Nearly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, and yet seeking counseling to improve your relationship is something many couples are reluctant to do. Relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, states that the average couple waits six years after serious issues arise before getting help with their marital problems. Many have the unspoken hope that things will get better over time, but relational problems can be difficult to change without the help of an objective, skilled professional. And those problems are much easier to tackle when you get help sooner, rather than later. Here’s a look at some of the common misconceptions people have about marriage counseling that keep them from taking that leap.
- Going to marriage counseling means your relationship must be really bad.
What many people don’t understand (and all marriage therapists will attest to) is that ALL relationships are likely to benefit from counseling at some point. The truth is, maintaining a longterm committed relationship is hard work that most of us are inadequately prepared for once the honeymoon glow fades. Seeking counseling for your marriage should instead be an indicator of how valuable the relationship is. Common reasons for seeking marriage counseling include: premarital guidance; adjusting to becoming parents; coping with loss or stressors; recovering from an affair; difficulty resolving problems; or simply feeling more distant.
- We can’t afford marriage counseling.
Too expensive? Not necessarily! Especially if you consider that the average total cost of divorce in the United States is $15,000. Besides, sessions are often covered by your health insurance.
- The therapist might not take my side.
True!…partially. The role of the therapist is to help you understand each other’s positions better. While the therapist will not take your side, you will be equally supported in expressing your feelings and needs. Actually, the goal of therapist is to help you learn how to be on the same side as your partner, even when you have different viewpoints. Working through conflict is a lot easier when you feel like you’re on the same team, and not opponents.
- We don’t need counseling…we never fight.
Conflict is a natural and healthy part of every relationship. Conflict can look different from one relationship to the next, and doesn’t always involve yelling or heated conversations. However, if you and your partner never discuss differences of opinion, or are not communicating your feelings and needs to each other, this is just as concerning as constant fighting. Marriage counseling can teach you skills to feel comfortable managing conflict and also help you establish rituals to stay connected and feel close with each other.
- The therapist will tell us if we should stay together or not.
The first few sessions are typically devoted to the therapist gathering information and insight into your relationship. With a Gottman-trained therapist, you will likely complete a comprehensive questionnaire, asking you to rate your experience in various aspects of the relationship. However, it is not the therapist’s intent to pass or fail your relationship! Marriage counseling helps you identify the strengths of your relationship, as well as the areas where you could make things even stronger. Then it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to do the work and commit to the process!