Marriage can be a rewarding and mutually beneficial bond characterized by love, support, and respect. However, all relationships come with their challenges, some of which can be difficult to resolve on your own. If you’re considering online marriage counseling, you might be wary of broaching the subject with your partner for fear of making them feel uncomfortable, worried, defensive, or hurt. Let’s take a look at how you can approach the topic of seeking counseling with your spouse thoughtfully in order to have a productive, empathetic conversation.
Before The Conversation
Taking a few simple steps to prepare before initiating a discussion about seeking couples therapy can help it go more smoothly. You might consider the following before broaching the topic.
Be Prepared To Consider Their Concerns
If you believe that your partner will be reluctant to attend in person or online marriage counseling, attempting to understand potential concerns they might have about these services can be a proactive way of preparing for the conversation. That way, if they voice one of these objections, you can be ready to have an empathetic, constructive conversation about it together. For some on the list, such as “cost” and “effectiveness”, you may even be able to find some reputable statistics or other information to help assuage their worries—though it’s important to remember to hear them out calmly and respectfully first.
- The belief that they’ll be blamed for issues
- The desire to work out problems on their own
- Having heard negative opinions about it from others in the past
- Past negative experiences with counseling either individual therapy or couples therapy
- Concerns about the effectiveness of in person or online marriage counseling
- Not wanting to fight in front of someone else
- Disagreement about whether there are issues that need to be addressed
Anticipating potential misgivings like these may help you empathize with your partner when you do sit down to talk.
Organize Your Own Thoughts
While you may feel confident that you and your spouse would benefit from online marriage counseling, you may not have taken time to pinpoint the areas of concern you’d like to address. To help you effectively organize and convey your thoughts, try to identify the specific sources of tension in your relationship and consider how counseling could help you work through them before speaking to your spouse about it. Common reasons people seek relationship therapy include:
Differing parenting styles
That said, you don’t need to be facing a specific or serious problem in order to seek counseling of any kind. Many people use individual therapy as a preventative measure to help them stay on track, or learn to build better communication skills. Some couples choose to pursue premarital therapy, relationship counseling, or marriage therapy for the same reason: to strengthen their relationship, polish communication and conflict-resolution skills, and help prevent major conflicts before they can arise. Either way, being able to articulate the reasons you’d like to pursue therapy services can help your partner understand your motivation.
Choose A Good Time For The Conversation
Bringing up counseling at an inopportune time could make it more difficult for you to have a productive conversation. You may want to avoid broaching the subject while you’re already in an argument with your spouse, or when either of you are busy or especially stressed. Instead, it might be helpful to choose a time when you’re both free and relaxed. Or, you could consider allowing your spouse to choose the time by leading with something along the lines of, “I’d like to discuss marriage counseling with you. Let me know when you can set aside some time for a conversation to explore this topic.”
During The Conversation
Once you’ve organized your thoughts and prepared for the conversation, it’s time to sit down with your spouse and talk it out. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for this part of the process.
Avoid Assigning Blame
If your spouse feels like the issues in your relationship will be attributed to them in therapy, they may become more resistant to the idea of counseling than they were before. There are several ways you can avoid putting your partner on the defensive for this reason during the discussion. First, you can let them know up front that you want to work together during counseling, and that your intention isn’t to assign blame. Emphasizing the collaborative nature of couples therapy could put them at ease.
When you do articulate your concerns about the relationship, you might try using “I” statements (e.g., “I feel like we don’t communicate effectively”) as opposed to statements that may be read as blaming (e.g., “You don’t communicate well with me”). You might also directly take responsibility for your part in any conflicts and devote a few moments to bringing up the positive aspects of your relationship. You can let your partner know that you appreciate the ways they contribute to your life, marriage, and family, which can reinforce the idea that you don’t want to seek therapy just to focus on their faults.
Explain The Potential Benefits
If your spouse is hesitant to participate in counseling, it can help to lay out some of the potential benefits. You might explain that in person or online marriage counseling focuses on encouraging positive communication, fostering commitment, enhancing intimacy, and developing goals for your relationship. You can mention that a counselor is typically a neutral party who will not take sides, and that their role is not to force either of you to do anything but instead to facilitate communication and provide guidance as needed.
