Why marriage counselling often doesn’t work
I agree that this is a bold statement. But reality remains that the numbers of success regarding marriage counselling are very low. Many argue that by the time a couple comes for therapy, it is already basically over and thus the chances of saving the relationship are already very minimal.
But others point to the concept and methodology itself. In marriage counselling, a couple is typically asked to describe their problems. The problems can vary but generally they will revolve around:
- We fight a lot
- He/she is so engrossed in other things and doesn’t pay me any attention
- He/she doesn’t listen to me
- We can’t discuss difficult topics without it erupting in some form of disagreement
The marriage counsellor will now focus on understanding the couple’s cycle (often from an attachment perspective). Seek to understand why one often withdraws as a defence and the other pursues more. The couple will then be asked to notice this. This could happen in session and at home. The aim is then to go against that ingrained cycle which is generally rooted in childhood.
The couple’s therapist could also teach them communication skills. Help them listen to each other better and how to express themselves softly. Those trained in EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy) focus a lot on the attachment cycle and those trained by Gottman often focus more on enhancing the friendship between the two and teaching communication skills.
Back to the beginning
Whilst these approaches make sense – there is an important question to be asked. If the couple knew how to communicate at the beginning of their relationship, why do they need to learn communication skills now?
If they don’t know how to communicate, how come they managed at the start of their courtship? Why did they then listen endlessly to each other, and now they need to be taught how to listen?
There is something here that seems to be improbable. Did they suddenly lost the knowledge of how to apply those skills?
Besides, I’ve often noticed that the couples that come for help, have friends and close family members whom they get along with very well. Wouldn’t the same communication challenges appear with them too?
It comes at no surprise to me when I used to try to teach communication skills that many of the couples seemed to already know about these things very well. They just found it incredibly difficult to apply whilst conversing with their spouse.
A marriage fitness theory
Over time, I’ve been looking to make more sense of that happens to a couple in distress and what is the best way for them to save their relationship when things are on the rocks.
Similar to physical health in which diet and exercise are vital in remaining healthy, one must invest in marriage fitness too in order to keep the relationship alive. Modern life is a busy life. We all get bogged down with work, social life, duties, carpooling, etc. That in itself is already reason enough why the vitality of a relationship could start to see cracks. If it isn’t maintained, it starts to die. An un-watered plant dies.
Then I came across the audio marriage fitness program by Mort Fertel. I listened to the downloads and I was blown away. His ideas were consistent with my observations which is that the couple doesn’t need to start focusing on problems so much. What they need is to start investing in each other again.
His program layout is simple, within budget, and very enjoyable to listen to. With some practical suggestions I could tell that this would enhance the closeness for a couple in distress. Interestingly, I think that his program is applicable for any couple just like it is important to exercise frequently and not wait until there are health concerns.
Another point that I really found useful is the fact that often it is only one spouse that is looking for help whilst the other isn’t really interested. In traditional marriage counselling this presents a big problem. In marriage fitness one spouse is enough to save the marriage.
One coping tool to enhance your marriage is the following.
For the next week, aim to have a conversation with your spouse about non logistical things for one minute a day. If your marriage is in distress, then you are likely only communicating about very basic stuff and mostly technical such as who should fetch the kids and who should get something from the store.
If that is the case, start by having a non-technical conversation. Call your spouse from work, just to check on her/him and see how they are doing.
Whilst you may wonder how something as simple as that could make a difference. Remember, it is the lack of connection that needs to be restored. Can you recall how you used to chat about nothing and everything at the beginning of your relationship. The conversations were not practical back then, right?
Try that for a week and see if that already makes any difference at all. If it does, then marriage fitness could be something for you. You can sign up for free and get some tips via email but I’m highly recommending you go for the basic audio program. If you start seeing some serious changes, you can opt for the more intensive programs that Mort offers.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or email me at [email protected]
To your health,