What to expect in couples counselling or marriage guidance
Answering your questions about marriage counselling

In couple counselling - marriage guidance counselling, relationship counselling or pre-marriage counselling, the counsellor aims to give you both equal time and attention. This will help you each to get your side of the story across, without interruptions or rows.

Marriage counselling or relationship counselling can be very helpful even if your partner doesn't want to go. The counsellor will be able to help you without judging either one of you and remaining aware of 'the empty seat'.

This page will help you get a better insight into what exactly happens in couple counselling.

Not at all keen on couples counselling? Read on...

Alternatives to visiting a couple counsellor

Letters: LOVE

I know there are lots of reasons why people don't like the idea of counselling - let alone couple counselling. However, you can turn the tide all by yourself if your partner seems to have lost the will to work on your relationship.

The best resource I can recommend for you - whether or not your partner is willing to help to make things better - is Save My Relationship/Marriage by Lee Baucom, PhD. As you'll see, Lee has no regard for badly trained couple counsellors!

Doubtful about the quality of couple counselling?

I do agree that an awful lot of counsellors 'dabble' in couple counselling. They think that they can do the job based on their training in counselling individuals. WRONG! Couple counselling is very different!

Learn how to find a good (relationship) counsellor.

Assuming you have found the right counsellor, here's what marriage or couples counselling can do for you...

15 ways that marriage guidance or pre-marriage counselling can help

Marriage or couples counselling can help you decide what the future might hold for each one of you, and for you as a couple. In marriage counselling you're encouraged and supported to:

  1. explain your hopes, dreams and concerns
  2. understand each other better - one of the greatest benefits of couple counselling
  3. manage differences of opinion
  4. improve relationship communication
  5. explore whether there's still hope, or whether to end the relationship
  6. learn problem solving strategies
  7. identify your ’wants’ and needs
  8. identify what works well in your relationship or marriage -– there are always things that are going well!
  9. process and move on from the disappointments, hurts and anger
  10. identify your personal innate and acquired resources
  11. identify your resources as a couple
  12. explore the potential impact of a breakup - positive and negative
  13. cope with and manage you losses if it's your decision to separate
  14. come to terms with, heal and move on when dealing with infidelity
  15. get to know yourself better and each other better

A couple counsellor knows that often one of the partners is coming along reluctantly for relationship or marriage counselling. A good counsellor will make every effort to help that person feel at ease.

Of course a partner may also be reluctant if he or she is having an affair. Naturally they'll fear being found out. An experienced couples counsellor will sense when there's information missing... but won't be able to read minds!

What not to expect from couple/marriage counselling

What you will NOT get in relationship or couples counselling is:

  • advice to end your relationship, without you having come to that conclusion yourself (though your counsellor will discuss your options with you, particularly if you're in an abusive relationship)
  • an opinion on your partner in terms of 'good' or 'bad'
  • destructive criticism about behaviours, actions and opinions
  • hope that your counsellor can change your partner

Your partner won't go for couple counselling?

Often one of the partners doesn't want to go for couple counselling - for whatever reason. Very often it's the male partner. If you really think that relationship or marriage counselling can help and your husband or wife won't go - then you can start by yourself. Your partner may decide to join you at a later stage.

Individual counselling can still help you to:

  • consider and manage the effects on the people around you of changes in you, your circumstances and your decisions
  • explore the role you might play in your relationship problem - without judgement
  • explore your options in terms of your future
  • improve your communication skills if necessary
  • identify and deal with any personal - as well as relationship - problems
  • get support if you or your partner end your relationship or marriage, from someone who is completely independent

You can speak to a qualified counsellor now, right from my website.

Now there's another option to couples therapy

Just watch this video from the University of Rochester...

Not sure it's couple counselling you need?

Not sure at all that you want to save your relationship or marriage?  This Relationship Compatibility Quiz will help you think through all the important issues so that you can make the right decision.

Do you suspect that your partner may be about to leave you? In this case, I want you to be prepared. It's all too easy to do all the wrong things, such as becoming 'clingy' with constant texting, phone calls etc.  To find out what you should be doing, hop over to my page on how to stand any chance of a reconciliation.

Pre-marriage counselling

Pre-marriage counselling is a really good idea before you tie the knot. So many problems can be sorted before you both commit yourself to the marriage, including...

... arguing
... general communication problems
... issues with in-laws
... financial problems
... problems with the children (if it's not your first marriage)
... sexual problems 

It may feel difficult to get the relationship you want when it seems so much is stacked up against you. You might feel it's impossible to stop the marriage preparations. The thought of telling your future wife or husband that you're worried may fill you with horror. Yet in secret, you wonder if you should go ahead with it all.

The good news is that you could perhaps consider talking to your partner about making a really positive step. You're much more likely to get a positive answer if you say you want to invest in the marriage by going for pre-marriage counselling.

If you're both committed to sorting things out, there's every chance that you can have the relationship and marriage you want.  A couple/marriage counsellor can certainly help you on your way.

Couple sitting on a bench, talking

Taking responsibility for 'personal stuff'

Sorting out your 'personal stuff' is very likely to have a positive impact on your relationship or marriage. You may have been trying to pretend for years that you're over those emotional problems! However, deep down you know that they are still there.

Just think how much better you could be feeling if you finally dealt with all that 'stuff' - traumas and difficulties in the past. It could release emotional and physical energy that you could re-invest in other areas of your life. It's also very likely to contribute towards you having the relationship you want.

Take that first step now and ask the advice of a qualified online counsellor for immediate and confidential support and advice.

No other way but to end the relationship or marriage?

Perhaps you've tried all you can do to try and save your relationship or marriage, including marriage guidance or relationship counselling. Maybe you can see no other way forward but to end your relationship.

If you're ending your relationship, I anticipate that you might be struggling for a while - emotionally for sure, but also socially and financially. It's completely normal at this time to suffer grief, feel low/depressed, out of control, angry, upset and so on.

Don't let anybody tell you when you should be over that!

Happy couple on holiday

All your marriage counselling questions answered?

A couple counsellor should be happy to talk with you on the phone about what you can expect from marriage guidance or couple counselling.

However, he or she is unlikely to have a lengthy conversation with you about your difficulties. This is to prevent starting the journey with a knowledge of the problem from one partner's perspective. But you'd be very welcome to chat about what it's like to go for couple counselling or even pre-marriage counselling.

Really not keen on going for couples counselling?  

Want to have another go at trying to sort it yourself?  

Remember my advice earlier on this page - you can make a real difference all by yourself with Save my Marriage/Relationship.

Good luck - I know you can do it!

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Related articles

Free 3-part Relationship Video Course
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How to Find a Counsellor
What is Human Givens Therapy?
What are the Human Givens?
Divorce Advice and Counselling
How to Choose the Best Divorce Lawyer
How to Get over a Nervous Breakdown
Relationship Quizzes
How to Survive Infidelity

Other helpful links

University of Rochester - Divorce Rate Cut in Half
International Association for Relationship Research

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Elly Prior

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It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

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