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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. 




Marriage Counseling Tips

If you find yourself unable to communicate with your spouse, it can be difficult to make positive changes in your relationship. Whether it’s consistent arguments, minor disagreements, or avoidance, marriage counseling is an effective way to revitalize a marriage. Marriage and couples counseling can help with issues such as financial concerns, life changes like a new job, stress of children, disagreements in general, and any communication breakdown that couples might face together. 

In this article, we’ll explore tips for couples counseling, marriage counseling questions to strengthen your relationship, and even tips to support you in a dating or premarital counseling journey if you’re not married.

How to Prepare for Couples Counseling

Preparing for couples counseling begins with exploring you and your partner’s needs, goals, and expectations. Counseling can be daunting if you don’t know what will happen during your session, which might leave you asking, “How do I prepare for my first couples counseling session?” Below are five tips to help you get ready for your first couples counseling session:

1. Be Open-Minded 

With all of the stigma surrounding marriage counseling, it can be difficult to admit it is time to take action . You might think you should be able to do it on your own, but ultimately it is beneficial to seek help, if only to have a safe space for conflict resolution. Counseling sessions often include in-depth conversations about your relationship like setting expectations, goals, your intimacy, sex life, and expressing needs. 

Marriage counseling is a learning experience that helps you and your partner identify problems and develop strategies to overcome those problems. You can also expect to:

  • Discuss your fears and manage their effect on how you communicate with your partner.
  • Learn how to effectively communicate and resolve conflicts.
  • Understand your partner’s past experiences and how they influence their actions.
  • Express your needs in a healthy way, without anger or resentment.
  • Consider how you handle situations to be less reactive and more proactive.
  • Rebuild and renew your relationship with your partner.

By going into counseling with an open mind, you’ll be able to better utilize the tools provided to you during your sessions. 

2. Discuss Shared Goals

What do you and your partner want to accomplish during marriage counseling? Do you want to address sex and intimacy issues? Is healthy communication a top priority? Is there financial stress or big life transitions like a new job or baby? Are you finding yourself arguing more and more? You can explore several questions with your partner to set goals for your counseling sessions. It is worthwhile to lay out all of the issues you both think are important to focus on before meeting with a therapist. 

A few marriage counseling questions you can work through with your partner before attending your first session include:

  • What are the key challenges in your relationship that you wish to resolve?
  • What do you want to accomplish with marriage counseling?
  • Do you and your partner have the same goals?
  • If not, what goals are most important to each of you?

3. Set Realistic Expectations

Understanding what you’ll gain from marriage counseling is important, but it can be easy to set unrealistic expectations before you begin. Counseling won’t solve your problems overnight; it takes work. However, you shouldn’t expect to get into the nitty-gritty during your first meeting with a therapist. The first counseling session is intended to introduce yourselves to your therapist, give some background information, and establish goals and priorities. 

As you continue your sessions, realistic expectations of marriage counseling should be:

  • Finding an unbiased third-party that listens to and understands your conflicts.
  • Identifying and addressing systemic issues that affect you and your spouse.
  • Developing solutions to address areas of contention and implementing them at home.
  • Learning how to communicate with and listen to your partner in a safe setting.
  • Maintaining commitment, appreciation, and love for your partner during and after the process.

Ultimately your expectations should be to effectively communicate with your partner and attempt to resolve issues that have driven you apart.

4. Identify Your Feelings and Assumptions

Marriage counseling can help you address some personal issues as well. If you find yourself assuming your partner no longer loves you, doesn’t care about your emotions, or isn’t attracted to you anymore, it is important to vocalize those sentiments in a safe space. Before you go to your first session, you should ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I assume my partner’s feelings about me or our marriage?
  • Do I think my partner is capable of change? Why?
  • Has my partner addressed these issues with me in the past?
  • Do I project my feelings onto my partner?

