A few days ago, my husband and I got into a heated argument. With any normal couples, we fought from time to time, but this time was different. Long story short, it was related to my in-laws and my disagreement on their expectations on my husband and I. The fight lasted for three days, during which we failed, over and over again to find common ground, is our marriage broken? How to fix a broken marriage?
I decided to talk over with my friend and her husband, they later shared their experiences with their marriage’s challenges and suggested that my husband and I try a marriage counselor. There’s no harm in trying, they said.
For some odd reason, I know marriage counseling isn’t for my relationship as I realized only a couple of days later. My husband and I have always had a way of figuring things out, though sometimes we do that the long way around. I know, lucky us. But what you’d call luck in a relationship, we call a lot of hard damn work. A lot of talking, and problem-solving.
The secret is – fights can be productive if you know how to fight.
So there we were, coolly talking about it in our bed, which sparked curious questions in my mind:
How do you know if a marriage of two needs a third party to make it complete?
How can you tell whether you need a marriage counselor or not?
When is the right time to reach out and seek help?
Finally, what to look for in this stranger who’ll define your future?
Needless to say, I did a lot of readings and research around and here’s what I’ve found.
Dare to Ask Some Hard Marriage Counseling Questions?
A lot of couples I know avoid asking tough questions with one another in a fear of making things worse. The question of how to fix a broken marriage alone, to me is quite scary in itself.
This is something my husband and I were never afraid of, which I strongly believe contribute to our successful marriage. Don’t be afraid to ask, you’ll be surprised that things might not as bad as you think they are.
Tap into your past to recall what made you so imperfectly perfect for each other. That means, try to remember good times and bad times alike. Are the problems you’re currently dealing with repetitive? If yes, what used to cause them before, and how did you manage to solve them? And have you solved them?
Before you even start seeking marriage counselors, ask honest and tough questions so you both are prepared when discussing problems with the third party. Try to push harder or better yet, go for something different. Even if you ultimately decide that you need a professional, this last test of patience, care, and devotion may help you find common ground.
Because, an even more terrifying question is – does marriage counseling make any difference at all? Do they actually know how to fix a broken marriage?
According to research done by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, the answer is a resounding yes. Over 98% of individuals came out to the other side happier than before, while over 97% of them received the help they needed. But the devil is in the details, and happier doesn’t mean together.
In my understanding, marriage counseling is indeed effective, at least as far as psychotherapies go. The meaning of effective, however, is double – marriage counseling will solve your problems and get you back on track to personal fulfillment, but in some cases as a spouse, and in some cases – as a divorced individual.
That marriage counseling delivers great results in both cases is not the question.
The real question is – what are you looking to achieve?
If you want to save your marriage at any cost, then be sure that there is something to save before you pay a lot of money on saving it. That is what that last at-home test is for. I insist upon it because keeping it in the family has always worked for me. Empirically, objectively, universally, talking things through works.
What Are the Suitable Types of Counseling in Your Case?
Now that you’ve had some time to think about it, what is it that you’re actually looking to achieve?
Determining what is it you would like to happen when discussing your problems with the marriage counselor is of vital importance because it will affect the outcome of the therapy.
There are different marriage counseling techniques for both conformists and non-conformists (conformist being a descriptive word that implies no judgment whatsoever), so it’s crucial that you know who you are.
Not to beat around the bush any longer, here’s what your options are.
1. Couples Counseling: When You Need to Fix a Relationship as a Unit
The distinction between marriage counseling and couples therapy is purely hierarchical, and regarding the terms, we use to define different techniques. While the first is an umbrella term that encompasses all others, the second refers to one of its most traditional forms – the one that sees the relationship as a unit.
2. Family Therapy: When Your Relationship Problems Affect Your Kids
Family therapy is not the only option for troubled couples with kids, but it may help resolve relationship issues by looking at them from a more holistic perspective. This means including the kids in the sessions and re-examining and redefining your roles not only as individuals and partners in life but also as parents.
3. Marriage-Friendly Therapy: When You’re Ready to Make Sacrifices
Even though couples counseling aims to fix your relationship too, it’s main modus operandi is fixing you as people first. Marriage-friendly therapy does the same but in the opposite direction. Instead of telling you that you may be happier apart, it will go one extra mile to find a way for you to reconcile differences.
4. Gottman Method: When You Need to Master Conflict Management
Having recognized conflict as a natural part of a relationship, the acclaimed Gottman method doesn’t try to uproot it, but to give you the right tools for keeping it under control. If you crave emotional cleansing, this is it. This method will rekindle your former passion, respect, and admiration, and bring you closer together.
5. Imago Therapy: When You Need to Rethink Your Couples Dynamics
Imago therapy will study your individual weaknesses in an effort to pinpoint the foundation and dynamics of your relationship. It is a brilliant method for people who are suffering from low self-esteem and fear of judgment; rather than any particular outcome, Imago therapy seeks fulfillment of your needs as a couple.
