Today in Detangle
Marriage counseling is worth trying. My husband and I started doing this five years ago, and we stopped after three years. It worked. We still have arguments, but we’ve learned to have healthy ones. We had gotten to the point where we didn’t even talk about our couple’s life, but about things like food, household duties, and so on. That’s one reason why you should consider marriage counseling. But what about others?
Whether you’ve been married for one year or one decade, all couples can benefit from attending some form of counseling. One of the greatest things about couples counseling is that the sessions are less expensive than seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist.
There, you’ll be taught how to communicate efficiently and heal the cracks in your relationship. You and your partner can either try it as a precaution for the future or when you really feel like your relationship is falling apart.
Don’t think of marriage counseling as a failure, but as a saving grace! Seeing a couples therapist could be the best thing you and your partner ever did for your marriage.
Here are 7 reasons to seek marriage counseling!
1. You’ve Grown Apart
After years of marriage, some couples are no longer willing to work on their relationships. As a result, most of them end up breaking up. According to David Woodsfellow, a couples therapist and clinical psychologist, divorce incidence peaks at different times.
He also added that the first seven years are detrimental to a relationship (usually, the peak is in the 7th year). The second wave, which is more of a growing-apart divorce, occurs after about 21 years of marriage.
“Many couples would say ‘We have a household together, but there’s no intimacy or connection. But it doesn’t really matter since we’re both so busy,’ ” says Tracy Ross, a family therapist in New York City.
Couples often forget why they fell in love and what brought them together in the first place. If you’ve been with someone for a long time, you certainly have built memories, a history, and a life narrative that you cannot recoup with someone else. Marriage counseling can help reignite that.
2. You Clash About Money
Money has always been a sensitive topic for couples, but add it to other late-in-life challenges that baby boomers deal with—potential health issues, lousy interest rates, and, of course, fewer years of earning power—and you’ve got the perfect context for financial friction.
According to a recent poll, 36% of married people between 55 and 65 years old claimed money matters cause arguments with spouses.
Conflicts may result from different spending styles or differences over how to spend and save. Not having enough money can also cause a lot of stress, so partners can argue about it. According to Ed Coambs, a couples counselor in Matthews, North Carolina, money can evoke strong feelings of anxiety, envy, and anger.
Therapy helps people understand better their relationship with money, which shapes their thoughts about other people and about themselves. Often, the way we handle and view finances is linked to past experiences, experts explain. If you and your spouse are always arguing about money, marriage counseling can help both of you develop more financial empathy for one another.
3. Someone Has Been Unfaithful
One of the most common reasons why couples seek therapy is to try to repair a breach of trust—in other words, cheating. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s latest data, 25% of married men and 15% of married women report having had an extramarital affair.
Of course, cheating doesn’t only mean physical infidelity. Being secretive and hiding something is still a form of betrayal. You may reconnect with a former love through social media and think, ‘It’s harmless; we’re just catching up’. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes more.
Experts point out that infidelity means different things to lots of different people. It’s important that you and your spouse agree on the same definition of fidelity. If you’re tempted to cheat, it’s better to try some form of therapy now rather than deal with the consequences later.
And if you grew apart from your spouse because they had an affair, you should know there’s definitely a way back. According to experts, a third of married couples recover after an affair. However, they point out that they are usually the ones who seek marriage counseling.
By the way, here’s a book that talks about infidelity and ways you can save your marriage.
4. You Have a Lot of Unproductive, Hurtful Arguments
Every person handles conflicts in their own way. Some of us come back when things get heated; others thrive on confrontation. And there are also the passive-aggressive types. Big fights can leave behind hurt feelings and tears, but frequent arguments can be just as disastrous. According to Ross, couples can get into a repetitive loop where it’s the same conflict over and over.
An argument isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself; rather, it’s the way partners handle the disagreement that makes it destructive. In other words, how you say something is more important than what you say.
Marriage counseling can help you diffuse conflicts in a healthy way—respectfully and reasonably. Woodsfellow points out that how you start a conversation is crucial. Instead of throwing out something aggressive such as “Why did you do this?” experts recommend trying a more encouraging tone like “Help me understand better why you feel this way.”
5. You’re Going Through a Big Transition
Even if you and your spouse are getting along just fine, a big transition can influence the dynamics of your relationship. According to experts, different copying styles inevitably lead to friction.
It could be retirement, an illness, or having your adult child move out. “In the past, your kids may have occupied a significant amount of energy and time,” Coambs says. “Then they leave, and if you and your spouse haven’t been nurturing your couple’s life at the same level, you may look at each other and think, ‘I don’t know who you are’.
Finding yourself staying at home all the time after getting retired is also a big chance that comes with a different set of challenges. If your spouse isn’t supportive or doesn’t understand the stress, it can stir up feelings of resentment and frustration.
Couples therapy can help you adjust to the new normal by reconnecting with your partner.
6. Your Love Life’s Lacking
According to one study, 2,371 recently divorced people were asked to name the reasons for their split. The top reason was a lack of intimacy or love (47% of the participants gave this answer).
For some, it’s a lackluster intimate life. According to Amy McManus, a Los Angeles-based family therapist, years of doing the same thing between the sheets can make intimacy less enjoyable. Sometimes you’re simply exhausted, and feeling frisky feels like one more task to check off the to-do list.
Medication side effects, medical issues, and some changes in your body, such as menopause, can also make physical intimacy difficult for some couples.
But little intimacies, such as small gestures of kindness, listening to your partner’s stories, and an occasional peck on the cheek, can be just as important for keeping your relationship healthy and strong.
As long as you and your partner are satisfied with your level of intimacy, there isn’t really an issue, McManus notes. Couples counseling is something to think about if you or your partner are unhappy with how things are going in the bedroom… or not.
7. You Want To Have an Amicable Divorce or Avoid One
According to Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry, if a married couple seeks therapy, they have thought about divorce but are willing to see if the marriage is salvageable.
Sometimes married couples have mixed agendas. One partner wants to get divorced, while the other one wants to save the marriage. In cases like these, counseling can help spouses decide whether divorce is the answer to their problems or what needs to change if they want to save the relationship.
If it’s become clear that the marriage cannot work, therapy can help with a less toxic split. In fact, experts say that not being able to let go is what often leads to messy divorces. If you and your partner can get past blaming each other and understand how you got there, you can move on in a healthy way that does less damage.
You may also want to read 10 Ways to Find Love After Divorce.