These tough questions can help you better understand your emotions and perceptions of your partner’s feelings. You want to address these during couples counseling sessions, so your therapist can help you navigate these sentiments.

5. Search for a Therapist/Counselor

Once you’ve set your goals and identified areas of improvement, you can search for a marriage counselor that meets your needs. Finding a qualified therapist might take some time, as you should ask questions to make sure they’re the right match for you. 

Some questions for a potential therapist you might want to consider include:

 

  • What do you believe makes a relationship successful?
  • How many of the couples you’ve helped see improvement due to your counseling?
  • How do you determine when it is appropriate to end counseling?

Remove any negative questions like, “What’s your opinion on divorce?” and aim your attention on how you can succeed. Some counselors might focus on weaknesses right off the bat, but providers like Well Marriage Center take strengths-based and marriage-first approaches to help you build a foundation for success in your relationship.

Many marriage counseling exercises will have you examining your goals and expectations, being prepared will help you navigate those difficult discussions together. Be sure to focus on what you need as an individual and a couple and find a therapist to revitalize your relationship.

What Questions Do Marriage Counselors Ask At the Beginning?

Marriage counseling can lead to great success in your relationship. If you’re considering marriage counseling, you might not be sure what to expect. Here are three questions that will come up during your beginning counseling discussions:

Who Are You? What Is Your Story?

Before you dive into the in-depth conversations, your therapist will want to get to know you, your partner, and your marriage. This will help them understand your dynamics as a couple, what is important to you inside and outside of the marriage, and any concerns you may have. Your therapist will get to know you so they can help you make your sessions beneficial for your relationship.

What Do You Value About Your Relationship?

In marriage counseling, you need to focus on the strengths and dynamics of your relationship. This includes discussing the pieces of your marriage that you value the most. What draws you to your partner? How do they make you feel? What do you appreciate about them? Understanding what you value—and how you are valued—leads to a stronger emotional connection in your marriage. You’ll be able to explore how those values impact your marriage now and into the future. That will be beneficial in creating a strong and lasting marriage. 

What Do Marriage Mean to You?

Sometimes partners have different ideas about what marriage means. That is not a bad thing! However, it’s important to discuss expectations that are new or have changed if you’re struggling to communicate them clearly. Are there any roles you expect your partner to fill? Answering these and similar questions will help you understand what your partner expects from you in your marriage and how that aligns with your beliefs. 

These questions will help therapists get to know you and your relationship better before diving into the nitty-gritty details. Also be prepared to discuss any expectations you have for counseling, disagreements or successes between you and your partner, and what you think is most valuable to focus on during your sessions. Counseling takes time and effort and you shouldn’t expect to solve your concerns during the first session. Set expectations and goals from the beginning and you will find more success.

What to Say in Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling is about working together, and any conversations about reaching goals, navigating disagreements, and addressing personal feelings are greatly encouraged. Aim to have conversations with your spouse that promote healing within and outside of counseling sessions. During your counseling plan and counseling sessions, you should:

  • Ask tough questions of yourself and your partner to uncover underlying issues.
  • Be open and honest about your feelings without accusing or demeaning your partner.
  • Instead of attacks, use communication techniques like “I feel” statements.
  • Revisit and reflect on past discussions outside of sessions and address any concerns in the next one.

Don’t shy away from the tough topics! Growth can be difficult without facing issues head-on. At Well Marriage Center, we promote healthy discussion that leads to restoring marriages and believe that a strengths-based approach leads to success. Your sessions should help you to strengthen your marriage, not tear it down.

How Can I Make My Marriage Counseling More Effective?

Successful and effective marriage counseling relies on clear communication. By addressing the issues within your marriage openly, and with guidance, you’ll see more success in your sessions. Here are a few tips for effective marriage counseling:

  • Avoid negativity, accusations, and attacks. Aim for positivity and collaboration.
  • Focus on changing yourself—not your spouse—and communicate your needs clearly.
  • Seek to understand your partner’s perspective and learn to accommodate their needs.
  • Remember—it’s not about you, it’s about us. You both deserve respect and attention.
  • Keep in mind your therapist will help guide you through discussions and isn’t picking sides.

