Before getting married, my husband and I went through a pre-marital counseling of sorts. With another couple, we sat and discussed our desires, expectations, and understanding of this lifelong commitment. The idea was to prepare us for as many potential pitfalls as possible. Through a spiritual lens, this couple aimed to teach us how to navigate some of the murky waters we may one day find ourselves in.
Armed with scripture and undying passion, my man and I entered a world of wedded bliss, eyes wide open…or so we thought. You see, despite all of our preparation, nothing could prepare us for the onslaught of issues that rocked our boat around year nine. Navigating murky waters seemed almost a joke as we were tossed around by any opportunity to be misunderstood, disappointed, or hurt. The time eventually came where professional counseling was the only option. But could this individual truly help us bring our marriage back from the brink of disaster?
Now, 16 years in, I look back on that time and praise God. I mean, we have friends who, when their relationships were seriously challenged, also sought professional intervention. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to turn things around and right the ship. I’m not sure what made the difference for us. But statistically these days, couples seeking help from a therapist have a 50/50 chance of making it. With that in mind, here are 5 reasons professional marriage counseling works for some, and 5 reasons it fails for others.
5 Reasons Professional Counseling Works
- Both partners agree to seek and participate in therapy as scheduled with a mutually accepted counselor or therapist. This first step is important. While not impossible, it will be exceptionally difficult to fix a damaged relationship if only one party is on board with both the method and the therapist.
- Both partners take responsibility for his/her role in the marital conflict. If both partners are willing to see their part in the gradual decay of their relationship, it becomes that much easier to turn things around. The transition to change and healing, though still challenging, becomes less daunting.
- Both partners share similar goals and expectations from this experience. If the endgame, healing and reconciliation, is the same for each person, then they will be pulling in the same direction each time they meet with their counselor. As a result, all three parties working together can help them achieve the ultimate goal.
- Both partners commit to and cooperate with the treatment being given. By recognizing the professional training of their chosen counselor and then following their advice, a couple can begin mend their broken relationship.
- Both partners work together as a team to achieve their clearly defined goals. When each person in the relationship pulls their emotional, mental, and spiritual weight, the challenge to rehabilitate their relationship becomes half as difficult.
5 Reasons Professional Marriage Counseling Fails
- One person forces the other to agree and attend therapy sessions. If only one person is really on board with the help from a professional, then the partnership is destined for failure.
- The therapist may not be the appropriate match for the couple. One size doesn’t fit all in marriage counseling. It’s important to recognize if the professional you are dealing with is able to competently meet and understand the needs of both partners. If not, move on.
- One individual has a different agenda for the therapy sessions. If one partner’s objective is to merely lay all the blame at their spouse’s feet, then counseling won’t work. Each person must take responsibility.
- If either party is unwilling to forgive and move on, the therapy sessions will end in failure. Your therapist won’t drag you kicking and screaming to forgiveness. But they will make it clear that forgiveness is essential for healing. If either party is unwilling to let go of the past, the therapy sessions will be futile.
- Unclear goals and unspoken expectations will set both the couple and the therapist up to lose. It’s important for both partners to know and communicate what they expect from their sessions. Without a clear vision for the desired outcome, the path to recovery will be impossible to map out.
When all is said and done, the success or failure of professional marriage counseling begins and ends with each partner. If both are on board, willing to fully commit to treatment, and willing to find the right professional, the possibility of success is great. Reconciliation can only be hindered if any of those things fall out of line. So, if your marriage is on the rocks, pay attention to the signs and decide for yourself which path you want to follow.
BMWK, if your marriage is on the rocks, are you ready to turn things around?