I have the honor and privilege of meeting and working with a wide variety of people in my practice. The same holds true for couples, who like individuals, are all unique and have their own particular attributes and strengths. Couples often contact me and ask up front if their marriage can be salvaged, or if I can help make the decision as to whether to stay together or not.
The truth is that the motivation level of the couple, as well as timing, has a direct correlation to the success of marital counseling. A couple may come in stating that they want to work on their marriage, when in fact one or both partners aren’t sure if they want to continue. Ambivalence, the sitting on the fence as to whether to work on the marriage or not, is quite common. For some couples, marriage counseling is actually divorce counseling, and the work becomes how to say goodbye in a way that makes sense.
Research by the Gottman Institute, who are at the forefront of couples research and therapy, have found that the average couple is experiencing difficulty for six years before they seek a marriage counselor and begin to actively work on their issues. Take a moment to think about that. Couples can take as much as six years or more to build up hurts and resentment before they begin to address their differences in more effective ways. There are instances when the problems in the marriage can be too deep-rooted and longstanding for the counseling to be of benefit. For other couples, they don’t or can’t honestly share their concerns with the therapist.
One of the key elements of couples counseling, or individual counseling for that matter, is goodness of fit. It’s important to choose a therapist who has experience working with couples and is a good fit for you and your partner. If one or both partners don’t feel comfortable with the therapist for any reason, that can have a negative impact on progress in therapy, as one partner may withhold their participation or quit altogether. If there isn’t a good fit with the therapist you have met, don’t give up. Continue to seek an experienced therapist that you can connect with, that you develop trust and a good working relationship with.