While there are many more tips on effective marriage counseling, remember that you and your spouse both need to put in the work to make it successful. 

Do I Need Marriage Counseling?

While only you and your spouse can determine whether it is time for marriage counseling, here are a few concerns to consider: 

  • Consistent negative communication 
  • Lies
  • Secrets
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Blame and Defensiveness
  • Contempt
  • Withdrawal and feeling lonely

It can be difficult to navigate situations with your spouse without clear communication, which is a major source of relational issues. If you or your partner are unsure about pursuing counseling, it can be helpful to answer these questions and determine whether or not you want to choose this option:

  • Do you trust your partner? Why or why not?
  • Are you being dishonest with your partner?
  • Do you view your partner as an antagonist (the “bad guy”)?
  • Do you consistently have arguments? Are they frequently about similar issues?
  • Have you become indifferent about your marriage?
  • Do you compromise on important issues? / Do you have to get your way?
  • Do you feel safe physically and emotionally?

If you’re experiencing any distress while answering these questions, reaching out to a marriage counselor might be beneficial . Well Marriage Center has several resources for you and your partner to make the best decision for your relationship.

What Percentage of Marriage Counseling is Successful?

Marriage counseling works! Several studies have determined that 70-75% of couples who attend counseling are successful at renewing their marriage. However, don’t expect your relationship to be perfect after one or two sessions. On average, couples counseling lasts between 10 and 25 sessions, so there is plenty of time to identify and resolve any issues you’re facing as a couple. 

How Do You Succeed In Couples Therapy?

At Well Marriage Center, we help couples overcome hurdles, interrupt unhealthy cycles, strengthen their communication, heal attachment wounds, and revitalize their relationship. Our strengths-based approach enables couples to identify their strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses. We don’t see a difference between couples therapy vs marriage counseling. When it comes to building relationships, we find counseling an important tool for all couples. 

We want to build your relationship up! Let us support you in making your marriage counseling experience a success. If you’d like to build a happier, healthier relationship, contact us by filling out our intake form and setting up a call with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda.


 

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.  


 

How Can I Make My Marriage Counseling More Effective?

You and your partner have decided that marriage counseling is a good fit—you are taking a big step toward a stronger relationship! Once you’ve chosen couples therapy as a helpful option, or even after you’ve attended a few sessions, it’s a good idea to consider how to get the most benefit from your therapy as a whole. 

In this article, we talk about practical things that can  be done to make your marriage counseling more effective, signs marriage counseling is working well, and examples of how strategies can be applied in real-world relationships.

How to Approach Couples Therapy

There are some things you can do before you begin couples therapy that can improve its effectiveness. If you’ve already had several sessions but maybe want to get even more out of your therapy, it’s never too late to apply these approaches.

It’s About the Couple as a Unit, Not About Each Person Individually

Couples therapy is all about understanding and improving the way you and your partner interact. It isn’t about one person ‘winning’ or someone being forced to change. Focusing on the dynamics within the relationship and the overall goals you have together as a couple is the best approach for getting the most out of couples therapy. 

As an example, let’s consider a couple struggling with dividing household chores. Both partners could come to a therapy session and focus on all the work around the house they do, and how one person does far less. However, it is more likely to be an effective counseling session if the couple arrives ready to talk about their expectations of what chores need to be done and how they can work together to achieve or adjust these expectations.

Name Your Objectives and Focus on the Big Picture Solutions

It’s easy to sit down in a couples therapy session and go through the play-by-play of your most recent fight. However, focusing on the broad goals and issues you are having in your relationship is more likely to produce lasting results. A discussion about how a singular fight might be resolved is less likely to produce lasting positive results for a couple. The best path forward to achieving their overall marriage goals is to focus on overall relationship objectives.

