People often seem shocked when I tell them that all couples can benefit from counseling.
I think that response comes from the idea that marriage counseling is only for helping couples get through a crisis. It’s not. The research has shown us that couples tend to make the call for counseling, on the average, six years later than they should have. Think about that. Six years after the optimal moment. And that is the average! What that tells me is that couples in America are, for some reason, struggling along with each other and their difficulties instead of making the call to get the guidance they need.
Couples counseling can benefit any significant relationship because the process is ultimately more about guidance and the facilitation of healthy communication than it is about fixing a problem or crisis. Couples counseling works because in its most basic form, it is a trained third party helping the two members of the couple make sense of their issues and find the courage to talk through all those topics that together they have come to avoid. Imagine how much easier the process would have been if the couple in crisis who comes in for counseling had come in years earlier when things felt rough but not horrible. Think of the grief they could have saved themselves by getting into counseling earlier.
That being said, most couples do come in during a crisis. They often feel horrible about how they have been treating each other. They often wonder if their marriage can be saved. The truth is that any marriage can bring out the worst in people or the best in people and I am often heard saying that the same marriage has the ability to bring out either. When a couple initially comes in for counseling it is almost always true that their relationship has been bringing out the worst in them for some time. They usually look so relieved to hear that there is hope and that their marriage can also, once again, be one that brings out the best in them.
As we meet weekly and untangle their issues, the coupe learns to see their partner as a teammate. I often tell people in my office that it is the two of them against the world and that is a true statement. As we uncover the assumptions and misconceptions that have contributed to the couple’s difficulties, the feeling of safety in the relationship grows. That newfound safety fosters openness and facilitates a deeper connection for the couple. There is nothing quite like watching this happen. It is truly a sacred experience.
Couples often come in for counseling in crisis; this is true. More often then not however, they end therapy having gotten to a level in their relationship they never could have dreamed existed. When I say that all couples can benefit from counseling what I am saying is that I firmly believe there is a “next level” for all couples and that counseling can help each couple achieve that.