Why Marriage Counselling May Not Work

How you can make the most out of marriage counselling

here is a pitfall that some clients make when they enter Marriage Counselling. A subconscious decision could be made that Counselling will fail, with either one partner blaming the Counsellor or blaming their spouse for the failure.

However, disenchantment with counselling is frequently created by a misunderstanding of the role of each client and the therapist in the therapeutic relationship. A client may become passive in the process and expect either to be told what to do by the therapist or partner or attend therapy as part of a ‘tick-box’ exercise to prove they have attempted everything to save the relationship. In other words, they step into the role of spectator, with little ownership in the process, rather than that of the participant.

Your Marriage is not a Mechanical Problem

When you go to the garage with your car, you describe the problems, noises and vibrations as best as you can to the mechanic. He says he will need to inspect the vehicle to determine the nature of the problem. So trusting that the mechanic is an expert in his field, you hand him your keys and proceed to sit down and wait for feedback and the repairs.

Problems in a marriage do not resemble mechanical problems, as there are two people in the ‘problem’ relationship.  It is the unique dynamic between the two people that need addressing by the couple. Marriage Counsellors are not mechanics and cannot just ‘fix’ your marriage for you. It requires ownership and responsibility of each member of the couple to actively work in addressing the needs of the relationship.

Commitment to your Marriage

Knowing yourself is a key component in helping the success of a marriage. Below are some questions that could lead to some introspection.

1. Who am I as a human being? What are my values as a partner? What do I expect of myself when nobody is watching?
2. What do I want? What are the core elements of the life I want to live and the relationship I want to be in? What do I expect for myself and my family, if I have one?
3. Where am I going? What is the compelling long-term vision I have for my life and Marriage?

The change is from the inside out, not from the outside in

Your Marriage Counsellor strives to guide you both through a process for finding a way towards improved understanding, respect and acceptance of each other. While there are many approaches to marriage counselling, the counsellor may encourage an exploration of the destructive relationship patterns that could lead to conflict. New thoughts, beliefs and habits could lead to an enriched and deeper marriage relationship.   

Marriage counselling is not about changing the other person and being critical of their being, but rather a journey of what you can do differently in the relationship to bring about another preferred outcome.
Some thoughts you could consider in your relationship are:

How do I handle the hairy corners of conflict?
How do I handle blame and resentment from my partner?
What triggers my over-reactions and defensiveness?
How do I establish my expectations and remain assertive in my relationship?
How do I respond (to have patience and just listen) rather than react to a situation?
How do I manage to make mistakes in the relationship?
How do I remain calm and confident even in bad situations?

Taking charge

The Marriage Counselling process is like driving a car. It is a process of helping two people, each of whom has a driving licence, to learn to drive and steer together. Each person is responsible for how they feel and how they behave while driving the ‘vehicle’ of marriage. They each choose how to respond to every event and to drive with intention.