Marriage can be a difficult path to navigate and couples are often going to need a bit of expert help. If you and your partner have decided to book a therapy session with a qualified marriage counsellor, nerves will likely follow. This guide aims to make the experience of marriage counselling a little bit less daunting for couples and provides some helpful tips to set you up for success.
Tip 1: Make Sure You and Your Partner are Committed to Marriage Counselling
Therapy has proven to be highly beneficial to couples in a romantic relationship who are experiencing an array of challenges. While choosing a good therapist is a great first step, couples who are committed have the greatest chance of success.
It is very common for one partner to be more committed to the process of couples therapy. This is understandable, given the societal stigma surrounding it. However, for marriage counselling to be truly effective, both parties need to put in effort. If your spouse is reluctant about therapy, you should listen to their concerns but also help them to recognise the importance of what you are doing.
Your married life will not change overnight but commitment will help you get the most out of your sessions and give your relationship the best chance at success in the long run.
Tip 2: Prepare To Share Personal Information About Your Relationship With Your Therapist
Being open with your feelings is going to be one of the most difficult parts of counselling. In the lead up to your first session, it could be helpful to take a few minutes each day to think about how you’re feeling. Introspection is a great way to recognise anger, frustration and other feelings you may have been suppressing about your relationship. It will be very beneficial if these feelings are readily accessible when you see your therapist, and could help you make progress faster.
It is important to understand that couples therapy is a safe space to talk about your problems as a couple and your therapist is there to help you and your partner, not to judge.
Tip 3: Pinpoint your Problems Together
If possible, you and your spouse should have a conversation about the problems you are facing before your first appointment. You should use this to establish what you aim to get out of marriage counselling. This will help you keep track of your progress.
Here is a list of relationship-related questions that couples may wish to talk about together:
- What are our shared goals as a couple?
- Do we need to improve our conflict style?
- Do we need to work on our listening skills?
- Do we have a problem with intimacy or expressing love in our relationship?
- Are we abusive to one another?
- What sorts of issues do we frequently avoid?
It is crucial to make sure this is a constructive and calm conversation. If conflict ensues, wait for your marriage counsellor to assist you with communication during your first appointment. Therapists are trained to guide these difficult conversations. They will help you learn about your different communication styles, which will improve the way you communicate with each other over time.
Tip 4: Consider Confiding in a Friend
Although not essential, it might be helpful to confide in a close friend or family member about marriage counselling if you feel like you need additional support. Having another person that you can openly talk to, other than a therapist, is important for mental health. Often this is less about receiving advice and more about forming healthy relationships with friends/family, outside of your marriage. However, remember that this is not an excuse to gossip about your relationship or to disrespect your partner’s privacy.
Tip 5: Prepare to Take Risks
As mentioned, for marriage counselling to effectively help your relationship, a lot of work is required from both you and your spouse. This might push you out of your comfort zone. You will need to open up emotionally, implement positive changes in your marriage and work on yourself all at once. This will oftentimes go against your natural instincts and is probably going to be overwhelming at times. You should take some time now to realise that taking these risks are essential for making progress in your marriage.
Tip 6: Practice Self Care
Couples counselling is a great first step towards helping your marriage, but it can also be emotionally taxing. It is never easy to delve into your marital issues, especially when first starting out with marriage counselling. If possible, plan to have an easy day after your first appointment. Do something that makes you happy, away from your partner, so that you can take some time to reflect and recharge.
Marriage counselling can be a difficult process but is definitely worth the potential benefit. It can help you to resolve past issues and differences, and understand your wife/husband better. A healthy marriage is key to a happy life but this takes time and effort. Hopefully this guide has you feeling a bit more prepared for the journey ahead.
Note: Please seek help immediately if your partner engages in emotional or physical threats, or is abusive towards you or your children. You should always prioritise your own safety.
24/7 Crisis Lines:
- Emergency 000: For immediate danger
- 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732: For issues related to sexual assault or/and family and domestic violence.
- Mensline Australia 1300 789 978: Support for men or boys dealing with relationship issues.
- Lifeline 13 11 14: For any one experiencing personal crisis or contemplating suicide.