Marriage Counseling, Who Needs it?

By | July 8, 2009

couple in love walking counseling

Many marry with hopes of memories and many years of love and connection with their spouse. Marriage often starts with a bang: flowers, ceremony, family, then off to the honeymoon. Too often, couples lack the skills to keep the ’spark’ they started with when they first married. Many factors enter in and make marriage more than just two lovers; jobs, children, hobbies, church activities, etc can create quite the juggling act for couples.

Many, if they are not centered and personally emotionally healthy find themselves still married yet at times not happily married. Sad thing is, many don’t seek help. Often couples don’t come into therapy due to the stigma that it appears to carry in certain cultures. Within Christian culture there tends to be a stigma in some areas that therapists are for those that are failing at home or that “just need to live their faith”. Unhappy couples are not necessarily unstable, many can be very stable. In my practice I see very stable marriages that also are very unhappy. You’d ask, “How can it be stable if they are unhappy?” Well, the prospects of divorce especially with kids in aren’t very good.

Couple conflict and divorce still runs in our culture as much as some want to say it does not, and it is on the rise. While having the answers and some self-help books does help, many couples are locked in emotional gridlock can’t see with clarity due to hurt, contention, and at times bitterness thus stumble through their marriage with petty fights and quarrels that often are not ever resolved nor do they gain skills to prevent them in the future. These couples, no matter how many answers they feel they have, often cannot get patterns worked out. Patterns are ways of living that have become part of the emotional ‘dance’ or groove that couples fall into out of habit. The fact is, that some of the most solid marriages are of couples that do work on their relationship and those that do still at times experience some turbulence value their marriage high enough that they seek outside help. We are not talking months of therapy, but often 4-7 sessions to iron old or existing issues out and gain skills to better meet their spouse’s needs. With some couples that have more deep seeded issues from their families of origin or due to years of conflict and hurt, it may take longer to ferret out the past and start re-authoring new ideas, new believes, and then new ways of behaving in the marriage.

Some resources I suggest you look into if you want solid professional guidance for your marriage but want to do so through some personal reading first are by John Gottman. He’s a marriage expert, one I reference as such. He has written a book I read over a decade ago when it just hit the press and I have referred couples to countless times. The book chronicles the important elements of not merely fixing or building marriage but gives solid sound guidance in making it work. Many self-help books provide a laundry list of what I call sunshine theories, ideas that will help your marriage for a day then just when the sun sets it fades. The text is called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert and provides insights about what makes marriage last. This book can help, but if the patterns are really deep often books like this can support but it takes counseling to work through them.

Finding a good couples counselor is key; one that balances ferreting through the past and working in the now. What I mean by ‘working in the now’ is that they help you and your spouse in the present to gain skills, tools, and awareness of your dynamics and patterns. I spend time assessing the marriage but then move into helping you make changes now! Time and finances are tight for many most of the time. Making the most of your time and your marriage is part of what I and other solid therapists do.Many ask, “Well, what if my partner won’t work on it? Good question, many ask themselves this and often feel stuck. Often stating, “Why would I want to work on my marriage if he/she doesn’t want to work on it. It won’t work!” I hear that often and the fact is that often you must start with you.

Dragging your spouse in or begging usually doesn’t net good results initially anyway so taken from a long-term perspective you’d be best off starting to change you. Typically trying to change small things about you is something you can control and does make an impact on the relationship. I’m not talking about moving mountains here either; I am talking about you beginning to change your tone and body language when you talk. Simple adjustments you can make today that will have a profound impact on how your spouse sees and interacts with you. Small changes do provide a softening that can allow and create space for larger shifts to occur and discussions to be had. Feel free to visit with me more about your marriage. If you’re not looking for a major overhaul or couples therapy regarding your relationship, that is fine. I offer a 4-session marital tune-up as well, for strong couples that want to work out a few kinks and fortify the solid foundation they have.

Copyright: No part of this article in section or full may be reproduced without permission from the author Justin Stum, MS LMFT. The one and only exception is for educational purposes and only if the contact information below for the author is fully cited here in article. Justin Stum, MS LMFT, 640 E. 700 S. Suite 103, St. George Utah 84770 435-574-9193,

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