For instance, a couple might come into a counseling session in the midst of an argument about how one partner left their wet towel on the floor. Instead of focusing on the details of this specific argument, the couple could name their overall relationship objective that this situation highlights. They could then work with their counselor in the session to come up with the underlying issues that this specific challenge brings up for each of them.

How to Have Effective Couples Therapy

Once you have adjusted your mindset and are approaching couples therapy in the most effective way, there are some additional things you can do to potentially improve your marriage counseling success rate. Making sure you are discussing all of these ideas with your partner and your counselor, here are some tips for making couples therapy more effective once you’ve started.

Do Your Homework

When your counselor gives you ideas or assignments to do at home before your next appointment, prioritize them and commit to taking them seriously and making them happen. It’s easy to get busy with day-to-day life and put off couples therapy homework that may seem silly or make you uncomfortable. But in order to get the most out of your marriage counseling, you need to put in the work during sessions and at home.

For example, a counselor might recommend that a couple sits down individually and makes a list of things that their partner does that makes them feel happy before their next session. If each person puts off doing this, then scribbles down a few superficial things moments before the next session starts, they are unlikely to get much out of the exercise. If each partner spends time really thinking of times their partner was thoughtful and caring this exercise will be more effective. It will give the therapist more to work with in future sessions and foster more positive feelings for the relationship overall, too.

Be Willing to Work on Yourself

If you go into couples counseling thinking that your partner is the only one who needs to change, you are much less likely to have the most effective counseling experience. In fact, coming in with a long list of things your spouse must change could be on the Marriage Counseling: What Not to Say Checklist. It can even be helpful to come into therapy with more goals for yourself than your partner, because you have more control over your own actions and beliefs than anyone else’s.

Let’s look at an example of a couple coming to therapy to try to rekindle the romance in their marriage. If one partner comes with a list of things they want their spouse to start doing to be more romantic, it is less likely to enact lasting change. However, if that partner comes in thinking about what they consider romance and what they can do to themselves to create that within the relationship, the therapy session will likely be more effective.

Well Marriage Counseling: Building Stronger Relationships for a Brighter Future

Ultimately, more effective marriage counseling isn’t about how many times a week you should go to marriage counseling or the average length of marriage counseling. It’s about the mindset you and your partner come in with, and focusing on your biggest relationship objectives when you’re there. 

Well Marriage is the nation’s largest relationship specialty center. All our counselors are couples therapy experts with years of experience helping people just like you. We know how scary it can feel to start therapy, and we want to take as much of the guesswork and uncertainty out of the process as we can. 

You are on the right track for considering how to make your marriage better! Schedule an appointment with us to take the next step on your journey.


 

How Long Does Marriage Counseling Take?

How much time would you be willing to spend a week to get a happier, healthier, more enriching relationship with your spouse or partner? Marriage counseling sessions typically take around 50 minutes per session, with the  average length of marriage counseling  totaling 12-25 conversations over the course of a few months. The return on this time can be transformative and Well Marriage Center is here to answer all your questions about the timing and length of marriage counseling. Here’s what you need to know!

But First…Couples Therapy vs Marriage Counseling

Before we dig into how long marriage counseling takes, we want to clarify that we do not see a difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling. We create a safe space for every relationship to be built, healed, or restored, regardless of if there is a legal marriage or a different style of commitment. Whether you call it marriage counseling, couples therapy, or some other combination of terms, the goals of reducing conflict, restoring intimacy and trust, and developing better communication are the same. Whatever type of committed relationship you are in, our team has dedicated their careers to helping couples build a better foundation for the future. 

