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Does Marriage Counseling Really Save Marriages?

As divorce strategists, prospective clients often approach us on the brink of marital disaster.  They come seeking clarity and information to help ease them out of their state of indecision when it comes to continuing their marriage.  Most often, they are pretty sure they want to end the marriage but are just not quite ready to take that first scary step. 

Why Does it Work for Some and Not Others?

Whenever we are approached by a client like this, who is agonizing over the decision to divorce, as a matter of due diligence we always ask if they have tried any marriage counseling.  The answer is almost always yes.  Many says, it worked for a while but then things just got worse again. 

So, the question is, does marriage counseling ever work?   Or why does it work for some but not for others?

The fact is, marriage counseling does work, under the right conditions.  In fact, according to a study from the “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy” seven out of ten couples have found marriage counseling to increase their marital satisfaction.

Motivation and Timing are the Key to Success

It turns out that motivation and timing are two of the essential ingredients to make counseling work.  For marriage counseling to really work, both partners must buy into the process.  If both parties are motivated to make it work, then the chances of success go up tremendously.  If one partner is ready to throw in the towel, then the chances of success diminish.

Timing is also crucial.  According to relationship and marriage expert John Gottman, most couples wait an average of over six years before seeking counseling.  This allows bad communication habits to become entrenched and resentments to build up and boil over. 

It turns out that motivation and timing are two of the essential ingredients to make counseling work.  For marriage counseling to really work, both partners must buy into the process.

Motivated and healthy couples who seek counseling can learn to communicate better when conflict arises.  It’s not about avoiding conflict or bottling up feelings, it’s about learning to communicate effectively.  According to John Gottman, the key to effective conflict resolution in couples is staying connected and engaged with one another, rather than becoming defensive and lashing out.  As sex and relationship therapist Dr. Laura Berman says, you’ve got to fight for the relationship, not to be right.

Marriage counseling can help couples in the following ways:

  • Couples can learn to explore and understand their issues through a different lens, with the help of a neutral third party.
  • They can learn new tools and ways of communicating to help with conflict resolution and communication.
  • Partners can learn specific methods for nurturing and building up the relationship, like Gottman’s Five to One Rule, which is five positive engagements for every one negative. 
  • Couples can decide to commit to and rebuild their marriage or understand and clarify why the marriage might need to end.

Of course, additional measures are required if there is an addiction, mental illness or abuse in the relationship.  But for the average couple who is highly motivated to stay together and improve their relationship, if they take action early on, counseling really can work. 

Your Trusted Partner

Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, have already started the process, or are far into the proceedings, do you wish you had someone to share with you the inside scoop on how to save money, time and emotional energy on your divorce?

We’re here for you. We help you consider your options, arm you with practical information, and strategize with you how to navigate your divorce. Feel free to get in touch with us, as we are always available to help!

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