When you choose a life partner, you are probably not thinking about the conflicts that will arise once you are married. We all dream of having a perfect marriage, but what does that really mean? As the weeks, months and years pass after getting married, finances, intimacy, in-laws, housework, a new baby and work stress are six of the most common areas that couples argue about according to The Gottman Institute.
When couples get married, sometimes their conflict resolution skills are at odds. No two people have the exact same upbringing or model of a healthy marriage, so, when the inevitable first argument comes, the couple may not have a shared language around expressing their emotions and setting healthy boundaries. Some people are good active listeners, while others struggle to make eye contact or are constant multi-taskers so their partner may feel unheard.
There are some marriages where one of the partners will take on the task of reading every book on the market about a healthy marriage in order to try to “fix” the relationship. It is possible to get a better grasp on what a healthy marriage is from reading books on your own, but this alone doesn’t always work. After learning how to communicate and implementing healthy boundaries, you may see changes in your spouse, but this process can be frustrating and painful, especially if you feel like you are the only one trying. With a marriage counselor, your sessions may be frustrating and painful at times as well, but you and your partner will be getting the same tools, so there will be less confusion and mixed messages regarding working on communication. You will also be given a safe space to each express your feelings, worries and frustrations. A good marriage counselor will make sure that both partners feel comfortable and are given the time and space to express themselves.
The key to getting the most out of marriage counselling is to take the skills you learn during your sessions and to apply them in your everyday lives. Many marriage counselors will give you and your partner homework in order to build your skill set regarding conflict resolution and interpersonal skills. Although some of the exercises may feel uncomfortable at first, once you and your partner start to reap the benefits, you will never turn back. Those uncomfortable moments may even lead to a few good laughs.
Although the thought of adding a third party into an already contentious relationship can be off putting, having an outside perspective can really help heal long standing issues between a couple. A marriage counselor may point out things that you hadn’t even noticed you were doing or can help your partner understand a point that you have been struggling to verbalize.
Not everyone understands the importance of therapy and talking about intimate marital details with a third party might not be comfortable for you or your partner. Going to a couples counselor can be scary and may make you feel like you have failed at marriage, but it is way more useful to seek help before you are anywhere near the brink of divorce. You may be surprised at how a few sessions and practicing your new tools outside of the therapist’s office can change your marriage. You and your partner may start by taking two steps forward and three steps back, but you will soon be taking long, romantic walks together.