Marriage counseling is an attempt to help a couple resolve any number of types of problems they may be having in their marriage, and to empower them to go forward and have a more successful relationship. No matter what combination of problems, couples seek counseling to get a better understanding of what has gone wrong in their marriage.
This is a common question. All relationships have ups and downs, and it’s hard to know the difference between a passing rough patch or a more serious situation that isn’t going to change on it’s own. Even if your relationship feels pretty difficult, it can easy to talk yourself out of marriage counseling (“Things will get better” or “We’re just under a lot of stress right now” or “This week has been better”).
1. Get Marriage Counseling If…. There Are Longstanding Patterns
It’s only in looking back over months, or even years, that you’re able to see that the old patterns are still there, and that nothing you are trying is leading to meaningful change– it’s better for a bit and then you have the same old fight again. When you are aware that there are long-standing patterns that haven’t changed, despite your efforts, it’s a clue that you might need marriage counseling.
2. Get Marriage Counseling If…. There Is Repeated Empathic Failure
Some of the most damaging long-term patterns in a relationship include patterns of “empathic failure.” This means that one partner comes to the other for emotional support. to share something that is important to them, for help with a problem, or tries to initiate a shared activity (especially sex!) and winds up feeling rejected, ignored, misunderstood, unimportant, or uncared for. A marriage can recover from just about anything…. except repeated empathic failures.
If this is happening in your marriage, get thee to a good marriage counselor. Stat.
3. Get Marriage Counseling If…. There Is A Crisis
Another situation where it’s absolutely essential for couples to get connected with a good marriage counselor is in a crisis. A “relationship crisis” is a situation that is traumatizing to one or both partners. Discovering that one partner has been participating in sexual, emotional or financial infidelity are crises that are very difficult for couples to work through with out the support of a good marriage counselor.
There are two types of major marriage crises that people really need marriage counseling to recover from:
- Toxic Marriage Crisis: Feelings have been hurt to the point (on both sides) when productive communication feels impossible. One or both partners is negatively reacting to the other consistently, and any efforts to talk or interact becomes a negative experience (or flat out argument).
- Frozen Marriage Crisis: People stop talking altogether. When marriages have been in toxic crisis for a while — arguments, empathic failures, breaks in trust — and couples don’t get …