Defining marriage counseling
Many couples might be scared and even embarrassed to admit that they might need to try marriage counseling. However, many of these feelings might simply be attributed to a fear of the unknown. Learning what to expect from marriage counseling can be the first step in finding out if marriage counseling is the right choice.
Two basic types
Marriage counseling is generally broken into two main categories: pre-marital counseling and marriage counseling. Premarital counseling teaches the couple what to expect out of their marriage, how to work through issues and communicate effectively, and how to work through any fears or concerns they may have. This type of counseling is often offered by churches or through an employer. The military offers pre-marital counseling, which is encouraged, and in some branches, even required. Also, couples who attend a marriage counseling class can sometimes receive a discount on the cost of their marriage license.
The second type is what most people traditionally think of when they envision marriage counseling; it involves a couple that is seeking counseling in order to work on issues within their marriage. Keep in mind that not all couples who seek marriage counseling are “on the brink” or in serious trouble. Some couples just like to work on a specific issue, such as communication, in order to strengthen their relationship. Other times, couples who are coming together with blended families seek out marriage counseling in order to learn how to provide a stable home for their new family.
What marriage counseling is
Marriage counseling is a safe space to share fears, concerns, and emotions without being judged. It is also a place where couples can rekindle their relationship through various exercises with the therapist. Another benefit that marriage counseling offers is a guide to building trust and communicating in ways that are healthy. Couples who seek marriage counseling will be asked to speak openly with their counselor about themselves and their partner, which may be difficult at first. However, if the counselor can build the proper rapport and trust with each member of the couple, then the couple can, in turn, build trust with each other.
What marriage counseling is not
It isn’t a time and place designated for the couple to fight. Marriage counseling focuses on expressing emotions in a constructive way – and that includes actively listening to each other, not interrupting, and acknowledging what is said. It is also not a place for judgement or humiliation. A good marriage counselor is unbiased and somewhat impartial. It’s not up to the counselor to take sides. The counselor acts as a mediator and an educator, and as an outsider who can see themes and issues that the couple might not. Then, together, the couple and the counselor can address those issues.
Marriage counseling can be the best route for a couple who need to strengthen their relationship. However, it takes dedication from both members of the couple, and a willingness to be open and honest with themselves, their partner, and the counselor. Couples who seek marriage counseling are most likely to be happier in their marriage if they both fully commit to each other and to the process of counseling.