When Your Marriage Needs Counseling

If your marriage is having problems, do not wait too long to seek professional help. Marriage counseling (also called couples’ therapy) can be very effective, especially if couples seek it out sooner rather than later.

Start by finding a counselor who specializes in marriage or couples therapy. They are out there and willing to help. You may have to meet with more than one to find the right fit. It’s important that both spouses feel comfortable with the therapist, so keep trying until you find the right person.The Best Online Marriage Counseling Programs

Do You Need Marriage Counseling?

Consider these questions about yourself, your partner, and your marriage.

  • Did you marry at an early age?
  • Did you not graduate from high school?
  • Are you in a lower income bracket?
  • Are you in an interfaith marriage?
  • Did your parents divorce?
  • Do you often criticize one another?
  • Is there a lot of defensiveness in your marriage?
  • Do you tend to withdraw from one another?
  • Do you feel contempt and anger for one another?
  • Do you believe your communication is poor?
  • Is there a presence of infidelity, addiction, or abuse in your marriage?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then you are statistically higher risk for divorce. It does not mean that divorce is inevitable. But it may mean that you have to work much harder to keep your relationship on track. A marriage counselor can help you with that work.

Spouses who have realistic expectations of one another and their marriage, communicate well, use conflict resolution skills, and are compatible with one another are less at risk for divorce. They still may benefit from counseling at times of transition or simply to reinforce their communication skills and strong connection.

The Effectiveness of Marriage Counseling

The most studied, and effective, form of treatment is emotionally-focused couples therapy (EFT) developed by Dr. Sue Johnson. Research shows that this treatment is long-lasting and helpful with those of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well.

One 2017 study, for example, looked at the effectiveness of couples’ therapy in a group of veterans, with variation in age and race, and found it to be generally effective, with relationships still improved 18 months after treatment. Another study from 2017 also found improvements lasting 24 months after treatment. Research published in 2015 found EFT helpful in couples experiencing infertility.

There are also ways to gauge if counseling will actually work for your marriage. Counselors suggest that different types of couples may get more out of marriage counseling.