Dear Dr. Buckingham,
My husband and I discussed the possibility of starting marriage therapy after reading several of your articles. We are excited about the possibility, but do not know what to expect. We have been married for 15 years now, but I do not feel that I know my husband well. In fact, I am not sure if I know myself well.
We argue over little things and are finding it more and more difficult to coexist under the same roof. I pleaded with my husband to attend therapy and he agreed. We want our marriage to work, but are anxious about this therapy thing. My husband does not believe in therapy, but said that he would participate if he finds value in it. I am concerned that he is going into therapy with a negative perspective.
He is very anxious about sharing information. I want to reassure him that therapy will help us, but I do not know enough. We do not know anyone who has attended therapy. Please help me. What is Marriage Therapy Like?
A Hopeful Wife
Dear Hopeful Wife,
First, I want to commend you for taking action to save your marriage. I understand your husband’s concerns. Talking to strangers about personal issues can be anxiety provoking for most people. However, I can assure you that attending therapy is the best thing that you all can do to save your marriage.
Marital therapy is a process whereby a trained therapist, like myself, talk with you about your problems and helps solve them. The therapist will spend the first session explaining limits of confidentiality and gathering information from you and your husband.
Subsequent sessions will be used to develop a treatment plan that includes goals, objectives and outcome measures. Please keep in mind that marital therapy is designed to help both partners learn to function better as a team. Most therapists use a systems approach to address relationship dynamics with the primary focus being to help both members relate to each other.
I often remind couples that they cannot have a relationship without being able to relate. Communication techniques such as the Speaker-Listener and Five Secrets of Listening are taught to help couples understand the importance of resolving problems through effective communication.
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Marital therapy might also involve behavior modification. This type of therapy helps you and your spouse address and attempt to change dysfunctional patterns of behavior. Depending on what you and your husband present in therapy, sessions might focus on addressing unresolved issues that stem from the past or sessions might be solution-focused instead of problem-focused.
Through processing, you and your husband will learn how to promote and embrace accountability. This is important because hundreds of couples struggle because individuals fail to see or accept their role in creating or contributing to problems in their relationships. The therapist will help you and your husband strive to become more introspective and to be open to self-assessment.
Make sure that you find someone who is trained to provide marital therapy. Not every therapist is qualified to do couples counseling. Selecting the right therapist will significantly impact your experience. If you do not feel a connection with the therapist by the fourth session, revaluate the process and therapist.
Good luck with the conversation with your husband. Let him know that the both of you will spend time with a therapist who has both parties’ interest in mind. Also, let him know that what is said in therapy remains in therapy.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.