Marriage and Couples Counseling Demystified

Hands solving rubik's cube with heartMany couples come into marriage counseling or couples counseling with numerous uncertainties. They usually have one common theme: an expectation.

The unrealistic expectation is a hope that a partner will change and the relationship will become satisfying. The partners may be consumed with the desire for change. Despite this desire, each partner seems to be unaware that in order for the relationship to be modified, change begins with the self.

I often inform couples on their first visit that therapy is about identifying unhealthy patterns within oneself and attempting to bring those to the surface. While recognizing and exploring an individual’s unhealthy patterns, it is up to the individual to decide whether different coping tools and alternative approaches would work best.

Despite the couple’s strong desire to have the relationship change—or, deep down inside, urging for one spouse to change—that would be an unrealistic expectation. People can only hope for or expect different outcomes when they make a choice to change their own behavior. Relationships are then shaped and formed according to the decisions one makes and the actions one takes.

In the therapeutic process, it is often essential to identify your needs and wants and begin recognizing whether they are being met. It is up to the individual to realize that his or her needs and wants can only be met through his or her own actions and behaviors. Each partner takes responsibility for the right doings and the wrong doings.

The partners then learn about each other as the process enables them to grow closer on communicative, emotional, physical, and sexual levels. Vulnerability and openness to hearing and listening to one another can be of great significance. Compromising while practicing patience with one another may be critical to reaching the goals you want the relationship to attain.

I think marital satisfaction is made up of what you are willing to put in and what you are not willing to tolerate. Deciphering the two can be crucial. Therefore, it is all up to you to make the appropriate modifications and changes as to acquire your happiness in a relationship. Waiting for your spouse to change implies you are not willing and dedicated to the improvement process, and therefore you may be hindering your own growth. Allowing yourself to focus on your partner’s motivation—or lack thereof—will only steer you away from what you can possibly gain on the journey to self-discovery.

Once you allow yourself to become completely involved, you might gain self-awareness that can bring you to where you want to go. Through exploration and in-depth discussion, you need to make appropriate changes to improve. This will allow you to gain a better understanding of the relationship you and your partner have built.

With insight and the newly learned coping tools, you have the power to make any modifications you see fit to enhance your relationship dynamics. However, with an unrealistic expectation that your significant other is ready and willing to do the same, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Concentrating on yourself, your thoughts, your behaviors, your intentions, and your goals will help you attain the most desirable results.

Hence, marriage counseling/couples counseling is about learning about yourself and your own road blocks. It is about acquiring understanding, as well as insight into yourself, your relationship, and where you would prefer it to be. The key is realizing that relationship improvement occurs only with self-improvement.

© Copyright 2010 by Kelly Gorsky. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Eric

    Eric

    October 5th, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Very insightful article that helped me go into couples therapy with the frame of mind of working to change myself. Instead of waiting, stagnate, for my wife to change. It’s such an easy trap to fall in. Glad I came across it!!

  • tessa

    tessa

    October 5th, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    I am involved in a marriage where I feel like I am the only partner who is willing to give. My husband always makes me feel like I am in the wrong and quire frankly I am tired of always being blamed and never getting any of the rewards that is supposed to come along with marriage. Somewhere along the way I have lost a friend and that started when I got married. How did that happen? And the real question is how do I amke him understand that I miss that and want to try some marital counseling to try and get some of that back before we both decide to cut our losses and end the marriage?

  • m.johnson

    m.johnson

    October 5th, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    if each of the partners is expecting the other to change then nothing will note ahead and no recovery in the relationship is possible.

    hence it is important to put the onus onto oneself and do the needful to achieve that goal. we need to know that doing something ourselves is under our control but making or expecting someone else do something is not!

  • A. Taylor

    A. Taylor

    October 5th, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    I like this article particularly because it indicates how we can never “change” our partners, but rather we can indicate when our needs are not being met. Part of this is our own process of self-care and attending to these needs, and part of it will be seeing if our partner is willing to adjust to help meet those needs. If not, then the decision is ours as to whether or not to continue with the relationship.

  • Cat

    Cat

    October 5th, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    This article well exemplifies why couples counseling, along with individual counseling for both parties, can be an enormously effective route.

  • CODY

    CODY

    October 6th, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    YOU cannot clap with just one hand.In the same way,no conflict can occur due to just one partner in a marriage.Both will definitely have played a role.But rather than pointing and proving as to how much wrong each partner is responsible for,both should work towards solving the problem and trying not to encounter a similar problem again.

  • jimmy h

    jimmy h

    October 6th, 2010 at 4:46 AM

    Couples counseling saved my marriage and I can never say enough great things about it. I have to admit that I was not the one who wanted to try it, my wife did and the to the first session she pretty much had to drag me kicking and screaming. But once we got there and I met our therapist it was like a light came on and I was finally able to see the ways that I was not meeting her needs and how she was not meeting mine. Our counselor gave us the ability to sit down like two rational beings and learn to really communicate with one another which is something that I confess I was not good at until then. And it did not happen overnight, it took practice but the longer we stuck with it the better we both got at it and it has helped us tremendously.

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