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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. 




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.


 

Good Marriage Counselor

6 months ago Roger and Dianne called me to discuss some difficulties they’ve been experiencing during their 12 year marriage.  At the end of our conversation Roger told me, “Glen, we’ve already been to 2 marriage counselors. This whole process has been more frustrating than it should be. I like your experience and I like what I read about Well Marriage Center, so we’re inclined to give this one more chance, but we’re pretty vulnerable here.  Why is a good marriage counselor so hard to find?”

“Why is a good marriage counselor so hard to find?”

I told Roger I appreciated his candor and I could understand his frustration. And I could. I’m always disappointed to hear when couples can’t find the help they need when they’re open and ready for it.  Unfortunately, Roger and Dianne aren’t alone. We often get calls from couples who have been to one or two counselors before at some point during their relationship. Their frustration is palpable.  So why is a good marriage counselor so hard to find and what can you look for when searching out the good ones?

I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell – brilliant thinker, researcher, and writer.  In his best-selling book Outliers, Gladwell makes the convincing case that to truly become an expert in your field requires a devotion to your craft of at least 10,000 hours. I love this premise…I think those of us working towards and achieving that “expert” label understand at a deep level how much we’ve learned and how much we still have to learn. And it’s not just experience…it’s how often are you practicing this craft and how quickly are you building towards those 10,000 hours.

One of my biggest excitements about starting Well Marriage Center was that we could focus 100% on relationships. We could devote 100% of our energy, effort, research, and training to couples. Imagine how you can help couples with that kind of attention! While most therapists offer marriage counseling on the side, we could offer marriage counseling as what we do exclusively…100% of the time! I think this is something to pay attention to when looking for the best marriage counselors. How do they spend their “hours” each week and are they building to those 10,000?

The happy ending for Roger and Dianne is that we were able to give them the help they needed. Their marriage is doing remarkably well and we’re celebrating their success with them!

Marriage counseling is an art form in which the counselor helps guide the couple through (often) sticky, messy, and intense emotions and dynamics…all while holding the hope for their relationship. It’s an intricate dance and I hope you trust only the best to help you navigate your most primary and intimate relationship. The good news at Well Marriage Center – we’re all either above that 10,000 hour mark or building quickly and exclusively towards it!  We’re all specialist here…

Our Counselors


You CAN Save Your Marriage

My granddaughter, age 3, encountered a see-saw (teeter-totter) for the first time last weekend. She literally giggled out loud with how easily she could move up and down with her 2 year old brother (who was being carefully supported by their mother) on the other end. It was all fun and games…until grandpa sat down on the other end.

Of course I balanced my weight at first so we could each go up and down. But after a little bit, this grandpa got tired and needed a quick break. I sat. I was heavy. Seeing my granddaughter confused, stuck high on the other end of this tiny see-saw, made me think of the confused look many couples that see me often have:

“Wait, what happened?”  “How did we get stuck?”
More importantly, “Can and how do we get down (unstuck)?”

Positive Override

Marriages begin with what renowned and leading marriage/couple psychologist Dr. John Gottman describes as a high, positive “set” point. It’s almost like the default position of the relationship. No matter what, most things are seen and experienced through this default lens. When the positive “set” point is high, couples are less likely to interpret things critically, or as a personal attack, or believe their relationship can ever be derailed. It takes far more negativity to harm your relationship than if your set point were lower.

Negative Override – when marriages gets heavy

But over time, anger, irritations, and resentment can build to the point that it’s like being a 3 year old on a See Saw with a tired grandfather. It can build for 2 years, or 5 years, or even 20 years, but if that balance tilts, and you slip from positive override into negative override, then everything begins to be interpreted more and more negatively. Marriage gets heavy.  Words said in a neutral tone get interpreted negatively. You interpret your spouse and your relationship more and more negatively. You think you’ve married the wrong person – or a person who is completely different than who you initially married. You get stuck. It’s as if there is a boulder on the other end of the see-saw. It’s no fun and in fact toxic.  And then you want to get off the See Saw and play with another toy.

Bottom line: Can I Save My Marriage?

I’ve been doing couples counseling for over 25 years now and what I can tell you is this: there is hope and there is good news for your relationship!   I’ve helped thousands of couples re-learn how to live and think in a way that notices what is strong and desirable about their partner and marriage, to tilt the balance of their relationship back into their favor. Couples who have completely lost hope have been amazed at this approach. I’ll be honest: it’s not as easy or simple as it might sound.  You’ll want an experienced guide or coach helping you figure out the steps and avenues to make it happen in your particular situation with your unique dynamic. But I’ve seen so many couples who thought they were done find renewed love, commitment, and a better relationship with each other. I believe it’s possible for you too!

Do yourself a favor: find a counselor or coach who works from a strengths-based, positive approach. Find a counselor or coach who is going to get in there with you and be active with you, someone who can help you work through some of the causes and pressure points of negativity in a way that relieves and revives your marriage instead of harming it, someone who is going to work with you to discern the steps and activities your specific relationships need to get itself back into positive override!


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.

Marriage Counseling in Fairfax, 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!

Quick Links:
Our Counselors          Our Approach          Our Locations

Ask A Question          Schedule An Appointment

We provide couples / marriage counseling to the Northern VA community, with offices in Fairfax Virginia (VA) & Leesburg Virginia (VA). 

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.