Reasons to Seek Marriage Counseling
Few courses in our formal education, if any, are taught on relationships. Most people learn about relationships through parental modeling and observation, the media, and personal experience. As a result, we’re not always equipped with the tools necessary to be successful in our relationships, especially long-term relationships, like marriage.
If couples haven’t learned healthy ways to interact and manage conflict well, they generally default using one of three ineffective coping strategies. They either argue unsuccessfully, sweep problems temporarily under the rug, or avoid talking about them altogether. On average, couples will continue in problematic marriages for 7 years before seeking professional help. In this article, psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Angela Bisignano, discusses the common reasons couples seek her counsel and consultation.
Communication and the Four Horseman
Dr. John Gottman, psychologist and researcher has conducted extensive work over four decades on what makes relationships meaningful and healthy. In his research he noticed certain communication styles that he calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. One of the worst of the Four Horsemen when it becomes pervasive is contempt. According to Gottman’s research, if contempt is left unchecked and continues it can lead to the demise of a relationship.
Most couples at times see the Four Horsemen in their relationship. If, however, these Four Horsemen are clip clopping into your relationship on a regular basis, it may be time to seek couple’s counseling. Dr. Bisignano is one of only three hundred and sixty-seven internationally certified therapists in the Gottman Method.
Healthy communication skills can be learned. Similar to understanding dynamics that affect your relationship in communication like the Four Horsemen, healthy ways of communicating can be developed. If we learn how to express our feelings and our needs in honoring, kind and non-harsh ways, we can create meaningful dialogue. We can increase, empathy, compassion and respect. We can learn to lean into our partner creating more emotional connection and closeness.
Many couples struggle with issues around finances. Money can present a myriad of challenges based on differences in upbringing, perspectives on the value of money, personalities, work ethic, and expectations about saving and spending habits.
These differences can lead to arguments, resentment, bitterness and problems with power and control in a relationship. Interestingly, money management courses are similar to relationship courses taught in school. Unless you were a finance major, you probably didn’t take many classes on money management. The good news is that with help from a skilled psychologist you can develop strategies to communicate productively about your hopes and dreams about money, learn to navigate your conversations and differences in more productive ways, and find compromises that are mutually satisfying.
A difference exists between resolving problems and managing problems. What we know from Dr. Gottman’s research is that 69% of all problems are perpetual in nature. Meaning, that these problems occur over and over again, and may never go away. It is quite possible we will never become like minded with our partner about perpetual problems.
What we can learn to do; however, is to navigate our conflicts in healthier ways. We can develop different ways to listen to our spouse, so we can come to a deeper understanding about their positions on issues. Gottman’s research is effective in highlighting that we will never be able to persuade our partner until we have a deep understanding of their position, such that they know we understand their position.
We can also learn that we don’t have to agree about everything, even the important issues in life in order to have a fulfilling relationship. The key is to learn how to manage our conflict in productive and healthy ways.
A loving relationship requires nurturing and emotional connection. Sadly, for many couples emotional disconnection is too familiar in their relationship. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness can become the norm in couples who feel emotionally disconnected.
Learning how to fill one another’s emotional love tanks, turn towards, and create a relational space of safety and comfort is paramount. If emotional disconnect goes on too long, couples can become vulnerable to an emotional or physical affair, as well as create a breeding ground for bitterness to take root. In an emotionally connected relationship couples can blossom and thrive. If you feel disconnected from your partner or spouse, now is the time to seek help.
In conclusion, if you are contemplating marriage and considering making one of the most important decisions in your life, you should seriously consider pre-marital counselling. Far too often, couples bypass this major step. They believe their love will carry them. For many this approach, is a naïve way to enter into one of the biggest decisions of a lifetime.
Whether you take a pre-marital class or seek the counsel of a relationship expert I would suggest investing in this process. It is quite possible that it may prove to be your best life investment. Pre-marital counseling will help you prepare and realistically think through the major areas of life in order to help ensure you have a sustainable and fulfilling marriage. If you are ready to take the marriage plunge, start if off on solid ground.