Marriage isn’t easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or hasn’t been married for very long. A good marriage takes work. It takes openness, honesty, clear communication and trust. And those things can become difficult at times, especially when you’ve been together for years. At some point, you may even consider going through the process of divorce in South Africa. But having those thoughts don’t necessarily mean that your marriage is over.
Your marriage may very well be worth saving. Remember, you made a commitment and once upon a time your partner made you the happiest you’ve ever been. That’s at least something to hold onto when your marriage is on the rocks.
So, what do you do when you feel like your marriage is falling apart and you want to save it before it’s too late? Well, couple’s counselling is a good idea. And there’s nothing shameful about it. It’s not admitting defeat, it’s quite the opposite actually. Even celebrity couples like Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are vocal about how couple’s therapy has strengthened their relationship.
The thing is, if you do plan on seeking help from a professional, you have to be prepared to put in the work. So, here is some advice on how to make the most of marriage counselling.
Be open to it
The first step to allowing a couple’s counsellor to do their job and do it well is to be open to it. It doesn’t matter whether you or your partner suggested it, you both have to be open to saving your marriage. You can’t think about it as a last resort. Instead, you need to think about it as a necessary step to sustain your relationship and go back to a happy place with your partner.
You need to voice your concerns and be completely honest in order for marriage counselling to work. It’s important to express how you’re feeling to your partner in these appointments. They need to be aware of your thoughts and emotions and you need to be aware of theirs. There is no point to therapy if you’re going to hold back. But just remember that you should never be aggressive in couple’s therapy. There will be times when things get heated, but remind yourself to breathe and try to relax.
Don’t play the blame game
In situations such as this, you may begin to feel attacked and therefore become defensive. Your partner might say something hurtful and you might want to retaliate by blaming them for an issue in your relationship. Don’t do that. It will only thicken the barrier between you and your spouse. You want to clear the air and heal, not win an argument at the expense of your marriage. Don’t try to get the therapist to take sides. You need to focus on the objective: getting your marriage back on track.
Don’t expect one session to do the trick
Therapy is an ongoing process and your marriage won’t be “fixed” after one session. There are steps you need to take to get to a happy place again and it’s going to take a while. In each session, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle different issues, voice your concerns and listen to your partner. Each counsellor has their own methods to encourage the healing process, don’t forget that. Every appointment will allow you to open up and discover new mechanisms to help your marriage function better.
Make time for therapy, even when life becomes hectic
Sure, there’s work and general life admin you have to deal with. And if you have children, you both likely have a lot going on. But you should never put off therapy because you have too much other stuff to deal with. That “other stuff” will always be there, but your partner might not be. Therapy is an ongoing process and you need to show up in order for it to work. Even skipping one appointment might give your spouse the feeling that you simply don’t care enough to be there for your relationship.
Don’t stop going to therapy because everything feels a little better
If your relationship starts to work, it’s because counselling is working. And that means that you need to carry on. Just because you and your partner haven’t argued in a few weeks, that doesn’t mean you can cancel all future appointments. You might think that you’re in an okay place, so you can take it from there. But until you two are both sure that your marriage is safe and secure, you need to carry on with counselling.
Marriage counselling can do wonders for your marriage but you have to do it the right way. Make sure you and your partner are willing to put in the work.