6. Narrative Method: When You Need to Rewrite Your Darkest Chapters
The past is usually very different from how we remember it, and the narrative method counts on this epiphany to help you realize that most of our problems are self-made. It’s like advanced Shakespearology – you tell your story, analyze its aspects from different standpoints, and focus on rewriting the parts that don’t fit.
Is Free Marriage Counseling Worth Your Time and Trouble?
When it comes to love (and what is marriage if not love?), everything’s worth your time and trouble. There’s plenty of free marriage counseling options for distraught lovers to explore; some employ the internet as their medium, others call for face-to-face time; some provide expert help, others are community-based.
Another question is – how much of a rush are you in?
Because, and you must take this into account, marriage counseling is a lot of work. Sure, the eventual catharsis is inevitable, but you’re still a couple of emotional swirls and stressful revelations away from it. A professional will know how to strip that band-aid off quickly. With dilettantes, it will last a tiny bit longer.
But if you’re still holding it together, if both of you are determined to make it work, then free marriage counseling might be all the guidance you need. Even if it fails to deliver promised results, it will still give you some initial insight as to where you stand and what type of therapy you’ll actually need to sign up for.
That being said, most local communities offer free marriage counseling as part of their regular citizen aid and church programs. If you can’t find this information online, visit the nearest psychologist.
There’s an abundance of forums and discussion groups that are supervised by professional therapists, but allow their members to speak freely with each other, exchanging experiences and providing first-hand solutions. Allaboutcounseling.com takes the cake.
Another helpful internet resource is BetterHelp.com, which also offers free 7-day trials of their online counseling service. After that, the average weekly cost is $35, the lowest amount you’d have to pay for online marriage counseling. On other similar websites, weekly prices range from $45 to a whopping $140.
Compare that to a professional’s hourly rate of between $75 and $150.
Is Online Marriage Counseling as Effective as the In-Person Counseling?
Now, online counseling can be provided via phone, chat, and video conferencing. Please insist on the latter option, as it is the only one able to simulate the atmosphere of closeness and trust that every session depends on. The setting is then very similar to actual therapy, only you don’t have to leave your home.
In some cases, this is a very, very good thing. In other situations, not so much.
Just like Skype therapy provenly aids people with social anxiety, this type of online marriage counseling can help you relax even if you don’t feel comfortable airing your dirty laundry in front of a stranger. You are in the privacy of your home, while the counselor is a distant presence, acting as an unobtrusive convener.
In fact, this illusion of a distant presence might just be the greatest benefit of online therapy.
In order to be effective, couples therapy must provoke an honest response from both spouses. It must crack you open and make you vulnerable. Reliving your worst nightmares will be much easier if you’re surrounded with the familiarity of your home, with your counselor being agreeably invisible, but still present.
Also, you can’t expect your life to stop and wait for you to work it all out. Scheduling issues will still be there, but you’ll be more likely to squeeze in an online appointment. Sessions won’t be canceled even if your kids catch the flu, or one of you must travel for work. Online counseling is simply more convenient.
But there are situations in which online therapy is not the right fit.
If you’re already on trial separation, attending a real session will give you some time to reconnect. The same goes for couples that struggle with workaholism. Whether you can’t figure it out how to make time for one another, or you don’t want to be in each other’s company, offline counseling makes more sense.
Premarital Counseling Questions That We Rarely Ask
To recap what we’ve learned so far, marriage counseling is effective, but stressful and costly. That’s simply the price you must pay if you want to rewind your relationship to the happier times, but don’t have the patience and determination to do that yourself. Marriage-wise, professional intervention is never for free.
Do you know what is? Putting out fires, one flame at the time.
Relationships develop progressively, entering one challenging phase after another. The traditional 3-date-rule exists for a reason, and so does the classic pattern of dating, moving in together, popping the question, and getting married. In this delicate, linear system, the slightest perturbation leads to friction.
The point is, you cannot rush these things. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t.
A 2001 study titled Ties that Bind: A Qualitative Study of Long-Term Marriages is just one of many that confirm that friendship is the sturdiest foundation for marriage. From my experience, this makes perfect sense. You must get to know the worst in the person you love before you can genuinely revel in the best.
Fast forward to saying yes to a person you’ve only met a couple of months ago, and you’re in for a couple of long years of unpleasant surprises. It’s all fine and dandy while it lasts, romantic love. I don’t like bursting your bubble, but the happy ending is a long way ahead from there. Eventually, life happens to us all.
The secret to a long-lasting happy marriage according to my friends is twofold – the first part is falling in love with a person as a whole and being one hundred percent certain that love will last through the thickness and thin. The second part is remembering the thin in the thickest of moments, and craving, with all your heart, to bring it back.
Translated to the premarital counseling questions we rarely ask, they are as follows:
- Do I know enough about the person I love to actually love him for the person he is?