When To Go To Couples Therapy

When a relationship is already going through challenges, setting aside time each week for couples therapy can feel like a big ask. Often, couples choose to look in the other direction and hope the phase will pass instead of seeking targeted help for long-term problems. When these issues reach a breaking point,  often the best option is couples therapy. In fact, if you’re thinking you might need therapy, it might be time to schedule an initial session. But when should you put it on the calendar? It’s important to choose a time that can regularly work for you, your partner, and your mutual schedules. If you can schedule a recurring appointment for the same time and weekday, then nurturing your relationship starts to become a healthy part of your routine more naturally. 

How Often Should You Go To Couples Therapy?

At Well Marriage Center, we recommend our couples start with weekly therapy sessions. This allows participants to start forming better habits and addressing issues in an environment of supportive accountability. After the first few sessions have laid a foundation for progress and determined your end goals as a couple, you may agree to start meeting bi-monthly, and eventually once a month or even less. This gradual decline in the number of sessions you need to attend is supported by better daily experiences in the relationship as the lessons from therapy take root and help you grow together in the right direction. However, every couple is different. Some may decide to further benefit from prolonged therapy  to truly heal and resolve relationship traumas. You should go to couples therapy for as long as it feels supportive and beneficial towards your relationship goals. 

How Long Does Couples Therapy Take To Work?

Couples generally attend between 12-25 sessions of therapy before they arrive at a place where they are satisfied with their growth. However, that doesn’t mean it takes 12 sessions for therapy to show any results. Week to week, you and your partner will be following techniques and activities in your daily life to reinforce what you have discussed with your therapist. As you grow and get more in tune through doing the work, the benefits will show up along the journey.

You’ll focus on identifying and honoring the strengths that still exist within your relationship, as well as set goals for communication, conflict resolution, and moving forward. Through these techniques, therapy can begin to reset negative or toxic patterns in your relationship from the first session onward. For some couples, these small, foundational changes may take longer to emerge because every relationship is unique. You can always talk to your therapist about your goals and timelines during a session. 

Some couples are concerned about how long marriage counseling takes to work in specific situations, like at the beginning of a marriage or when it is at risk of ending. Here are some more specific answers to common questions. 

Should You Go To Couples Therapy Before Marriage?

Investing in a pre-marriage therapy program is an excellent way to get your married life off to a strong start. Even though marriage is an exciting time of hope and planning for the future, it can also feel uncertain, overwhelming, and even confusing based on past events in the relationship. During our pre-marital program, you will meet with a Well Marriage Center therapist for as many sessions as you agree on. These conversations will be dedicated to your personal histories and dating story, any current concerns about the relationship, and the goals and plans you have set for the future. 

One thing that makes our pre-marital program unique is that we meet twice again after you are married, once around the six-month point and once around your one-year anniversary. This establishes a few neutral touchpoints for you and your new spouse to check in around goals and discuss anything new that has arisen after the knot is tied. 

Does Marriage Counseling Work After Separation

Yes, marriage counseling can work for both the couple and an individual after separation. It depends on the goals you have moving forward from the separation. If you want to reconcile and heal the relationship, marriage counseling provides a neutral opportunity to talk about what has gone wrong in the short-term and how it has impacted the long-term relationship. At Well Marriage Center, we practice marriage-friendly counseling, seeking to heal and restore your relationship along with you even when you aren’t sure it’s possible. On the other hand, there might be no way to reconcile, but one or both parties need support adjusting to life outside of marriage. A licensed marriage counselor can also help with this, empowering you to figure out what went wrong in the relationship and help you avoid repeating similar issues in the future. Whether you want to fix the separation or heal yourself on the other side, marriage counseling can help. 

Well Marriage Center Helps You Keep Healing

The relationship specialists at Well Marriage Center are committed to helping you restore your relationship with each session you invest. They’ve dedicated their entire careers to helping couples just like you, whether you hope to be done with marriage counseling in just 12 sessions, or you think 25 doesn’t sound like enough. The good news is that you and your partner set the pace and get to have input about how many sessions you think you need. Whether we see you every week or once a month, we want you to leave each meeting feeling like you achieved something together and know what to work on next. That’s how healing happens–one day at a time, slowly but surely. We’re here to stick with you throughout the journey! Set up a conversation with our Intake Coordinator, Melinda, to share a little bit about where your relationship is at and where you want to go.


