One of the most common questions we get asked as therapists is: How does Marriage Counseling really work? Many times, people want to know how effective marriage counseling will be for their relationship before spending the money and time needed in order to see progress in their relationship. While we don’t have a crystal ball for all marriages, we can tell you what qualities we see in couples who are extremely successful in healing their relationship wounds and creating a healthier marriage through marriage counseling.
- Given an obstacle, they look for an opportunity: Faced with difficulty, the people who are most successful in marriage counseling will look for any possibility or combination of ways to begin healing and growing. Though they may often feel discouraged, they are overall determined, optimistic, and with the guidance of their therapist, they hope for the best in their marriage. They trust in themselves and in the process of counseling, and allow their determinism to show in their work.
- They demonstrate humility: One of the most destructive things to any relationship is a lack of humility. One of my graduate school professors used to say (and which has since become a well-quoted verse from Dr. Phil): “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” If you constantly have to be right, the chances are, you probably won’t be happy very long (at least, not in relationships with others). In order to be humble, we each have to look at what we are bringing to our relationships that might be destructive, hurtful, and damaging, both to our partners and to ourselves. To be humble, we must be open to hearing constructive criticism from our partners, friends, therapist, and be honest with ourselves—even when the truth is painful to hear. This is hard to do! So many people that come to counseling have so much toxic shame that they can’t hear constructive criticism and accept their role in how they are contributing to their own difficulties. You can’t fix what you aren’t open to seeing.
- They focus on themselves and not on what their partner is doing or not doing: People who are willing to take a deeper look at their own issues in counseling have the greatest success in the process of therapy. Individuals and couples who come into session, only to focus exclusively on what the other person is doing or not doing, making the other person the “bad guy”, and/or being defensive and reactive to the other person, only end up frustrated and embedded more deeply into their issues. Nothing changes if you are focusing on changing or complaining about the other person. Couples who are successful in counseling work on facing the issues they are struggling with individually. It may sound quite cliché, however, you truly cannot change anything but yourself. The couples we work with in counseling embrace the changes they need to make on an individual level.
- Their counseling experience takes place in all aspects of their lives—not just in the therapist’s office: In order to be successful your marriage, you must be willing to take the tools learned in therapy and apply them outside of the counseling session. This means work! If you want your marriage to get better, you won’t be able to fix the issues in one hour a week sitting in a therapist’s office, no matter how good the therapist is! The couples that we see in our office who are extremely successful in healing the relationship issues; also embrace the work that we do in session, outside of session. Therapy sessions are like the classroom, while the time outside of session is to apply what you are learning. Persistence is their middle name—they keep showing up. And showing up. And showing up. They don’t abandon their therapy because they aren’t getting immediate results; or because the effort required was more than they thought it should be.
- They take responsibility for working through their own problems: One of the most damaging things in therapy is to blame other people for your issues, while doing little to change your situation. In order to heal your relationship, you must be willing to take responsibility for what you are doing or not doing to allow any situation or feeling to be holding you back. Successful, healthy couples do not make excuses—for themselves or for the other person.
- They are willing to look at their past in order to get to a healthier future It is essential for long term growth and change to be able to look at your history and understand how you are the way you are. Only after you gain insight and understanding into your past can you truly begin to grow and change. Looking at the past does not mean blaming or being stuck in the past. It means acknowledging the past and seeing things for what they were, recognizing the things that drive your personality today, and working on changing how you relate to others. For therapy to be successful, we believe this to be an essential component, and see this demonstrated repeatedly in our work with couples.
These attributes are only six of many that we see, though they are six of the most important in determining the success of marriage counseling. Imagine Hope Counseling Group encourages you to take a closer look at yourself and your marriage. Do you have these attributes? Call us today at 569-0046, and one of our relationship experts will begin helping you work towards a happier, healthier marriage!