Sometimes people who are reluctant to attend counseling are worried that doing so is an indication of failure. They might view marriage counseling as a last resort—when in reality, marriage counseling can be helpful for couples in any relationship stage. It can improve an already strong relationship and help couples identify concerns that may arise in the future. It does not have to signal a deficiency, a failure, or even a major problem.
If you’re looking to address specific concerns, though, you can let your partner know that counseling has a high success rate. Research shows that marriage counseling can improve relationship functioning after even a short period of time. In one study on the efficacy of couples therapy, participants reported experiencing significantly improved marital satisfaction after eight sessions. By framing counseling in a positive light, your spouse may start to think about the idea differently.
Listen Attentively To One Another
As you move through this discussion, take turns letting each other speak and responding thoughtfully. Making sure that both parties have the opportunity to say their feelings can help avoid hurt feelings or counterproductive arguments. As your partner talks, try to listen without planning your response. Once they’ve finished speaking, consider summarizing their main points and repeating them back. When you do this, you’re ensuring that you understand your spouse’s perspective and are signaling to them that you’re listening carefully.
You can then address your partner’s concerns and bring up points of your own. While you do so, it can be helpful to try and empathize with your spouse so that they feel heard (e.g., “I understand and appreciate that you’d rather work things out on our own. I also want us to address our concerns on our own time, but I think that counseling might help us do that in a more effective way”.). It helps if you are informed, so that you can help allay fears they may have. For example, if cost is a potential concern, you can share that many therapists are covered by insurance, some working on a sliding scale and offer a free consultation to ensure compatibility, and online therapy can be cost-effective even if not covered by your insurance.
After The Conversation
Remember that it may take more than one conversation to reach an agreement about whether you’ll pursue counseling together as a couple. It’s usually best to try and be patient with your spouse as they mull over the idea. If they agree, your next step is to decide on a format and schedule your first session with a marriage counselor.
Choose A Therapy Format
Traditionally, therapy appointments of any kind had to take place in person, in a therapist’s office. Now, however, those seeking the support of a counselor can choose to meet with their provider in person or online. In recent years, availability of online therapy has increased enormously, with licensed therapists working in online couples counseling, online premarital counseling, online marriage counseling, as well as family therapists for any type of online relationship counseling. Online couples therapy costs are comparable to traditional therapy when covered by insurance, and may actually end up costing less for those who have to pay out of pocket. Research suggests that both formats can offer similar benefits in most cases, so you can generally select the one that feels most comfortable for you and your spouse. With online marriage and family therapists, you can choose several methods of communication for your therapy session—video chat, online messaging, or phone chat. If you have busy schedules or are having trouble locating the right provider in your area, for instance, then online marriage counseling may be a better fit.
Book A Session
If you and your spouse have decided that you’d prefer to meet with a mental health professional for in person sessions, you can search for couples therapy providers in your area. If you have insurance, you might contact the company to get a list of covered providers. Or, if you’re interested in online couples therapy, you might consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp. You can fill out a brief questionnaire about your needs and preferences and then get matched with a licensed therapist who you and your partner can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat. The best online therapy services will help you find a marriage counseling or relationship counseling provider that’s right for your partnership. See below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people in similar situations.
“Dr. Harrell was there for me and helped me get to the issues of my problems and triggers. I am a much better person and feel like a new person. I am pursuing a dream that I never thought would be possible to achieve. Me and my wife are again on speaking terms with a small glimmer of hope. I honestly wouldn't be where I am now without her support.”
“Robin is amazing. This is my first time ever doing counselling and I was paired up with Robin. I have no regrets. I was going through major changes with my family and Robin really help me to put everything in perspective and help me see things in a new light. she is very easy to talk to and work with. I’m really grateful to have met her as she have taught me so much. Thank you Robin. Both my husband and I really appreciate everything you do for us.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I talk to my husband about therapy?
Bringing up the topic of couples therapy with a partner can be daunting. But this communication is essential if you and your partner are having problems in your relationship and don’t know how to fix them on your own.
