Marriage Counseling: Will It Help Us Save Our Relationship?

Many couples wonder if they should seek marriage counseling or try to save their relationship on their own. Some fear it won't help, and it will be expensive to get therapy. Others are afraid to bare all to a therapist. Some feel they can improve their relationship on their own. So, what should a struggling couple do?

The answer may depend upon your circumstances. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I know that some marriages are not likely to make it without counseling. But, some may. What does it take? Let me offer a little insight and provide you with five key considerations, so you will be better able to decide if you need marital therapy.

Marriage Counseling: Five Keys

First, Marriage counseling may offer too little too late. Some of the couples who come into my office seeking help have simply waited too long. There are too many resentments, too much negativity or a spouse has stopped caring. Not even a great therapist can change the inevitable.

Second, if the couple can communicate on their own, without fighting or getting emotional, they may be able to work out their own problems. Most couples, though, can't, and that's why they seek help. An objective mentor or coach might be of use. But, usually family members and friends don't help that much. They may want to help, but may not know how. So you have to choose your helper carefully.

Third, whether counseling will be needed may depend upon how serious the problems are. An affair, for instance, can be a very tricky problem for a couple to solve on its own. Multiple affairs are even worse. Restoring trust can be very difficult, and may require an intervention or guidance from a professional helper.

Fourth, the fastest and surest way to get help is to seek marriage counseling. Contracting with a professional can save you time and frustration, and increase the odds you will make it. Beware, however . . . there are marriage counselors and there are marriage counselors. Try to find a therapist who specializes in marital work, such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Such a person has special training and education. Go with the best. Experience and expertise are important.

Fifth, and last, if a couple's problems aren't too severe, the spouses may be able to get the needed help through self-study, workshops, mentoring or relationship coaching...depending upon the quality of the materials and services being provided.

Keep in mind, if you and your spouse cannot dialogue productively about your problems, you will most likely need professional help. Otherwise, you will keep talking around the problems. And you'll end up making the same mistakes, over and over . . .

and you may never find out what they are! You will need to adopt new rules for communicating, and require some coaching as you seek to master new skills.

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In Sum

Not every marriage can be saved. But if you want to increase your chances of success, opt for getting professional assistance, especially if you have serious issues to face. Or, at least, find an effective relationship coach or mentor to help you navigate the most turbulent waters, and push you in the right direction.

For many, counseling can be very helpful because the couple will learn more about their relationship, improve their communication, and work through stubborn anger and resentment. 

But, if the spouses are motivated and able to problem-solve in a fair and effective way, perhaps they will be able to help themselves. Even then, they will benefit from a good, objective support system.