 

Communication Problems

From the Therapists Perspective

Written by Michael Fronce, LMFT

Jeff and Cindy came to their first marriage counseling session anxious to repair their 15 year relationship. The session started like most, me getting to know them and learning a bit more about their story.

As we explored their marital strengths it was clear they deeply loved each other, but that love was now being questioned by each of them. They explained they had not been able to communicate about anything except logistics.

Cindy swore Jeff did not have the ability to communicate at all. She complained about his avoidance of important issues. While she was voicing her frustration, he rolled his eyes and sighed. He said she was blowing things out of proportion and that he knows how to communicate. He was sick of how often she interrupted and didn’t listen.

Jeff said he felt like he was never going to please his wife so he admitted to withdrawing from conversations. They both wanted me to get the other to communicate better.

Jeff and Cindy had made a good decision to reach out for help. These things fester. Communication problems are one of the most common concerns that bring couples to Well Marriage for marriage counseling.

When we’re able to catch these communication blocks early, we’re often able to help the couple avoid the more toxic and deeper level problems that come years down the road if left unchecked.

The good news is our counselors have the experience and training to be helpful. While there are often underlying issues that play a part in some communication breakdowns (which would be an entirely different blog post), I often find myself starting by helping couples practice the skills of effective communication. It’s helpful to see where they are and what they already know. This is what I did with Jeff and Cindy.

Now the movies and TV comedies give practicing communication skills a bad rap. I get it, no one wants to simply be told to say a lot of “I statements” and repeat back what the other person is saying.

You’re right, that doesn’t fix communication problems. However, I’m often surprised by how a simple intervention or solution can indeed become the impetus for change.

I was looking for just that type of impetus for change when I gave Jeff and Cindy a task early in our communication work. They shared about how one of their rituals is to go to a certain fast food establishment for dinner. So I invited them to dinner. Well, I should say that I invited them to pay attention in a different way next time they went for dinner.

Their task was to observe how the person at the counter took their order. When they came back to the next session, they were excited to talk with me about what they saw.

The server greeted Jeff and Cindy warmly, asked how he could serve them and then listened to their order. He busily punched the order into the system and then did something a little strange.

They noticed that the server repeated back their order to make sure that he had it correct. He then asked if there was anything else that they would like. He then proceeded to check their order again before moving on and telling them the cost.

After the order was confirmed and the payment was made, the server thanked the couple. So simple, yet for them it made an impression.

They appreciated the way that the server listened to them, took the time to get their order right, and did not move on until he was sure that he had heard it correctly and that it was what the couple wanted.

That’s what they each desired from the other. They missed being truly heard and respected. Here’s the important breakthrough part: they both began looking at what they, individually, had been doing to keep them from communicating effectively.

They each began talking about ways they would like to focus on each other, listen to each other, and truly hear each other. That led them into Jeff’s withdrawing (Cindy felt abandoned and got anxious). Cindy would then over pursue Jeff to calm her anxiety (which then had Jeff withdrawing again).

So we explored this cycle and ways to interrupt it. Effective communication helped! They began making such incredible positive progress about the deeper level issues that were affecting their relationship.

The good news – Jeff and Cindy both began to find each other again, connect with each other again, and experience a closeness they hadn’t felt in years, all through working on communication problems in couples therapy.


 

Long Winter of Marriage

Written by Glen Denlinger

The wind is blowing here at the Well Marriage Center office again and fellow marriage therapist, Mary Baker, tells me the high tomorrow is not expected to even hit 30 degrees. I caught myself referring to this season as “Old Man Winter,” the personification my own father used to use when winter stayed too long. It has been too long. We all feel it.

