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Counseling isn’t guaranteed to save your relationship, but it can help you get emotionally and spiritually healthy. Here’s what to expect when you go to marriage counseling.
Relationship counselors often recommend books for couples to read. Desperate Marriages: Moving Toward Hope and Healing in Your Relationship by Gary Chapman may be one of those books! A few counseling sessions and a blog post about what to expect from marriage counseling isn’t enough. If you want to save your marriage, you need to put time and energy in.
“A marriage is like a journey. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.” – John Steinbeck.
What are you trying to control in your relationship – and is marriage counseling another attempt to take control? You can’t control your marriage, your spouse, or the future. The goal of marriage counseling isn’t to take your marriage where you think it should go; the goal of counseling is to uncover the root of the problem.
Marriage Counseling – Common Expectations
The counselor will save your marriage (this is not a realistic expectation of marriage counseling). Some couples think a marriage counselor will solve their communication problems, improve their sex life, and end all conflict. The truth is that marriage counseling can actually lead to a decision to split up (which isn’t what most couples expect from marriage counseling!) Read 4 Reasons Marriage Counseling Leads to Divorce.
Your spouse will change. Again, this is not a realistic expectation of marriage counseling. The only person counselling has a chance of changing is YOU, and perhaps your counselor. Don’t go into marriage counseling with the expectation that your partner will become a different person. This is foolish and unrealistic, and will set you up for disappointment and frustration.
Your marriage will improve immediately. In fact, you can expect the opposite in marriage counseling. My husband and I went to a couples communication group therapy evening, and we ended up fighting for two days after it was over. Why? Because we were trying to solve our communication problems, and this invited conflict! Conflict isn’t a bad thing in marriage, if it’s handled with love, patience, open-mindedness, and self-awareness.
If you already know therapy won’t work, read How to Save Your Marriage Without Counseling.
Your relationship may get “worse” before it gets better. This is what you can expect from marriage counseling: your relationship will be tested, poked, prodded, examined, and turned upside down. Counseling – if it’s done right – is a painful process. But, the conflict and communication difficulties you’ll encounter are short-term. The long-term result is a happier, healthier, more stable relationship.
Both you and your spouse will enjoy counseling (this is not a realistic expectation of marriage counseling). I was in counseling for almost a year before I got married, because I wanted to be as emotionally healthy and stable as possible before marriage. I did not enjoy much of it. I enjoyed the first couple of sessions, because it was fun to talk about myself to someone who was eager to listen to every word! But then it got hard. If you go to marriage counseling, you can expect not to enjoy it.
If you think you’d benefit from marriage counseling but your spouse doesn’t want to go, read How to Get Your Husband to Go to Marriage Counseling.
I welcome your thoughts on marriage counseling and expectations below! I can’t give relationship advice, but I’m always here to listen.