Q. My wife has been trying to get me to go to marriage counseling but I don’t really want to. I just can’t see how it could be that beneficial. What should I expect if I decide to go?
A. Marriage counseling (couple counseling, couple’s mediation) gives the couple an opportunity to have an unbiased trained professional to assist in problem solving with a healthier perspective.
The universal problem sending couples to therapy is unhealthy communication; it dictates the outcome of every issue. The presenting issue may be financial distress, lack of intimacy, differing opinions on how to discipline the kids or who should pay the bills but the real problem is how the couple talks or doesn’t talk to each other.
If you can acknowledge your role in the unhealthy communication that is a huge start. Don’t go to counseling and blame your wife for the problems. Everyone plays their part. Couples make big improvements if they come prepared, as if they are taking a Relationship Communication class. It is not a place to blame, belittle or embarrass your partner but it is a place to get real.
Here are some of the communication pitfalls:
1. Men often do not know what to do with their partner’s emotions. They tend to want to fix the problem and not just “let her vent.”
2. Women often do not know what to do with their partner’s lack of emotion, which makes them fight harder to get the response they need.
3. Both sexes may be listening to respond instead of listening to understand. Really big difference!!!
4. Neither may be clarifying what the other said. For example, after communicating to your partner have them repeat back what you have said, just to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
(Not everyone may like this step, one male client told me that he would find that very patronizing if his wife asked him to repeat back to her.)
5. Remember the 24 hour anger rule: IF YOU ARE STILL OBSESSING ABOUT SOMETHING YOUR PARTNER SAID OR DID 24 HOURS LATER, YOU MUST TALK TO THEM ABOUT IT OR LET IT GO!!!!! There is only so much you can file away and not have it erupt at some point.
RESENTMENTS WILL DESTROY YOUR INTIMACY!!!!
If you go to marriage counseling with the idea that you are going to learn some new ways to interact with your partner and really commit to the process, you will graduate a healthier communicator. In other words you will get out of it what you are willing to put into it.
Give counseling a try. It is a very proactive way to grow as a person and as a partner.