What is marriage counselling?
Like other forms of counselling, marriage guidance - or counselling - is a talking therapy whereby a couple will engage with a professional counsellor to attempt to resolve issues in their relationship. Typically, married couples will use marriage counselling to help them stay together if they are considering a separation period or even a divorce. It is not just used by married couples, however. Marriage counselling is often referred to as couples counselling so that it is more inclusive for people who are not married to one another but who are, nonetheless, in a relationship.
What are the principles behind marriage counselling?
Most couples counselling uses a value-based system which is explored by the couple and their counsellor. Typically, this will try to establish what the shared values of the people concerned are because by focussing on those, it becomes possible to engage in conflict resolution. Other principles involved rely on an understanding of so-called maladaptive patterns, whereby self-destructive behaviours place the relationship under strain, for example. This might include psychological explanations of behaviour, such as attachment theory and theories concerning egotistical practices. Active listening is another concept that is usually utilised in marriage counselling.
Can marriage counselling make things worse?
On rare occasions - usually, because one or more party involved in the marriage counselling sessions is trying to disrupt them - a relationship may worsen as a result of counselling. More likely is that couples will gain some insights into their relationship. Sometimes, this means a pathway to rekindling the relationship becomes apparent. Conversely, some couples counselling sessions may make it evident that there is no future together. As such, marriage counselling tends to be more about facing up to realities than repairing something that is broken.
Can marriage counselling build trust?
In many cases where there has been a breach of trust in a relationship, marriage counselling can help to rebuild it. Again, this comes down to facing up to the reality of the situation. However remorseful one party might be to having breached trust, continual punishment for it is ultimately self-destructive in most cases, for example. Therefore, working out how to resolve the conflict, even if forgiveness may not yet be forthcoming, can help to re-establish a degree of trust.
When should you seek marriage counselling?
This is a highly personal question and one that individual people will respond to differently. Some marriage counsellors will be willing to see just one person in a couple to begin with, so don't necessarily be put off seeking help if your partner is not – or not yet – willing to take part. It is usually better to act if you think something is wrong in your relationship but can't quite put your finger on it. If you want to save your marriage following a loss - for example, after a bereavement – then couples counselling can be beneficial. Equally, it can often succeed in putting a relationship back on track following an affair.