How Can Marriage Counselling Help?
Regardless of how long you have been married, or the nature of your marital problems, marriage counselling can offer huge benefits to a married couple. Studies show that couples who receive therapeutic treatment are on average 70-80% better off than couples who don’t receive treatment (1). Even when your problems don’t seem that major or significant, marriage counselling can still benefit a couple striving to maintain a successful marriage – in fact Marriage Counselling is best commenced before conflict becomes entrenched. Nonetheless, Marriage Counselling can help to repair damaged marriages, or in cases where the parties don’t want to continue, can ease the process of separation.
The main benefits of marriage counselling to any marriage include:
- Improved Communication and Less Arguments
- Better Agreement or Consensus on Issues in the Marriage
- Restored Intimacy
- Renewed love, joy and hope.
HOW CAN MARRIAGE COUNSELLING IMPROVE OUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS?
One of the areas where marriage counselling can definitely benefit a married couple is in the arena of communication skills. Relationships are one of the most difficult things we attempt as humans and communicating with each other is one of the single most problematic areas for many married couples. Working with a marriage counsellor can help each partner to learn to more carefully listen to what is being communicated to them, to reflect that message back to their partner and to then carefully proceed to send their own message back to their spouse. This process is called “active listening”. It is one of the most effective communication techniques that can be taught by a marriage counsellor or psychologist because active listening results in more satisfying and rewarding interactions between partners (2).
An active listening conversation might sound something like this:
Greg: I have absolutely had it with George today! Nothing I say to him seems to make a difference to him and I’m tired of feeling like I am talking to a wall! (Expressing emotions, frustration and anger. Using “I” statements to claim his own emotions.)
Susan: Sounds like you are really frustrated with George, and pretty upset too. What are you trying to talk to him about? (Reflecting back what Greg has said to her and asking for more information – showing interest.)
Greg: Yes I am totally frustrated with him! I have told him several times today that I need this order completed no later than tomorrow because a client has been waiting on it and he just keeps blowing me off. (Verifies that Susan received the message clearly and expanding on his feelings and the reasons behind them.)
Susan: I’m sorry it has been so frustrating. (Again verifying that she is receiving Greg’s message. Rather than offering solutions, Susan is instead just offering support and validation to Greg.)
As the conversation continues, each spouse will take turns offering their own message and letting it be verified by their partner before contributing their own message.
This form of communication takes more effort and may even take longer because it is “active” and does not allow us to jump forward to think about our own contribution until we have taken the time to verify the message we are receiving. However, the tremendous benefit from using active listening as a communication skill is that it avoids misunderstandings, improves personal responsibility for emotions, allows for clearer messages to be sent and improves empathy. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney)
HOW CAN MARRIAGE COUNSELLING HELP US RENEGOTIATE OUR MARITAL AGREEMENTS?
Another benefit of marriage counselling is that it can be an opportunity to renegotiate marital agreements that were made in the past. Often, it can be difficult for a couple to approach marriage agreements (agreements about roles, responsibilities, finances, etc). Often these agreements have been reached at the beginning of a relationship at a time when we were younger and perhaps less experienced in life and in marriage. However, over time, our needs and desires may change and the role we were once comfortable in may become restrictive or uncomfortable.
A prime example of this is a spouse who has agreed to set aside their own career in order to raise a family, allowing the other spouse to focus their attention on being the primary breadwinner for the family. While the family is young, this may be an entirely comfortable and even enjoyable agreement. However, once the children grow older and begin to be more independent, either as teenagers or into early adulthood, the stay-at-home spouse may want to return to the workforce at least part time.
Approaching changing this agreement may be difficult because it may upset the family balance or financial arrangements. By working with a marriage counsellor, marriage agreements can be approached and renegotiated with the moderating force of the counsellor’s presence available. Additionally, they may be able to offer suggestions that may not have occurred to the couple that may ease the negotiations or the transition to a new agreement.
HOW DO WE RECONNECT AND RECOMMIT TO EACH OTHER?
One issue that couples may bring to marriage counselling is a desire to reconnect and recommit to their marriage. If you have been married for a number of years, it can be challenging to come up with new and innovative ways to reconnect. Over time, we become settled in a rhythm and routine that may eventually become mundane and even boring. Several sessions with a marriage counsellor or psychologist can help a married couple look at each other with fresh eyes.
Very often a marriage counsellor will give weekly assignments to be completed between sessions to aid the process towards restored intimacy and reconnection. These assignments can be as simple as having a date night instead of eating at home every evening or as intimate as asking a couple to engage in sexual activities they might find exciting and imaginative. With a new vision of each other and increased feelings of intimacy and emotional commitment, a couple may feel more reconnected to each other and encourage them to recommit to their marriage. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney)
WHAT IS A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL MARRIAGE COUNSELLOR?
At Associated Counsellors and Psychologists all therapists belong to professional associations that require high levels of education, supervision and demonstrated experience in the field of psychology. Our associated therapists are all professionally insured. They are experienced working with married couples and meet the highest ethical standards. Our associates can assist with almost any issues that couples present, ranging from commitment issues to sexual difficulties to blended families.
If you and your spouse would like to meet with a qualified marriage counsellor or would like further advice, please feel free to contact Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney.
We welcome your enquiry.
ASSOCIATED RELATIONSHIP & MARRIAGE COUNSELLORS SYDNEY
TEL: (02) 8002 1020
Marriage Counselling across Sydney at:
Sydney CBD, Surry Hills, Bondi Junction, Glebe, Cremorne & at Gosford on the Central Coast.
Petch, J., Lee, J., Huntingdon, B., & Murray, J. (2014). Couple counselling outcomes in an Australian not for profit: Evidence for the effectiveness of couple counselling conducted within routine practice. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 35(4), 445-461.
Pasupathi, M., Carstensen, L. L., Levenson, R. W., & Gottman, J. M. (1999). Responsive listening in long-married couples: A psycholinguistic perspective. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, (23), 173-193.