The important thing is to approach the subject of therapy in such a way that you are not blaming them for the issues you are experiencing. You want to be honest, but frame the concerns in a way that shows that you want to strengthen the relationship.Focus on the benefits of couples counseling and tell your spouse that you want this because you love them not because you are blaming them for anything. You are more likely to persuade your partner by focusing on all the positives and how the relationship can heal and blossom with therapy.
It is also important to stay calm throughout the entire discussion, especially if they become defensive at the suggestion. Chances are that your partner might not be totally on-board when you suggest therapy the first time. This topic may require multiple conversations before you both are on the same page. And if they ultimately decide against couples therapy, respect their decision.
Can a marriage be saved with counseling?
Yes, a marriage or committed relationship can be saved by couples counseling. However, couples counseling itself is not a miracle cure. Throughout counseling, you and your partner will be able to address your concerns, develop better conflict resolution and communication skills, and dig to the root of your conflict and problems. This requires a lot of work and effort and will probably not be easy. So if you want to save your marriage or relationship, you should consider counseling, but keep in mind you will have to work hard to find solutions to your concerns and create a better relationship.
Should you tell your spouse what you talk about in therapy?
If you are in individual therapy, you are not obligated to talk to your partner about what you discuss with your therapist. However, if you and your therapist primarily discuss your relationship, then you may want to have a discussion with your partner about any issues or concerns you have. For example, if you believe you have communication problems or often fight about money, you can utilize the advice and tools you receive in therapy to discuss these concerns with your partner.
What percentage of marriages survive after counseling?
Multiple sources claim that couples counseling has a success rate of anywhere from 70% to 98%. However, that doesn’t mean that couples counseling is a miracle cure for your marriage problems. Couples counseling requires a lot of work to improve the relationship; just going to the counselor’s office is not enough. A couples therapist will provide you and your partner with tips, tools, and skills to repair your marriage, but it is up to you and your partner to utilize them.
Furthermore, couples counseling offers a safe space for you to gain an understanding of your partner’s perspective on the marriage. However, you must be willing to listen and respond with empathy and not be quick to shame your partner for their actions or feelings. So, in summary, the chances of a marriage surviving after counseling are completely dependent on how willing both partners are to put in the necessary work.
Do counselors tell you to leave your partner?
If you are considering couples therapy, or want to discuss your relationship in individual therapy, you may fear that your therapist will tell you to leave your partner. However, this rarely happens. Counselors will rarely advise ending relationships, especially if they only work with one partner and don’t have the other partner’s perspective.
However, if there is a situation where you’re life's in danger or your quality of life is significantly lowered by being with your partner, they may advise you to leave your partner for your safety and well-being.
Can couples therapy make things worse?
In most cases, couples therapy leads to a better relationship. That’s because couples therapy helps both partners gain new skills, tips, tools, and ideas that they can utilize to improve their relationship. Success in couples therapy ultimately is determined by how much each person wants to be a better partner to their other half and how honest they are with each other.
Still, there are a few situations where couples therapy can make things worse. For example, many couples feel their relationship worsens very soon after starting couples therapy. But this is usually temporary. This is because there is finally honesty and open communication about how you and your partner feel. If either of you have been holding back about your feelings or thoughts, bringing them out for the first time can be hard for couples to handle and process. However, through consistent work and improved communication, many couples are able to get past this period and see improvements in their relationship.
However, another scenario is that you get a counselor who isn’t up to the task. Maybe they are inexperienced or are more interested in discussing individual concerns rather than issues in relationships. Or maybe they are biased towards one partner’s point of view and do not respond with compassion or understanding when the other speaks. Whatever the case, if a counselor is not up to the task of repairing your relationship, you may find that things get worse instead.
Though these scenarios are uncommon, it’s understandable to have this fear. The important thing is to identify quickly when an issue is with the therapist and not with you and your partner. If you both believe the therapist is not a good fit, then you need to start the process of finding another counselor as soon as possible.
What is the best online therapy for couples?
Can you fix a marriage without counseling?
Can couples therapy fix toxic relationships?
Can couples therapy fix a broken relationship?
What not to say in marriage counseling?
When should you avoid couples therapy?
Who is not suitable for online therapy?
What questions do marriage counselors ask?
What is the main problem in marriage counseling?
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