There are as many reasons to go to marriage counseling as there are approaches to helping couples resolve their problems. Regardless of the reasons for seeking marriage counseling, both partners must be open to making fundamental, and occasionally uncomfortable, changes. A counselor can be an effective mediator for couples seeking objective help in navigating the rocky waters churned up by certain marital issues.
Conflict is a normal and expected part of human interaction. However, the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict can be a critical factor in determining the sustainability of the marriage. Frank D. Fincham of the University at Buffalo explains that a common source of conflict in married couples is the perception that the division of labor inside or outside the home is not equal. Without counseling, couples in conflict may not be able to identify, communicate or resolve their conflict in a productive way.
Communication between spouses may not seem to require attention or change. Yet, couples often seek marriage counseling because they have identified an impasse in their ability to state their concerns or feelings clearly and in a non-defensive way. Marriage and family therapist Carolyn Gerard of Counseling California explains that couples use "small talk" to elicit responses and open communication. If one or both partners is unable or unwilling to pay attention to these bids for communication, interaction may cease or become negative. As time goes on, negative communication becomes a toxin that seeps into a marriage.
Married couples go through several stages throughout their relationship. These can include, but are not limited to, the addition of children, changes in job demands and large-scale investments such as a home. Although such changes are often associated with positive trends in a marriage, they also alter foundations of the marriage such as financial and time constraints. Ignoring the effects of change in your marriage can lead to feelings of resentment and isolation. Marriage counseling can help couples integrate change into their relationship as a united front rather than as separate factions.
Let Go of the Past
As much as we'd like to think that our past doesn't drive us, we all do have a past, and it can significantly affect our relationships. In the ideal world, couples put aside "baggage" that might include previous relationships, but in any marriage the past can lurk in the shadows until a statement or situation casts light on it. Couples may try to argue through conflicts that arise from the influence of the past; without resolution, disagreements may persist. Marriage counseling can provide neutral territory in which to work through the demons of the past.