conflicts.
  • You and your partner don’t dread attending sessions.
  • You and your partner have a positive working relationship with your counselor or therapist.
  • You and your partner discover how to make your relationship work moving forward and choose to stay together.

We’ll get into the specifics of each of these outcomes later, but it’s important to understand that couples therapy can be successful even if all of these milestones aren’t achieved. Every relationship is unique, and so the ideal end result will be different for each couple.  

Well, what about divorce rates—does marriage counseling really help marriages last?  

What Percentage of Couples in Therapy Get Divorced

Up to thirty-eight percent of married couples get divorced within 4 years after completing counseling. Considering that nearly 50% of marriages in the United States are expected to end in divorce, marriage counseling does give you a better chance of saving your relationship than working through your challenges alone. 

When To Go to Couples Therapy

If you are in a distressed relationship, it’s a good idea to begin couples therapy before underlying issues escalate into full-blown catastrophes. So what can cause distress in a relationship, and how do you know when it’s time to get professional help? Let’s take a look:

  • Small disputes escalate into major arguments
  • Disagreements on how to manage finances
  • Unbalanced desire for sexual intimacy between partners
  • Trust issues
  • Unequal distribution of household chores and parenting responsibilities
  • Conflicting parenting styles
  • Inability to communicate effectively
  • Attachment and codependency issues
  • Difficulties connecting with each other’s social circles and in-laws
  • Physical and mental health conditions
  • Lack of emotional support
  • Falling out of love or feeling like the “spark” is gone

These issues are common in relationships, but they don’t always present themselves clearly. For example, not putting effort into communication could be caused by a lack of excitement in the relationship. You don’t feel motivated to talk about big, difficult topics like how to manage finances and coordinate parenting styles because it all feels like work—with none of the spark that was there when you first got together. 

Even if you are able to navigate your way through the surfacing issues, leaving underlying conflicts unresolved will only lead to more stress. That’s the primary benefit of couples therapy—getting to the root cause of what’s holding your relationship back, so you can experience long-lasting benefits in other aspects of your life.

If your relationship is preparing to go through a major change, such as marriage, it can also help to begin pre-marriage counseling. Think of it like preventive care. If you strengthen your relationship before facing significant challenges, you’ll be more likely to get through those challenges with less strain on your partnership.  

Marriage Counseling Do’s and Don’ts

To get the most out of marriage counseling from the start, it helps to know some things you should do and others that you shouldn’t:

Do

  • Be willing to take responsibility
  • Be committed to working on your personal growth
  • Give your partner space to explain their perspective
  • Be active in the conversation—both when listening and sharing your thoughts
  • Be willing to compromise

Don’t

  • Expect immediate results
  • Find every opportunity to blame your partner
  • Interrupt your partner
  • Threaten divorce (or anything else)
  • Try to “win” counseling

How Do I Know If My Marriage Counseling Is Working?

The exact signs of success in marriage counseling vary from couple to couple depending on what their relationship needs, but common green flags are:

Your Relationship Is Healing

This is the big one. Most couples go into therapy together because they want their relationship to work, but they’re not sure how to get there on their own. Healing starts with communication. Sometimes it’s hard to express what you need, and sometimes it’s harder to know exactly what that is. A good sign that your therapy is working is that you and your partner feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable truths without worrying about backlash. 

Another sign that couples therapy is working is that you feel more affection for your partner again. When the hard work of relationships takes priority—whether that’s paying bills, raising kids, operating a family business, maintaining a home, or anything else—it’s easy for attraction to take a backseat. You may feel more like coworkers than romantic partners. When you start to feel that connection come back, you know your relationship is on the right path. You can see this through small changes like performing small acts of kindness for each other, flirting, and making time for emotional and physical intimacy.

Willingness To Attend Therapy Sessions

Therapy is hard, and if you’re there to discuss what isn’t going right in your relationship, it usually isn’t fun. But if you and your partner are making progress, it’s easier to attend those appointments, even knowing that they will challenge you. The hard conversations, the self-reflection, and the reevaluation of roles are paying off. 

You Can Acknowledge Both the Good and the Bad of the Relationship

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative when things aren’t going well. You feel angry, lost, and hurt. How can anything good come out of this relationship? On the other hand, the idea of admitting that anything is wrong at all could be too intimidating. If you acknowledge even minor flaws, then the whole relationship must be a failure, right? Not at all.

Even the healthiest relationships have their mix of good and bad. Part of the healing process is being able to acknowledge both without ignoring the other. For example, if you do all of the household chores, it’s easy to complain that your partner doesn’t contribute at all, and therefore conclude they aren’t putting enough into the relationship. But at the same time, your partner also works long hours to provide for your family and plans major trips. Instead of just labeling them as lazy, it’s important to acknowledge that they also work hard on different tasks. Then you could seek a compromise where your partner helps more around the house on a daily basis, while you participate more in planning vacations.   

You Are Willing To Do the Work—During Sessions and at Home

Opening up to your partner is hard. It’s even harder when someone else is in the room with you—at least at the beginning. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and that step alone is a good sign that your couples therapy is off to a promising start. 

But therapy doesn’t end once your appointment is over. There’s also important work to be done at home to change your behaviors and make lasting improvements. Couples therapy homework can include:

  • Writing a letter about your partner’s best qualities so you remember why you fell in love with them in the first place
  • Having conversations with “I feel” statements to bring up strong emotions that usually get bottled up
  • Recording memories to capture the meaningful moments throughout your relationship and get inspired to make more
  • Sharing your favorite things, like music, art, and movies, to help your partner understand how you relate to the world
  • Asking icebreaker questions—these may seem silly, but your partner’s favorite color, ice cream flavor, and so much more may have changed since you first met   

Life’s busy, so if you and your partner are willing to make room for these exercises, it’s a good sign that you’re invested in getting the most out of couples therapy.

You Like Working with Your Marriage Counselor

Your marriage counselor can make or break your healing process. If they’re not doing their job well, sessions could turn into shouting matches and you leave feeling worse than when you showed up. On the other hand, the signs of a good couples therapist are that they help each person take responsibility for their feelings and set boundaries. At Well Marriage Center, we work hard to help couples build trust, work through trauma, and navigate conflict.  

When To Stop Marriage Counseling

There are two reasons to stop marriage counseling: you and your partner have strengthened your relationship and can continue the work at home or you and your partner have decided to end your relationship. Typically, marriage counseling lasts up to six months before couples reach either of these points. 

What Kind of Therapist Is Best for Couples?

As we mentioned earlier, great marriage counselors encourage you and your partner to open up about difficult feelings in a constructive way. Our team of licensed, professional therapists at Well Marriage Center does just that to help couples find their way back to each other. We understand that each relationship has its own personality, challenges, and strengths, and can benefit from a personalized approach. 

To learn more about how to begin taking steps toward a healthier relationship, explore our website. If you feel ready for next steps, our Intake Coordinator, Melinda, would be happy to help you schedule an appointment.