Why Do Some Couples Benefit from Couples Counseling While Others Do Not?

Some couples come in for counseling and within a few sessions they start to feel progress, while other couples do not. These couples seem stuck, they go through the motion of attending sessions yet are not experiencing the change they long for. What is the difference? Is it the counselor? Is it their partner? The answer is both yes and no. It is very important to pick a counselor that specializes in your area of concern and one that is trained, qualified and licensed to help you with your particular difficulty. You should definitely do your research, interview your potential choice, make sure they are qualified and specialized and then meet with them for an initial session to determine that you and your potential future counselor are a good fit. However, once you’ve identified a qualified counselor and determined that you feel comfortable with their style and personality, you and your partner need to put in the work to ensure that couples counseling is helpful. This includes being honest, being open, and a willingness to work toward personal growth.

If you have been in counseling for a while and you are not noticing any changes take a few things into consideration:

  1. Are you being honest? – Are you telling the truth or are you withholding important information, such as, an affair or your level of commitment to your partner and your relationship? Is there a past infidelity that you have not disclosed that is creating feelings of guilt in you?
  2. Are you willing to open up to your partner? – Are you being open about your feelings with your partner, or are you holding back? Feelings can only be addressed by your partner if they are verbalized. Are you disclosing your feelings during your therapy sessions or are you disengaged?Are you being open about your day to day life, or are you hiding information? If you mask or hide information about your job or your friendships, for example, your partner may find it hard to trust you.
  3. Are you willing to consider that you may not be in the right 100 percent of the time? Are you locked into to your options and views so much that it is difficult for your partner to feel heard and understood? Consider that you may not be right all the time and try to be open to growth and enriching your worldview via listening to others’ viewpoints.
  4. Are you expecting your partner to do all the changing? Have you set up specific changes you want your partner to make and are unwilling to move closer to them if they do not make those changes? This can turn into a really outlandish game of chicken. One of you will need to grow first, why does it need to be your partner? Consider the areas you need to change and begin expecting yourself to grow first.
  5. Are you expecting your partner to regulate you? Do you get dysregulated and want your partner (who is likely also dysregulated) to calm you down? Consider taking ownership of your own reaction and learn how to self-soothe so that you can approach your spouse from a level place and create the best chance for a healthy discussion.

If you are not willing to be honest, to be open, to consider how your own habits, hurts, and hangups are contributing to your relational distress, expect yourself to make necessary changes toward growth, and work to learn how to regulate yourself rather than relying our your partner to make all the changes, then perhaps this is not the right time for you begin counseling. 

If you have started counseling already and are at a standstill, talk to your counselor about each of these areas and determine which of these areas could use some attention and work. Couples counseling is a wonderful tool to help people in committed relationships experience safe and loving connection. If you are willing to put in the effort toward personal growth, we would be honored to work with you and your partner at The Marriage Point and facilitate your personal and relational growth. We are honored to provide you and your partner with tools, guidance and insight in a safe and supportive environment.

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