What is the Success Rate of Marriage Counseling?

What is the Success Rate of Marriage Counseling from North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Adventures of Frugal Mom

The idea of marriage counseling seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it?

A committed couple experiences challenges. They go to a marriage counselor to get the answers they need.

The couple sits on opposite sides of a sofa and explains to their therapist that they don’t lie about their spouse. The marriage counselor listens intently and patiently and then—Presto! —utters sage advice that gives the couple all the answers to their relationship issues, so they can walk hand in handoff into the sunset and live happily ever after.

Except we all know that marriage counseling and couples therapy don’t really work that way.

Working through troublesome issues in any marriage isn’t easy. They require focus, fortitude, and patience. Both partners have to be willing to make the relationship work, and, even then, success isn’t always to be equated with the continuation of the marriage,

How Do You Know Marital Counseling Works?

There are at least four measures of a healthy marriage:

  • Both partners are satisfied with the marriage. Satisfaction with the marriage has a lot to do with satisfaction with the couple’s sex life, which is part of the way people define themselves. Marital satisfaction requires the partners to be happy with themselves as well as with each other.
  • Both partners are committed to the marriage. If one partner wants out, it may be possible to help them find increased satisfaction with the marriage, so they will stay in it, but marriages aren’t happy when one or both partners feel trapped.
  • Unanimity and agreement in everyday aspects of the marriage. Couples can experience tension and frustration over differences ranging from how they squeeze a tube of toothpaste to whether they will have children. Couples usually have to make compromises, but both partners need to be unanimous in the choices that are individually important to them.
  • Acceptable manifestation of feelings and emotions to each other and in the family. Couples that are satisfied with each other express satisfaction with their partner’s personal attributes. They enjoy the company of family and friends. They enjoy their sexual relationship.

The quality with which the human need for sex is met plays an important role in the health of both the individuals and the marriage. It won’t surprise anyone that couples who are both satisfied with their sex life are more likely to be satisfied with their marriages.

Marriages run into challenges from income, age, health, employment status, and fertility issues. Anxiety and loss of self-confidence from infertility, in particular, may pose a serious challenge to any marriage. 

So, how often does going to a marriage counselor help couples find the answers they need to stay together happily?

An honest answer is, it depends.

Before 1980, couples therapy focused on communication skills. It was about 50 percent effective.

In this era, Couples Therapy includes numerous sessions where counselors teach couples how to listen to each other and appreciate their spouse’s point of view.

Therapists gave couples the tools they need to change negative attributions into affirmative statements. For instance, the therapist might persuade a spouse to stop thinking in terms of “You are always late because you don’t care about me” to “I understand that you have difficulty managing your time.” Couples were counseled to cut out sarcasm and build their friendship.

This approach was well and good, but not enough to deal with deep emotional issues. Modern Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) was designed to help couples deal with intensely charged issues such as having a special needs child, coping with PTSD, or navigating fertility treatments and the adoption process. The American Psychological Association reports that this approach to marital counseling gets desired results about 75 percent of the time.

Couples counseling won’t save every marriage. But it can help any couple get on with their lives. And when couples counseling gets good results, those improvements continue for years after therapy is no longer needed.

What You Can Do to Prepare for Couples Counseling

The most important thing any individual and every couple can do to make sure couples counseling is going to be worth their time is to make an honest assessment of whether they are ready for it.

If you are already in the process of separating, emotionally focused therapy isn’t going to give you a reason to stop separating. EFT requires the couple to work as a team to deal with their deeply disturbing issues. Individual therapy may be more appropriate, without the goal of saving the marriage.

If either or both of you have substance abuse issues, couples counseling is not likely to be helpful. Each partner needs to achieve self-control in order to provide safety and stability for the other. When safety isn’t possible, relationship repair won’t work.

Modern couples therapy is not designed for abusive relationships, either. It may not be enough for abuse to stop to save a marriage, but saving a marriage is impossible until it does. The therapist will attempt to provide safety for the abused partner or partners.

Modern marriage counseling opens up new ways for couples to share their feelings with each other. For those seeking personalized guidance and strategies tailored to their unique relationship dynamics, exploring options like hart to heart consulting can be a valuable next step. It doesn’t just change the way you talk to each other. It changes the way you feel about each other. Not every couple is ready for couples therapy or will benefit from it, but making an appointment with your professional marriage counselor can be the first step toward a happier life together.

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