There are a lot of people in therapy out there. Many couples in trouble turn to psychologist, therapists, marriage counselors and social workers to give them a helping hand. That's great — sometimes.
A neutral opinion, some objective advice and concise tips on mending rifts in a marriage are just what a couple needs. But there are some "don't" rules to follow about counseling for couples that will help you get the most out of the situation. You may as well get your money's worth.
- Don't have false expectations. There is no miracle cure for relationship rifts. One appointment with a therapist won't mend your marriage. Undertake marriage counseling as a long-term project, not a short-term quick fix. Expect counseling to be effective and work, though — you have to believe in it; just be realistic that the relationship might end regardless. It's a chance you take.
- Don't expect people to agree with you. There is a lot of "he said, she said" that goes in counseling. Many times, a woman hopes that the marriage counselor will say, "You should listen to your wife. She's right." Counseling isn't a place to point fingers and lay blame — it's a place to determine where you are now, where you want to be, and how you'll get there.
- Don't use the neutral party as a referee. Couples often fight at counseling sessions. That's fine, and there's a time and place for that. But stay proactive and focused, even when you're upset. Don't sit across from each other to bitch, cry, moan and complain — and then expect the counselor to break things up and award points to the winner.
- Don't think you're perfect. Relationships are a two-way street. Going into counseling means that your faults — not just your partner's — are up for scrutiny and change. Be prepared to do some serious introspection to figure out what upsets you, exactly why it upsets you, and what you can and can't compromise on.
- Don't use "you" statements. "You never...!" "You always...!" You, you, you. This isn't about you. It's about your relationship as a couple, a commitment between two people. "You" statements put the other person on the defensive and often create tension. Use "I" statements instead to reflect how you feel. It's far more proactive and results in better communication.
And isn't better communication what you're there for?