What to expect in couples counselling or marriage guidance And how it can help your relationship

Category: Better Relationships | Author: Elly Prior | First published: 24-09-2010 | Modified: 13-08-2018

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

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

This articles will help you get a better insight into what exactly happens in couples therapy, and how it can help you and your partner navigate those troubled waters.

Not at all keen on seeing a therapist? Read on...

Better Help - affordable private online counselling. Talk with a professional therapist. Get help now...

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Alternatives to visiting a couple counsellor

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

If that sounds familiar, the best resource I can recommend - whether or not your partner is willing to help to make things better - is my Complete Guide to Saving Your Relationship.

Bad times need not mean the end of your relationship. Relationship therapy or counselling can make all the difference.

Doubtful about the quality of couples counselling?

In my view, too many therapists 'dabble' in relationship counselling. They think that they can do the job based on their training for working with individuals.


Couples counselling techniques are very different! No doubt, you'll now want to know how you can make sure you're going to see the right professional. I've got your back! Read my article on how to find a good (relationship) counsellor to discover what questions to ask.

Assuming you have found the right counsellor, here's the kind of relationship help and advice you can expect...

How (pre)marriage guidance or relationship counselling works

Seeking professional help can make it easier for you to decide what the future might hold for each of you, and for you as a couple. 

15 Ways your therapist couple counselling techniques can help

Your therapist will encourage and support you 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 your 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 and each other better

A couples counsellor knows that often one of the partners is coming along to the sessions reluctantly. A good therapist 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 fear being found out. An experienced relationship 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 won't get...

  • 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

If both you and your partner agree that counselling is what you need right now, you can seize the moment and get started straight away. Online relationship counselling can make it even easier to access the support and guidance you need. Scroll down to the blue box at the end of this page if you're ready to start today. There's no time like the present! ;-)

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 at 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 your lives together by going for pre-marriage counselling.

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

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 counselling can help and your partner 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 problems - personal, as well as joint ones
  • get support if you or your partner break up, from someone who is completely independent

Counselling doesn't always have to be face-to-face. If you're ready to get started, you can speak to an online licensed therapist today.

Now there's another option to couples therapy

Just watch this video from the University of Rochester to discover how watching movies about long-term relationships can cut the divorce rate by half...

Did you take notice of the advice to talk about your own relationship after watching the movie together?

Is it getting to the 'make or break' stage for you?

Not sure at all that you want to save your relationship or marriage? My Complete Relationship Guide and Test will help you think through all the important issues so that you can make the right decision.

Taking responsibility for 'personal stuff'

Sorting out your 'personal stuff' is very likely to have a positive impact on your interactions with your partner. 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 from 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 support and advice. I promise you - it is confidential, you won't even need to give your real name if you don't want to.

No other way but to end the relationship or marriage?

Perhaps you've tried all you can to try and save your relationship or marriage, including marriage guidance or couples 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 struggle 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!


A couples counsellor should be happy to discuss with you, at first contact, 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 only. But you'd be very welcome to chat about what it's like to go for relationship counselling or pre-marriage counselling.

Really not keen on going for couples counselling?  

Want to have another go at sorting it yourself? Then get my relations-saving guide!

I wish you all the best for your happiness. I am rooting for you. :-)

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Related articles

Free or Affordable Counselling
How to Find a Counsellor
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

Do you need help?
Talk to an online counsellor...

Your problem is never too small or too big, too silly or too complicated to ask for help from a licensed therapist.

They'll be happy to help...

Better Help - affordable, private online counselling. Talk with a licensed, professional therapist online.

I want to upfront with you - I may earn a commission from Better Help. You pay the same fee, regardless.

Images courtesy of: Daniel CJ LeeDon DeBoldLars Ploughmann