“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.” So goes the lyrics made famous by UK singer Adele. When a marriage starts faltering it can be really painful. It usually takes a huge emotional toll on couples. Before you know it, a snowballing ripple effect is in motion potentially impacting other family relationships and friendships, finances, housing arrangements and careers.
Is your marriage on the brink of breaking down and in need of rescuing? If that’s a situation you’re facing, then perhaps you may have wondered whether counselling can save your marriage, and if so, how? There is ample evidence that counselling is a successful therapy for supporting troubled couples in helping to restore a healthy marriage relationship. Of course, it is never without its challenges, because there’s not a one-size-fits-all simple formula to follow, nor can anyone guarantee a particular result.
Let’s be real… relationships are complex! You have two unique individuals, each having their own particular thoughts, feelings and desires, but also holding intimate knowledge of their partner’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Mixed into all of that might be a partner’s betrayal, crossing the line and breaching trust, or a relationship may have fractured over time, simply because the expectations that one partner had for the other, hasn’t been lived up to.
Each couple brings there own set of different factors to the counselling table. How those different elements are navigated and responded to by the couple, will have a determining effect on the success of their marriage therapy. Timing is everything! Early intervention is the first vital key.
Why seek Marriage Counselling? A Counsellor offers couples the advantage of an independent, impartial, neutral third party. An experienced professional counsellor will help a couple explore new perspectives, illuminate what is happening in the mindset of each partner, bring an understanding of how stuck patterns have set in, and offer strategies to prevent spiralling toxic behaviours.
So, how can a marriage encountering troubled waters make the most from Counselling? The best starting place is when a couple come with genuine motivation for healing and a strong mutual desire to make their marriage work.
Here are 7 Steps for anyone wanting to begin this journey:
- Get help early: In some cases, the cause of relationship breakdown may be the result of one major crisis. But in many cases, it’s not just one big thing at the core of the problem. More often than not, it’s a cumulative effect of a myriad of much smaller issues… unresolved minor conflicts, fault-finding and built-up resentment. The sooner you recognise and acknowledge your marriage problems, take action. The quicker you can put a stop to harmful attitudes and behaviours, the faster and greater the chance you have of de-escalating the situation and rekindling a healthier and happier relationship.
- Compromise v Cooperate: There is a world of difference between these two. If you come into counselling with the notion that it is all about making compromises, then in itself, it is limiting potential. That’s because, in essence, the parties are feeling a requirement to concede something, incur a sacrifice, or suffer loss in any negotiation. Alternatively, moving forward in a spirit of cooperation, involves a preparedness to put aside differences and work side-by-side to achieve mutually fulfilling goals. It is a more satisfying, synergistic and supportive approach.
- Listen: Let go of your own agenda. Dismiss any ideas you may have of persuading a counsellor to your own way of thinking, because it will only undermine and hinder the process. Your counsellor is trained to help unpick the root cause of problems and offer tools and strategies to help you manage and overcome barriers. Listen to your counsellor whose role it is to ultimately guide you in reaching your own decisions and choices, about what is important to you, and in the best interests of the wellbeing of the marriage relationship.
- Openness: You’ll gain so much more when you come to counselling with a willingness to be open-minded about growing in greater awareness of yourself, and your partner, rather than approaching therapy begrudgingly and resentfully. For change to happen, it first requires a deeper understanding of what it is that needs to change.
- Honesty: Be honest with yourself, your partner, and your counsellor. Tell the truth without being hurtful or blame-shaming. Be real, you’re not there to impress the counsellor. Shoulder ownership and responsibility for your own attitudes and actions, and allow yourself to be transparent and accountable.
- Find positives: Healing steps can be hastened by reflecting on and acknowledging your partner’s positive qualities. Identify the common ground that cemented the union in happier times, prior to any subsequent breakdown of the relationship. Foster open-ended dialogue and communicate your expectancy of how a brighter future might look.
- Continue as long it takes: Avoid putting a time-line on therapy. Results may come quickly, and on the other hand, it may be require a longer process. All too frequently, there are different dynamics that must be worked through. It may take a while for various layers to be peeled back before sufficient light can shine into the relationship. When the flame of a healthy revitalised relationship is brightly burning, it is much easier to project a fresh vision for the future ahead.
Remember that you’re not alone, support is available. If you are struggling in your marriage, reach out to a professional and caring marriage counsellor.
ROHAN WATSON is a member of the Australian Counselling Association and a general member of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience. He holds qualifications in Psychology, Counselling and Education from Monash University and USQ. As a Psychotherapist, Counsellor and Mental Health Researcher, Rohan is dedicated to helping unlock the potential in people to live life happily and more purposefully. His Toowoomba Counselling & Coaching service provides specialist wellbeing help to people from all walks and seasons of life by phone, video or face-to-face, both nationally and internationally.
Rohan has facilitated and delivered mental health programs across rural and remote Australia and he provides professional psychotherapy services to employees at all levels nationally through EAP based services. He is a particularly sought-after and highly skilled Marriage Counsellor and Relationship Counselling specialist. Rohan also has a special interest in the online delivery of mental wellness programs. His current research is focusing on early intervention mental wellbeing in the workplaces of Australian SMEs. Learn more.