Couples feel it.

Marriages feel it.

“Winter” has become a theme and analogy for some of the demanding work many couples are investing in right now. I thought I would share a quick story and analogy…

Meet Tim and Cindy

Tim and Cindy are a couple I’ve been guiding through therapy for a few months now. They’re experiencing their own “marital winter” – years of hurts and disillusionment have brought them to this difficult season. They said marriage counseling was their last hope.

They had a choice: stay together and do the difficult work or split apart. We spent time processing that decision, a decision only they could make. I was reminded of an analogy from Dr. William Doherty, a prominent name in the marriage counseling field. He’s from Minnesota and he talks about long-term marriage using his Minnesota winters for context. He points out that we all move into marriage in the springtime of hope, but eventually get to winter with its chill and darkness. Many couples are tempted to move south at this point and give up. The problem with giving up, he points out, is that your next marriage will eventually hit its own winter at some point. So do we just give up, or do we make our stand with this person, in this season?

Cindy and Tim decided that they wanted to stand together, but they were both scared and unsure. Like Dr. Doherty, I recognized my role as being a guide to help them “cling together as a couple, warming each other against the cold of their winter and seeking out whatever sunlight was still available while they wrestled with their pain and disillusionment.” It’s a powerful privilege…the role we marriage counselors provide.

The good news is that winter does break and spring does come. Often marriages can experience this same hope.

We experienced marriage counselors know how incredible and magnificent that spring can be for couples who have done the demanding work winter requires.

Tim and Cindy are on their way…and that’s my message of hope for couples during this, Old Man Winter’s, one last gasp.


 

Marriage Counseling McLean VA

Welcome to Well Marriage Center!  We understand it can be intimidating to consider couples counseling when your relationship runs into difficulty.  Plenty of questions run through people’s minds: “Will this help?” “How long does it last?” “How much money will this cost us?” “What if the counselor doesn’t think we can be helped?”

Click here to begin at our homepage: Well Marriage Center

It takes a lot of courage to ask for help.  Our commitment to you is to provide a safe, “marriage-friendly” approach that supports the probability that you can save and improve your relationship.  We want that for you and we believe you can make it happen!  For over 25 years we’ve sat with couples just like you, couples who have run into minor bumps or significant potholes, couples who wondered if their relationship could even be saved.  The great news is this: countless couples have echoed almost the identical statement, “several months ago I never would have imagined our relationship could be this good again.”

Well Marriage Center specializes in couples and marriage counseling in Northern VA, among other locations. We utilize a combination of therapeutic and wellness (strengths-based) models, we study the latest research, we engage with the leaders in our field, and we work exclusively with relationships or relationship dynamics.  Trust your relationship to a couple’s specialist!

We provide couples / marriage counseling to the Northern VA community, with office locations convenient to McLean, VA and the surrounding areas.

Well Marriage Center Launches!

For years I’ve heard Glen Denlinger dream about how to best help couples.  For 25+ years he has specialized in helping people save and repair their marriage relationships.  Back from the brink.  Succeeding.  Thriving.  This is his passion.  It’s what he enjoys most.  It’s his area of expertise.  Thousands of couples have benefited from his counsel and coaching.

Bit by bit…

But his dream as I heard it went beyond just couples counseling. More and more, bit by bit, it became a broader vision for the community and for couples in every stage of their relationship. “People can change the trajectory of their entire marriage if they can learn how to care for and nurture their relationship.  We need to help people understand that positive, strengths-based care and supportiveness helps a marriage soar much more than negativity drags it down.  This is not just about reducing our divorce rate. We also need to increase our percentage of ‘well-married’ and thriving relationships.”

Well Marriage Center was created to help your relationship succeed. We’re a full service center for your relationship. While we specialize in couples/marriage counseling, our vision is to encourage couples along the entire spectrum of relational health to care for and nurture their marriage relationship.