Most marriages will go through some ups and downs. Unfortunately, the downs can be miserable and result in a couple feeling “stuck”. People struggle with problems communicating, stress, parenting, sex, and disagreements about all sorts of issues. Many marriages may also face a true crisis at some point such as infidelity, loss, or addiction. No matter what the problem, a marriage counselor can provide the support, structure, and guidance necessary to help get a derailing marriage back on track.
Here are some ways that a marriage counselor can help you:
1. Stop keeping score. A counselor has only one “side”, and that’s you as a couple. This means that a good counselor considers you as a couple their client, not two separate individuals. They will remind you that this isn’t a competition about who wins the “biggest nut-job” or “complete jerk” award. In couples counseling either you as a team wins or both people lose. If your counselor sees a problem that is impacting the relationship they are going to confront you on it, period, no matter whose “side” it is on.
2. Break the ice. Couples who are having problems are often very uncomfortable talking about serious or sensitive issues. They may fear being judged, want to avoid anger or anxiety provoking topics, or believe that no matter what they say it won’t be heard. Sometimes couples simply lack the skills to articulate their thoughts and feelings appropriately. A counselor can provide a safe and structured environment that can teach you how to communicate about topics that frighten you.
3. Consider a new perspective. It’s easy for a couple to become so ingrained in a pattern of behavior that they can no longer perceive what is happening clearly. Counselors can provide an objective perspective that can help a couple uncover key causes of problems and develop and implement solutions.
4. Learn new skills and behaviors. After a counselor helps you to understand who you are and why you do what you do, their biggest task is to help you learn how to do things differently. They can teach you about new ways of communicating and dealing with conflict, how to improve emotional and physical intimacy, and how to better manage the stress in your marriage.
5. Instill hope and be a stabilizing force. This is one of the most important roles of a couples counselor, particularly for a couple facing a crisis such as infidelity. Couples in crisis feel that the bottom has fallen out of their world and often question whether or not their marriage can be saved. A marriage counselor can help to deescalate the situation, provide a foundation and framework to begin the work of recovery, and reinforce the belief that even the most troubled marriages have the potential to be saved.