You may be in marriage counseling currently, or maybe you are thinking about going to marriage counseling. How do you know if it’s working? Marriage counseling can be a mysterious process, so I have broken down for you 7 ways you can tell if marriage counseling is working for you.
Here they are:
1. You both click with the therapist.
As a client, you want to feel like your client “gets you.” And in a couples counseling situation, you want to feel like you both are feeling understood and heard. The art of good marriage counseling entails both people feeling understood and both understanding that they need to change.
Oftentimes when I ask why a couple switched therapists, they will say that they felt that their therapist “took sides” or “didn’t understand my side of the story.”
When both parties feel heard, it creates a collaborative atmosphere. When you both feel you are on the same side, the problem solving is easy.
2. You are understanding new things about your partner you didn’t know before.
Understanding is the foundation for any healing.
When marriage counseling is working, you are able to uncover things you might not be able to uncover on your own. You are able to share things or make connections from the past to the present that you weren’t able to do before.
Maybe you didn’t know that your partner’s jealousy is connected to their father cheating on their mother and the pain they experienced from that. Or maybe you didn’t understand that the way you communicate with your partner hurts them deeply because it reminds them of when they were bullied as a kid.
Sometimes you get clarity on things that you previously misunderstood. Maybe you feel rejected by your partner because you feel they do not want to spend time with you. However, you might find out in therapy that your partner actually feels rejected by YOU, so they shut down.
Having a deeper understanding of your partner can help you move forward in your relationship goals, and a good marriage counselor should be able to uncover the things that need to be clarified and understood.
3. You are able to talk about things that you weren’t able to in the past.
In your current relationship, there may be certain topics you just don’t touch because every time you talk about it, it would end up in an argument. As a result, you both have a mountain of issues underneath the rug, with no intention of tackling any of them, for fear of conflict.
If marriage counseling is working, you are able to bring out these issues and come to understanding and resolution. Your counselor is able to take leadership and allow you both to speak openly and honestly. However, your counselor is also able to take control of the situation if they feel the conversation is getting out of hand, and bring both parties back to a grounded place.
4. You leave the session feeling like “I’m glad we’re doing this. “
Marriage therapy is often like exercise. While you are there, you work hard (but not to the point of injury!). You also feel like you are being guided along the way. And when you are done, even though you may feel tired, you feel glad that you did it.
In marriage counseling, if it is working, you may feel you are working hard, opening yourself up to uncomfortable emotions and issues. However, you feel that your therapist is able to take control and prevent any potential damage (e.g. arguments) so that you can discuss your issues productively.
When you leave the office, you may feel tired, exhausted, and raw. However, you feel that you have done something productive, that you have learned something, and you feel that you moved forward in your relationship goals.
5. You don’t feel stuck anymore.
In the past, you may have felt like you and your partner were moving in circles, arguing about the same thing with no resolution. The worst part is that you didn’t know how to get out of this cycle.
If marriage counseling is working, you will have a better understanding of your pattern and have an understanding of what both of you need to do to get out of the cycle.
You no longer feel like you are paralyzed with fear, anger, or sadness the next time you get into an argument. Marriage counseling should provide you tools to use the next time you are stuck.
6. You are able to see your partner in a different light.
When you are stuck in a negative pattern, we often tend to have a negative lens towards the other person. Everything that they do is negative. And even if it’s positive, you may see it as having a negative intention.
If marriage counseling is working, you may be able to see, at least for the moment, that maybe your partner has some worthy traits about them. Maybe they do love you; maybe they do care.
You may be able to give your partner the benefit of the doubt instead of immediately jump to a negative conclusion. This should be happening in marriage counseling if it is working.
7. You don’t leave feeling like someone is right and someone is wrong.
If marriage counseling is working, you know that both of you had a part in it. You also understand both people’s responsibility in the creation of the problem, but also the solution.
In some occasions, if one person really did create the problem (for example, someone cheated in a good marriage), but both people now have a responsibility to solve the problem, either together or separately.
Marriage counseling is both an investment of time and money. It is also an investment of emotional and mental energy. Investments can be risky. But we often invest in things that we hope will pay off big in the end.
Marriage counseling can be vague in terms of whether or not it is working. There is no scorecard or blood test you can use to measure the health of your marriage. However, there are some things you can look at to measure whether or not marriage counseling is helping your marriage move forward.
Note that you don’t have to hit every singe point. There may be some that you’d like to add, or there may be some that are not relevant to you.
And at the end of the day, only you can decide if your marriage is moving forward and if marriage counseling is working. Take that time to assess and reflect and use the resources that are available to reach your relationship goals.
About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling, including dating, marital and family relationships. If you are curious about marriage counseling and want to learn more about Lia and how she can help fix your relationship or help you reach your relationship goals, click here.