5 Tips to Get the Most out of Marriage
Counseling

by Lisa Kift, MFT



Long lasting, successful marriages can be hard work and it’s normal for couples to encounter rough
waters at times. In fact, it’s inevitable. As a relationship therapist, I’ve seen enough struggling couples
in my office to know that it’s very common for people to run into trouble and need a little outside
assistance. It’s an act of bravery for people to drag their weary selves - and their personal issues -
into a therapist’s office and lay them at his/her feet. Reality dictates that not everyone will be able to
salvage their marriages. Sometimes the tangled weeds of resentment are too thick or the love as it
once was is truly gone. However, I believe in the counseling process to help those really wanting it.
Having witnessed all types of couples with all sorts of attitudes, I’ve been able to identify some things
that people pondering marriage counseling should consider prior to beginning the process. If you’re
considering marriage counseling these points will help you and your partner get the most out of your
time, effort and money!

Here are my five tips to get the most out of marriage counseling that apply to both you and your
partner:

1) Acknowledge A Problem Exists: How do each of you define the problem? Believe it or not, it’s not
uncommon for one of the partners to deny there’s an issue. Or, the partner says something like,
“Well, if he’s upset about….then it’s his problem.” Guess what… If your partner has a problem that
is relationship-related then it is your problem because it’s a problem of the marriage.

2) Acknowledge You Might Contribute to the Problem: It’s helpful to view a marriage as a system
– where there’s a certain homeostasis or balance occurring between the two elements of the system
(the partners). The two parts can’t help but impact and interrelate with each other. When one of you
behaves in a certain way there’s a reaction by your mate – and vice versa. It’s a rare day when one
person is solely responsible for all of the problems in a marriage. There are cycles or dances
occurring constantly. As they say, “it takes two to tango.”

3) Be Willing to Consider Behavioral Change: A willingness to make adjustments in how you each
act with each other for the sake of the marriage will take you far in the counseling process. By
taking this position you’re saying, “You’re worth it. This marriage is worth it. I’m willing to meet you
halfway.”

4) Monitor Your Expectations: Be aware of your expectations of the therapist. I know the look. A
couple sits before me on the couch, eyes pleading, “Fix me.” Or I will be asked directly, “Tell us
what you think we should do.” If I had a magic wand next to my chair, I’d pull it out and use it but
I don’t! My role as a marriage counselor is to guide, explore, increase awareness and educate
about aspects of healthy relationships. The most powerful change occurs between the couple – not
as the direct result of a fancy trick I’ve pulled out of my bag.

5) Be Patient: The amount of time marriage counseling takes is dependent on a number of factors
including amount of resentment built up, length of time being unhappy and willingness to do things
differently, to name just a few. It’s definitely an investment of time, effort and hard earned money
whichc an be frustrating and stressful for some people. This is totally understandable. Try to stay
focused on the goal – which is to get you and your partner on track again with a solid relationship
foundation. Remember,this is a life long investment.

Marriage counseling can be a number of experiences to different people; powerful, stressful,
enlightening,emotional, insightful, connecting, upsetting and so on. If you feel it could help your
marriage, I encourage you to discuss the previous points with your partner. Ideally, you agree with
all of them but if you don’t, this doesn’t necessarily mean marriage counseling isn’t for you. These
are only suggestions to assist you in increasing the odds of getting the most out of the process. A
skilled marriage counselor can still help you navigate through the murky waters – if that’s what you
both want.
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