Signing up for marriage counseling is a significant investment of time, money, and hard work. But is it worth it? Does marriage counseling work?
(If you are pursuing individual counseling, please keep reading! You may find a few marriage-specific points but 90% of this article is applicable to the individual’s counseling journey as well.)
Studies by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) note that more than 98% of couples who try marriage counseling report that sessions are either “excellent” or “good.” And of couples who try marriage counseling, 90% say emotional health has improved. And finally, two-thirds say they’ve seen improvements in their physical health after seeking counseling. The research overwhelmingly shows that investing in marriage counseling is worth it!
Marriage Counseling works, but some counseling relationships are better than others. Read on to learn how to make sure you get the most out of your investment in counseling.
How To Make Marriage Counseling Work
At a very high level, there are only two variables in the counseling relationship: you and your counselor.
I know I’m biased, but I consider our team at Marriage Revolution 2nd to none (check out our consistent 5 Star Reviews on Google). Our counselors at Marriage Revolution have been hand-picked based on their calling to this field and their competency to make a difference in couples’ lives. I trust them to love you well, get to know your story, speak the truth in love, and help you make the necessary changes to build the marriage of your dreams.
If you’ve already chosen a counselor at Marriage Revolution, great! If you are still trying to decide on a counselor, you can check out our counseling page below to learn more about our process and our team.
On the other side of a successful counseling relationship equation is you. I promise that our counselors will do their very best to give you the care and counsel you deserve. But can I ask you to do your part as well? If you and your spouse do, you and your counselor can accomplish some incredible things together.
Here are ten ways for you and your spouse to do your part.
Do you want to change? I know this answer seems obvious, but let me ask it differently. How badly do you want to change? How sick and tired are you of being sick and tired of the condition of your marriage?
I know your situation is likely uncomfortable, but change is painful too. Are you willing to exchange the uncomfortableness of your current situation for the uncomfortableness of changing your thoughts, actions, and possibly even some relationships? You have a choice, and your choice will largely determine the outcome of the counseling relationship.
One of our mantras at Marriage Revolution is that change is slow and messy. Precisely the opposite of what we wish it were! In many cases, the counseling process will take weeks or months to get to know each other, identify the root causes of problematic behavior, pinpoint where a change of mindset or beliefs is needed, and agree on some practical steps of change.
There will be weeks when things seem great! But there will be other weeks when things don’t seem so great. Don’t worry…this is a normal part of the process. Every week won’t necessarily be better than the one before. Be careful not to measure success based on any given moment, but let’s take an honest look at the trajectory of change over time.
Marriage Counseling doesn’t typically result in you or your spouse becoming a completely different person. Marriage counseling will help you become better versions of yourself as we understand the strengths and weaknesses of your personality, desires, motivations, thinking, and behavior and how that impacts your marriage relationship. Our goal is not to give you a “new spouse” but to help you and your spouse be more Christlike in the way you think, speak, and act. This takes time. It takes a lifetime. But God promises that he is always faithful to complete the work he’s started in you and your spouse (Philippians 1:6). Our goal is not perfection but an accumulation of small wins over time that results in a trajectory of change and increased closeness.
One of the hardest parts of counseling is meeting with someone you typically don’t know and sharing your deepest darkest secrets. I admit this is a challenging but necessary barrier we must overcome together. It’s essential because we can only help you to the degree we know you.
We do our best to create a safe and trusting environment for you to share all the relevant details of your life. If we press in for more information, we never ask because we’re just curious. We’re asking because we care and want to be more informed to help better. We know that sharing your story with a stranger is a big step. Try to take some hard but appropriate steps toward being honest about yourself, situations at home, and your fears, insecurities, hurts, etc…
Without knowing you and with love, I want to say something you need to hear. You are, at least in part, responsible for where your marriage is today. That means you have stuff to work on. I know your spouse has stuff to work on too, but I beg you to focus on your stuff more than your spouse’s stuff. That takes humility. When you and your spouse work on your stuff more than worrying about each other’s stuff, the marriage counseling relationship is primed for success (Matthew 7:3-5). Always strive to work on your issues more and before your spouse’s issues.
This process will take a sacrifice. A sacrifice in time, money, work, activities, hobbies, preferences, habits, success, other relationships, etc… I know I’m not being a very good salesman for marriage counseling. Still, more than a salesman, I want your marriage to experience change. The very nature of love that is required for a marriage to work is sacrificial love. If two people aren’t willing to love sacrificially, I can almost guarantee that the marriage counseling process and the marriage itself will fall apart. Marriage requires two people to die to themselves so that the marriage can live. That sounds depressing, but trust me, it is THE most satisfying way to live.
There are 168 hours in a week. And if you only spend 1 hour a week in counseling and expect the other 167 to change magically, you have unrealistic expectations for what counseling will do. There will be work we will assign in between sessions to help you process and apply what you learn in the session. The work will vary from couples exercises, reading articles, listening to audio, journaling, Bible reading, and memorization, etc… Don’t worry, we won’t overwhelm you with all that in 1 week, but we will assign “counseling companions” throughout your time with us to help you in between sessions. Please do your homework.
I want to encourage you to tell someone you’re in counseling—someone you trust who loves you and can pray for you both. Talk to your spouse about some possibilities, and agree on at least one person or couple who can walk alongside you during this process. Counseling will become a significant source of the community God desires you to have for your marriage to thrive. But this “counseling community” isn’t substantial or permanent enough to sustain your marriage. Your marriage needs other people outside of counseling that will be there after the counseling relationship has ended.
Please give your counselor a chance to earn your trust. You might be a naturally trusting person, or you might see everyone through a skeptical lens. Whatever the case, you can set the counseling relationship up for success by at least choosing to face in the direction of trusting your counselor from day one. We don’t expect trust to occur immediately after the first session, but we ask that you work toward trust so the counseling relationship can thrive.
All of us at Marriage Revolution have talked with hundreds of couples over the years. Although every situation is somewhat unique, your marriage is likely experiencing pretty common problems that we’ve helped couples successfully navigate before. Test us. Even question us at times. But please give us a chance to earn your trust.
Rob Rienow said, “If you think you have it in you to be a godly husband (or wife), either you don’t know what God desires, or you have set the bar way too low.” You might be capable and competent, but with love, you don’t have what it takes for your marriage to be everything God desires. No one does. The work you want to see happen in you, your spouse, and your marriage can only be accomplished through a life-transforming, daily, moment-by-moment relationship with Christ.
In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” It seems a little exaggerated, but trust me; it’s not. You can resist this truth in pride or submit to it in humility. It’s up to you. But I encourage you to submit to it, align yourself with it, and admit your need to God daily. The good news? He gives generously when you realize your need and ask for help (1 John 5:14-15).
Now’s The Time
I heard Gary Rosberg say once, “The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second best time to plant one is now.”
If you’ve already signed up for marriage counseling, way to go! You’ve made a significant step toward working on the marriage of your dreams.
If you haven’t signed up for counseling but need to, what are you waiting for?
Maybe the best time to sign up for counseling was a while ago. But, the second best time is now.
Marriages don’t fix themselves. In fact, in the absence of working on your marriage, you and your spouse are likely drifting apart. And the drift apart won’t stop until you stop it. You must resist the drift and be purposeful and intentional about pursuing change.
Make the decision today to reach out for help.
I’m praying you will.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.