Having been a qualified marriage counsellor for 24 years, you can no doubt guess my answer to that question!
Marriage counselling works... but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
There's no guarantee, and much depends on how willing to engage with the counselling process you and your partner are.
So, let me expand a little, starting with timing…
The sooner you get help the more likely it is that marriage counselling will work. The more ingrained your relationship problems become, the more difficult it may be to change your attitudes towards the issues. That means it becomes more difficult to unpick the problems and change behaviours.
So, since you’re currently asking: "Does marriage counselling work?", I can only encourage you not to put off going any longer.
You can never go too early for marriage counselling, but you can most definitely go too late!
I’d really encourage you to make an appointment as soon as possible, even if your partner isn't keen right now. We, as marriage counsellors, are trained to help even the most reluctant clients feel at ease enough to be able to share their stories.
What else, then, makes marriage counselling work?
It would be natural for you to hope and maybe expect that your counsellor will agree with your point of view. Of course you feel that you're right. ;-)
However, you need to be prepared to be challenged too.
Marriage counsellors don't think in terms of right and wrong, but rather in terms of what's helpful or not for these partners in this relationship. It's not the counsellor’s task to police your relationship and neither will they blame and shame your partner or you.
Marriage counselling isn't going to work if you're not prepared to open up as best as you can, and to be honest and open to making changes.
I have plenty more information on what happens in marriage counselling so click the link to discover what you can expect.
Here are some more notes on what makes marriage counselling work:
Choosing the counsellor
You'll want to be sure that you get to see a counsellor specifically qualified in marriage counselling. Nothing else will do!
It should not be someone who has been trained to counsel individuals and offers couples therapy having topped up their training with a few weekend workshops. Read my article on how to find a counsellor: Counselling-Therapy.
Dealing with infidelity
If you're cheating on your partner, don't expect marriage counselling to work whilst you're keeping that secret or have no intention of ending the affair.
Although your counsellor won't be able to read your mind, he or she is very likely to notice that things don’t quite seem to add up. See my article: Dealing with infidelity.
Dealing with abuse
If you're in an abusive relationship, marriage counselling or couples therapy isn't for you. I do urge you to seek counselling for yourself however.
Alternatively, contact one of the organisations listed below my article on the signs of an abusive relationship. See also: Signs of emotional abuse.
Dealing with addictions
If you or your partner are suffering from a substance addiction, or possibly any other addiction, be prepared to seek treatment for that separately. Your counsellor can help you to explore your options.
See also my article: Living with an alcoholic.
Ready to separate or divorce?
If you've already decided that you want a divorce, marriage counselling isn't going to work.
It's fairer to be upfront with your partner. Your partner may otherwise remain hopeful of saving the marriage. See my articles: How to end a long-term relationship and Divorce tips for help if you know it's over.
Having said that, you can certainly go for divorce counselling together to help ensure a quicker and less acrimonious divorce.
I can promise you that when marriage counselling works, you'll end up with a great deal more self-knowledge. Self-awareness increases your ability to manage your feelings and make better choices on how you'll deal with an issue.
You'll understand your partner much better too. And, you will feel sooo relieved and positive again. It'll feel like that black cloud that's been hanging above your head has disappeared and the sun is shining again - even if, at times, it's still a watery one.
As I've mentioned in my article on couples counselling, the two of you will have had a chance to air your differences - in detail - without being constantly interrupted. That, often unexpected, detail and the counsellor's perspective on what's happening between the two of you will have helped you resolve some of your differences.
Other differences may well remain. However, marriage counselling then works to increase your understanding and acceptance of any intractable differences (spoiler alert: almost every couple has them!).
Expert relationship advice also helps you gain tools to help keep the communication flowing during difficult times. And I can almost guarantee that you will encounter those - it's called life! Almost everybody gets dealt the occasional, or even frequent, left-hookers!
Ideally, I'd like the two of you to be present together in the office of a marriage counsellor.
However, I'm well aware that marriage counselling isn’t available everywhere. It can also be really challenging to organise regular sessions if you both work shifts and/or you have children at home.
Fortunately, these days you can get marriage counselling online (so there’s really no excuse not to…!).
If you’ve reached the point where you’re asking if marriage counselling works, then I urge you to put your doubts to one side and just go for it.
If the alternative is relationship problems and upset, or even the spectre of divorce looming on the horizon, what have you really got to lose?
I really hope this article is of help to you. :-)
I frequently update my articles based on feedback, therefore I really value your vote.
Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)