COUPLES OR MARRIAGECounseling
Marriage or Couples Counseling helps couples address the conflicts in their relationships. Couples attend counseling sessions for many different reasons, including: communication challenges, infidelity, financial stress, sexual stress and parenting conflicts.
How to tell if you need a couples or marriage counselor
Every relationship has its issues, so how are you supposed to know if you and your partner should be attending counseling together? There is not one simple answer to this, but we put together a questionnaire to help you determine if it might be time to consider this path.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a counselor. However, these are definitely not the only reasons to see a counselor about your relationship. If either of you feels that you should see a counselor for any reason, then it is important that you attend before the distance between you grows.
Some couples attend counseling as more of a proactive tool. You do not have to answer yes to one of the above questions to benefit from sessions together. Perhaps having sessions together can help prevent any of the situations above from coming to fruition. Some couples just need a safe place where they can openly communicate with each other about difficult topics and have someone there to mediate the discussion if needed. Other couples use counseling as a way to learn better communication skills and other tools that will help strengthen their relationship.
Most of us are not born with the skills we need to have a healthy, loving and long-lasting relationship. Too many marriages end in divorce; why not seek assistance that might help you beat these odds.
- When you try to discuss your issues as a couple, does it always end up in an argument?
- Have you and your partner stopped communicating about things?
- Do you and your partner argue over the same topics (big or small) continuously?
- Are a large portion of your interactions with your partner negative?
- Do you feel that you and your partner are having any other overall communication challenges?
- Have you or your partner considered or actually been unfaithful?
- Do you feel that you and your partner are only together because of circumstance (such as staying together for your children)?
- Have you and your partner openly considered separating, even for a short time?
- Would you describe your living arrangement more like roommates than a couple?
- Do you or your partner feel lonely in your relationship?
- Do you feel like you and your partner are no longer “on the same team”?
- Has your sex life changed significantly?
- Are you going through major life stressors together, such as financial crisis?
- Have you or your partner been keeping secrets from each other?
What if my partner does not want to go to counseling?
Often times, the two people in a relationship are in different places both emotionally and mentally. It may be obvious to one person that it is time to see a counselor but not to their partner. It is also quite likely that one person is comfortable with the idea of counseling but the other person is quite against it. Each person’s personality is different so we cannot provide you with one easy solution. However, here are some guidelines when requesting that your partner attend counseling with you:
Never offer it as an ultimatum.
Although we sometimes feel as if counseling is the last resort, it usually does not help to frame it that way. Ultimatums usually cause one’s defenses to go up and they usually don’t respond positively to being coerced into something. Besides, do you want your partner to only go because they were threatened?
Find the right time to talk.
Many people’s defenses naturally go up when they are surprised. Instead of just bringing it up at a time that is convenient for you, let your partner know that there is something important you want to talk about and ask them when it might be good for them to discuss. This also gives them the chance to mentally prepare for what you are about to say.
Focus on solutions.
Many people are hesitant to go to counseling either because they are afraid it will be a bunch of finger pointing or because they envision counseling as a forum for talking about their feelings with no real solutions. Assure your partner that you are not there to place blame. Explain that although you do hope to understand each other’s feelings a bit more, you want to find actual tools and solutions to help you both grow and be better partners.
Do not minimize their concerns.
If your partner is willing to openly express why he or she is hesitant to attend counseling, try to give him or her a glimpse into the types of open conversations you could have there. Listen to the concerns and do not minimize them. If you can show that you understand your partner’s concerns and acknowledge them before sharing why you would still like to attend sessions together, you have a much greater chance of success.
Offer a compromise.
If your partner is still against attending counseling, suggest trying just one or two sessions together. Perhaps he or she will be more willing to make a shorter-term commitment.
If all else fails, consider attending counseling sessions on your own. You would be surprised at what type of progress can be made with one person. Plus, if your partner sees your continued commitment to counseling and to making things better, there is a greater chance that he or she will join you in time.
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8540 Executive Woods Drive
Lincoln, NE 68512
ABOUT BRAD RIDDLE
As a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP) for over 30 years, he has counseled at a university, mental health agency, in his own private practice, and on church staff.