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How to Present Marital Counseling to a Spouse

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

If you are having problems in your marriage that you cannot seem to resolve, marriage counseling may help bring more balance, enjoyment and fulfillment to the relationship. Many couples wait for years before approaching counseling, which can allow problems to progress to where you both want to quit, according to Dr. L. Compian, Ph. D., a counseling psychologist for Education.com. Getting your spouse's buy-in to attend therapy requires that you both believe that counseling can improve your relationship.

Talk to your spouse about why you married each other and what attracted you to the relationship. Make your compliments sincere and positive. Revisiting the early romance of your past and remembering the positives can provide hope of having a healthy relationship again, according to Dr. Willard Harley, Jr., author of "His Needs, Her Needs" and "Love Busters: Overcoming the Habits that Destroy Romantic Love."

Focus on the strengths in your relationship as reasons to work hard to maintain and improve it, suggests Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. List reasons why you want to improve your marriage and areas where you see that you might benefit from counseling. Also list benefits you both might receive. Avoid pointing out areas where you hope your spouse will benefit or making your spouse feel like marriage counseling is all about fixing her, recommends licensed couples social worker Jon Meyerson in his Social Work Today article, “Success With Couples Therapy -- A Step-by-Step Approach.” Marriage counseling should provide skills you can both use to improve communication and collaboration within the relationship, and is not about presenting a list of accusations or arguments for the therapist to referee or rule on.

Avoid blaming your spouse for the difficulties you are having. Take responsibility for your part in the problem and list areas where you can benefit from extra help, suggests a blog entry from "The Couples Institute." You can point out areas where you feel you have been unfairly critical or insensitive and apologize, for example. Acknowledge that it takes both of you to determine a marriage's success or failure. Encourage your spouse to see counseling as a way to build tools you can use now and in the future to keep your marriage strong and healthy, recommends the Mayo Clinic.

Set some goals for counseling together, suggests Compian. Use those goals as a starting point during your first session. The goals can help your marriage counselor decide how to provide the most effective sessions based on your needs.

Agree to give it your best efforts and ask that your spouse do the same. You can set a time frame to consider how well marriage counseling is working to improve your relationship, such as two or three months from now.

Items you will need
  • Counseling goals

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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