- Do I love the person I love enough to deal with his worst in the name of his best?
- Do I know myself good enough to keep my vows when it’s all bad and none of the good?
Answering these questions prematurely is the only thing that can save your marriage for free.
Marriage Help Books to Turn to in the Times of Trouble
Books aren’t free either, but they definitely cost less than a counseling session.
Plus, they are perfect if you want to avoid inviting a stranger into your marriage.
Check out these books and make some time to read them as it deals with different stages of your relationships. I personally found them very helpful and still beneficial to me today.
How Much Does Marriage Counseling Cost?
On average, one hour at the marriage counselor’s office costs between $75 and $150.
How many hours you’ll need depends solely on you.
Some couples spend years (and millions) on the couch without ever accomplishing anything significant, while others get the help they need after only a couple of sessions. The math is simple – the longer you keep refusing to proactively, committedly work on your problems, the more the entire shebang will cost.
So, listen to your marriage counselor, no matter how silly or frustrating her suggestions seem. You’ll have a lot of homework to do after you leave the session, but don’t give up. It’s important to live by these guidelines every moment of the day, without ever forgetting that the counselor is only there to mediate.
The rest, as always, is between you and your spouse.
8 Things Your Marriage Counselor Is Thinking but Not Telling You
My friend’s colleague’s wife is a marriage counselor and what I found out is quite interesting but also not surprising. The things marriage counselors wish they can say to the couples but won’t as they fear of losing the business.
1. Don’t Try to Change Your Partner
And you shouldn’t even ask why. Remolding another person so that he can fit your ideal perfection is not only wrong in the context of individual freedom that every marriage should support, but it’s also downright selfish, if possible at all.
If somebody would try to change you, you’d be pretty annoyed, right? Basically, don’t marry someone that you know you need to change him or her to be happy. Be with someone you can share your interests with but most importantly can live with his or her flaws.
2. Don’t Withhold Sex
Sex is not a toy that you can withhold from your ill-behaving child. It’s not a tool for manipulation, nor is it a power-play device.
It’s the deepest expression of love and commitment, the two pillars that every marriage leans on. Sadly, I know a lot of women who would use this to get what they want from their partners without thinking that they are putting their marriages or relationships in jeopardy.
3. Leave Your Smartphone out of the Relationship
Talking into your phone while talking to your spouse (or anyone else, for that matter), is a sign of disrespect. Sure, it’s the digital age, and sure, you’re multitasking work stuff, but let’s try balancing that with stuff you’re obliged to take care of at home.
This includes your marriage, which won’t repair by itself.
4. Don’t Make Your Spouse Looks Bad
Your partner in life is a reflection of you, just as you are a reflection of him or her. It’s who you’ve chosen not only to love but also to respect and protect.
Don’t make him or her look bad in front of the counselor because it takes two to tango. What Sally says about Susie says more about Sally then it says about Susie, and what you say about your spouse says that you’re a bad one.
5. If You’re Angry, You Won’t Solve Your Problem Efficiently
There are two parts to every marital conflict – the first is the problem, and the second is the effect. By nature, the effect, which is a strong emotion that influences your behavior and action, such as anger, forbids you from solving the problem the way problems should be solved – with patience and mindfulness.
6. If You Cheated, Don’t Pretend You Did Nothing Wrong
Please, don’t. As if the very act of cheating isn’t hurtful enough, defending your actions is insulting too. You can’t make any difference if you keep insisting on the old patterns, and not admitting your mistakes is a big part of that.
If you still care for your spouse’s feelings, do care enough to utter a sincere apology.
7. Don’t Waste Your Whole Therapy Session Lying
Couples therapy is only as effective as you allow it to be, which means that you can’t expect any results if you’re not ready to work hard on achieving them.
The worst you can do is waste the entire therapy session telling elaborate lies. Best case scenario, it will get you nowhere. Worst case scenario, it will set you back.
8. If You’ve Decided You Want to Leave, Don’t Question It
If you’ve already decided that your personal happiness is more important than the relationship you’re currently in, then chances are that it really is. Leaving is messy, and almost nobody makes that decision hastily. Assuming you’ve carefully thought it through, marriage counseling will hardly change your mind.
How to Fix a Broken Marriage – Do You Think It’s Worth Saving it? If Yes, Go For It!
The common statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce is bogus, says Insider. But even if it wasn’t fabricated for some marketing purposes that we, mere mortals, cannot begin to grasp, why would it ever affect you? Marriage is the longest haul, and no statistic should give you an excuse not to treat it as such.
Whatever nuisance you’re going through, whatever seemingly unsolvable problem you’re experiencing, whatever dispute tarnishes your bliss and sends the wrong kind of shivers down your spine, whatever obstacle forbids you from seeing the light at the end of it all, and whatever makes you sad and desperate.
It will pass. Don’t see trying as a waste of time but the best way to find out if staying or walking is your best option to happiness.