My wife and I have been to two different marriage counselors during our eight years together.
One therapist, female, knew my wife’s close friend. I felt it was a set-up against me and wouldn’t go back.
Next time, I chose a man. My wife walked out mid-session, certain that he already thought we should divorce.
We smoothed things ourselves for a while. But we’re now fighting a lot, again.
Can couples’ counselling ever really save a marriage?
Yes, IF both spouses are committed to learning and compromising.
Otherwise, you’re stuck in resistance-mode, each believing that you’re right and your partner’s wrong.
Meanwhile, you’ll approach buying a car by studying what’s out there, checking out a few, compromising on what’s important or not, and weighing the costs.
It’s a similar process for getting counselling started: Research what’s out there.
One current short-term approach is emotion-focused therapy (EFT), which goes to the heart of what each partner is feeling, to try to rebuild trust. (This can be crucially needed when there’s been distancing, blaming and anger.)
Another is the Gottman method (founder John Gottman) – an assessment of the couple’s relationship plus research showing that unless they work to counteract instances of negativity, couples grow apart emotionally.
It only takes a little time doing an online search to familiarize with these introductory terms and intentions.
Next, it’s like joining a gym – comparing different fitness concepts, locations, and costs. Many people pay $150 monthly toward physical improvements. Relationship fitness is worth your investment.
Next, check out lists of professionally registered therapists, call some to inquire about their method, fees, and whether short-term (usually six to eight sessions, and most popular today) or long-term.
Community agencies, e.g. Family Services offer a geared-to-income charge (so, longer waiting lists), as do some pastoral counsellors through a faith community. Otherwise, prices generally range from $125 to $250 an hour.
That search finds your therapist. Book an appointment together and show up.
The counsellor doesn’t know either of you. So speak up. Whether you start with a self-description, or what you feel is happening in your relationship, it’s turning the process on.
I strongly advise not leading off with the blame-game of saying what your partner’s doing “wrong.”
Also, give a counsellor a second try, unless you both feel this person will never be the one that can help you.
You’re not there to become pals with the counsellor. He/she has information that can provide insights, new understandings, better communications, empathy, even hope. That’s what you want, and it’s worth the effort.
Still, you have the right to “shop” for a couples’ counsellor who’s acceptable to both of you.
The time/money you spend once or twice on someone whom you decide against, is still significant to the process. You heard, finally, what your spouse brings to that discussion. You recognized your own stubbornness or self-righteousness about your part in the relationship.
You see now how important it is to carry on, and become the drivers of your marriage therapy process, and not just passive, reluctant observers.
For emotion-focused therapy, read How Can I Get Through To You by Terrence Real. For Gottman’s system, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman and Nan Silver. Some therapists have their own modified or unique approaches.
The ultimate goal from a registered Toronto-based psychotherapist: “A couple entering counselling, will wisely seek self-awareness.
“Finding their capacity to be collaborative, authentic and kind, may give them the humility and humour to connect differently in a relationship.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the young woman who told her boyfriend she “wishes he’d die” (January 23):
Reader – “She was repentant, which shows a developing conscience. She felt unworthy of even having “another chance” with him.
“Your advice of walking away for a time-out was sound and helpful. Yet your words (“being ‘so sad’ is of no use”) could only have made her feel discouraged, creepy, and humiliated.
“Grief over one's own behaviour is the very thing that often leads to change and character growth.
“We also know that so many young people are often still stuck in harmful patterns of behaviours that they've sadly come by “honestly,” through examples they've grown up with.
“But epiphanies such as this one are the very things that can bring change and maturity.
“After all, we’re all on a journey and still have a great deal to learn.”
Ellie – Thanks for your thoughtful view.
Tip of the day:
Couples counselling can be successful, when both commit to it.