Marriage counseling is a heaven-sent strategy for saving marriages that are worth the monumental effort and emotional re-shifting on the part of couples. No matter how insurmountable the barriers are, it’s the effort and not the end result that counts.
Counselor, oh Counselor, our marriage is about to fall
Looks like I was mistaken; marriage isn’t a grand ball,
I say she spends my money and she says I’m chasing skirts,
Okay, counselor, I agree our marriage has its bumps and quirks.‘
But methinks we ought to give it one last kick in the can,
Or else our dwindling assets will land on the frying pan,
Oh please, be quick counselor, tell us what’s wrong,
Before we sign the papers and I’m left with no thong.‘
Marriage Counseling – The Need for Independent Opinion
P.T. Barnum once said that anyone who goes to a psychiatrist needs to have his head examined. We don’t think that’s what marriage counseling is all about. Besides a marriage counselor is NOT necessarily a therapist. A marriage counselor does not hypnotize people or prescribe medication for dissenting couples who are at each other’s throats day in and day out. A marriage counselor is first and foremost a listener, and then helps both husband and wife wade through the murky waters of tangled sentiments and feelings.
Marriage counselors, however, can act as marriage therapists. They’ve been trained to listen to the woes that arise from a burned-out marriage. Believe it or not, couples do transition from passionate beautiful lovers to the humdrum and familiarity of middle-aged spouses.
In a way Romeo and Juliet were such fortunate souls because they both died when they were at the height of their passions. Their love was so intense that they’d rather die than be separated by their warring families. If the arrogance and stubborness of their parents were not part of their romantic landscape, we’re sure that Romeo and Juliet would have probably sought the services of a marriage counselor by the time they hit their 40s and grappling with their own children’s choices for partners.
Let’s face it, folks. We live in the ‘age of therapy.’ If something’s not working, we need to have it fixed. We don’t care if it’s a quick fix or a slow fix. Of course the preference is for the instant, push-button fix.
If our unions are coming apart, we need marriage counseling. And we better get it quickly before we are accused of being ‘chicken.’ Or throwing in the towel. Or bowing out of the race too soon.
We do have cynics in our midst. We hear of people who just don’t believe in the marriage counseling route. ‘what do you mean work on our relationship? If it isn’t working, that means that love’s flew over the cuckoo’s nest. it’s gone forever. The sooner we face it, the better it is for everyone concerned.’
Not quite, sir. There are benefits to marriage counseling. If it can prevent one more statistic from joining the ranks of divorce data, that’s an excellent sign. Why do we say excellent? Because that means the children can grow up normal and productive and WHOLE not fragmented, broken and resentful human beings. Communities can’t flourish without happy children. They’re part of the human canvass.
When a marriage shows signs of failing and the love sparks no longer flicker, marriage counseling can be the life-saving ambulance. This is where the opinion of an independent party who is experienced and has much empathy can help salvage the remnants of love and the marriage itself.
Marriage Counseling – A Unique Approach
One marriage therapist who has gathered interesting case histories of her clients has adopted a creative approach to helping people regain their bearings with each other. She said that when fighting couples make their first visit, both husband and wife are tense. In fact, she says, she can almost see the facial twitches and the tense arms and hostile gestures.
A husband and wife living in marital discord usually have a mental list of things to blame on the other. They are blinded by years of resentment and frustration. She says that instead of encouraging them to recite their respective litanies, she pops questions like:
What attracted you to each other? Do you remember when your eyes first met and then both of you knew that you just had to know each other better? What was your first date like? Was it smooth, awkward, a smashing success?
When, during the relationship, was the point of no return; meaning, that you absolutely decided that you had to share each other’s life? This therapist says these questions usually work like a magic charm. The spouses smile, hesitantly at first, and then they begin to relax. it’s the recalling and the remembering that brings the warmth back all over again. The same therapist says that in majority of the cases, the qualities that once attracted couples to each other turn out to be the very same things that cause the stress in the marriage.
Dr. A. Pines (Keeping the Spark Alive, 1998) says that ‘most often it is the things that initially attract people to each other that eventually cause their burnout. A man who is attracted to a woman because of her strength and energy says, when he burns out, that she is controlling and hysterical. A woman is attracted to a man because he is generous with his money. When she burns out, he is a spendthrfit.’
Marriage Counseling – Mobilizing Communities
Jennifer Daw wrote an article on saving marriages for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and reports that measures to prevent divorce at all costs are being promoted by state governments. Granted, divorce rates are down at the moment, but there still exists that 40% to 50% chance that new marriages in the US will end in divorce. This substantial percentage is sufficient cause for alarm and has state and local officials mobilizing community efforts to prevent marriages from going on the rocks. Concerned officials and citizens are making it their business to do anything and everything to prevent divorce.
Local governments are offering solutions such as making premarital counseling mandatory and extending waiting periods for marriage licences and enforcing community marriage covenants. There are presently ten states that have legislated premartial counseling as an added measure to bring down divorce statistics: Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon and Washington. Ms. Daw did not mention if pre-divorce counseling will also be mandatory soon.
Perhaps the more effective measure is to focus on pre-divorce counseling instead of pre-marital counseling, because when two people are in love and about to get married, counseling would appear to be unnecessary. When age creeps in, problems predominate and daily stress from kids and work situations occur, the marriages move into shaky territory.
Marriage Counseling – Risks Involved
Some people believe that once marriages are headed for the divorce courts, they become much harder to change. Spouses who have already contacted divorce lawyers have little hope for marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling could also backfire. We are aware of married women who have been physically and sexually abused so marriage counseling would be like a band-aid cure for a marriage that was doomed in the first place because one spouse has violent traits and therefore needs a therapist or psychiatrist, not a counselor.
The effectiveness of marriage counseling has also triggered debates over whether it is effective or not. Susan Gilbert wrote that data indicates that 25% of couples are worse off than they were one year after counseling, while 38% get divorced four years after their counseling sessions. Part of the problem has to do with the inadequate training of counselors and therapists. Some have been known to have hastened the break-up instead of mending it.
Diane Sollee, a couples therapist who established Smartmarriages said, “When I was a practicing therapist, I was like a judge listening to each partner tell why the other was ruining the marriage. There was a lot of crying. Marriage education classes are more empowering.”
Is marriage counseling on the way out? We don’t think so, but marriage education classes appear to be a more viable alternative, and can serve as a complement to marriage counseling sessions.
Oh counselor, counselor, what have you done?
My wife is once again a sweet, lovable, huggable bun!‘