Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Relationships can be challenging. Most couples face challenges at some point including cheating, problems communicating, financial pressures, compromise, stress and differences in expectations for the relationship or in life (Australian Institute of Prefessional Counsellors, 2020).
Confrontations with your spouse can be a big problem, but this is something quite common. There’s no reason you can’t work things out through marriage counselling. Here, in this article, we will look at 7 reasons why you should think about marriage counselling if your relationship as a couple is deteriorating.
Marriage counselling is a process where a married couple discuss their feelings and express their thoughts and expectations for their relationship. A counsellor or therapist will encourage the couple to communicate in a way that will improve understanding and compromise on both sides.
Successful marriages are linked with more general happiness and well-being in life (see this article). This is true until things start to go wrong.
One thing you may not have considered is the effect your relationship as a couple has on the self-esteem of your children. As Dr Ingrid Schweiger commented in an interview I conducted with her a few years ago:
Sometimes, however, you can’t reach an understanding, and things only get worse from then on. Not being able to talk to your spouse can be infuriating, no matter who’s fault it is. One minute everything is great, and then another, communication seems to be impossible.
I want parents to know that self-esteem is an ever-changing dynamic process, which parents can influence dramatically. And the other thing I want to leave people with is the fact that your child’s self-esteem is very much affected by all of the relationships in your child’s life. So the way you get along with your husband or the way you get along with your wife, the way you interact with people at work, the way you interact with your extended family all influence your child’s self-esteem. People don’t always realize that, they often think it’s just between themselves and their child. That is not the case. It involves the entire family system, everybody who is significant in your child’s life.Dr. Ingrid Schweiger, Author of Self Esteem for a Lifetime. Interview with Karl Perera, 2009.
So, for parents, the effects that your marriage relationship has on your child’s self-esteem is profound and can be a major reason why counselling might be a good idea. We’ll come back to this later.
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Is it time to see a marriage counsellor?
If you feel like there’s more bad than good stuff happening in your marriage, you should look for another solution. Divorce should never be a first option. If you want to work things out with your spouse, consider going to a marriage counseling professional to try and fix your marriage. There are two main types of marriage counselling, individual one to one or group counseling with the couple discussing the issues with the counsellor. Either way, this can be an eye-opening and a learning experience for both of you. Check out the link for more.
Did you know I am always available to be contacted by email and that I am a qualified Life Coach? Learn more about me here.
It might seem strange for both of you to talk to a complete stranger, but that stranger knows more about marriage relations than anyone else. It’s always good to hear a professional’s opinion on the matter because a lot of things can get fixed that way. Here are some other reasons why you should consider having sessions with a counselor:
1. Discover the root of the problems in your marriage relationship
You may be so busy fighting with your spouse that you often forget the root of your problems. This happens because usually, there are many issues that have been buried deep down within yourselves. When the fight starts, you want to confront your spouse about everything that has been bothering you. This is not the way to resolve a heated argument.
Again, during an interview I held with Dr Ingrid Schweiger, a psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience of marriage counselling, she made some extremely helpful comments and suggestions about the nature of conflict in relationships, and how to deal with it:
There’s always conflict. It’s the norm. Isn’t it really conflict to grown ups when two people spend more than 10 minutes together, because we are going to be different. Conflict. You know, most of us go, oh God, conflict I don’t want to fight. I hate conflict. Well conflict serves a purpose in our lives, conflict tells us that things aren’t working yet. It’s time for change. Conflict gives us a chance to voice our feelings and clear the air. Conflict gives us a chance to vent. Conflict gives us a chance to trust each other and learn about each other.Dr Ingrid Schwieger, interviewed by me, Karl Perera in 2009.
I love the positivity in what Dr. Schweiger says about conflict and how it can help us. I agree that rather than being only negative, conflict is not something to be avoided, that is unrealistic. It is something to be dealt with. After conflict is dealt with, as in marriage counselling therapy, life can be much happier and more peaceful for everyone.
Although conflict is normal, if this happens often, then you need to find a solution to the problem. It can be very difficult to resolve these issues and speaking openly without some professional support, so talking under guidance from a marriage counsellor can help you discover the root of the problem. Once that happens, everything will become clearer. Both of you will come to understand better what the main problems are and, from then on, how you can begin working on them.
You should also note that some marriages end following therapy. According to an article by Rachael Tasker, about 25% of marital couples believed things had got worse when asked two years after counseling sessions had finished and 38% actually get divorced within four years.
So, a counselor can help you understand whether the person you are with is meant to be your life companion, but that’s not always the case. Usually, couples work towards making things better for their marriage. Finding the main cause for all your fights and confrontations is the first step to trying to repair your relationship.
2. Talk about your feelings together
Sometimes when couples fight, they often forget why they fell in love with each other in the first place. The marriage counselor can encourage you to talk about your feelings towards one another. They can also help you remember all the wonderful stuff that happened at the beginning of your marriage. The more you express yourself, the better you’ll feel.
Instead of keeping everything bottled up, you and your spouse should work towards being honest with one another. This way, you can start working towards certain changes in your relationship. Your counsellor is a person you can trust and talk freely about anything. They can ask you different questions to help you understand why you are in your situation. Read more on this page.
Expressing yourself is like cleansing the soul from all that negative energy and frustration. Visiting a counselor is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they can save your marriage for good.
Dr. Schweiger explained this to me when I interviewed her for her opinions on this topic:
Are you able to talk about difficult feelings together? You can get angry, it’s how you get angry. And all of this contributes to posing a person’s self-esteem. You want to follow the rules for healthy conflict, because you’ll always have a consequence. And when a family or a couple I work with, when we finish our work together, I assure you, you will always have conflict it’s how you deal with it. If you learn to master conflict in a healthy way, without damaging your child’s self-esteem or each other’s self-esteem, you’ll be able to build a track record and feel confident that, you know, whatever comes up, we’ll be able to handle it.Dr Ingrid Schweiger, author and psychotherapist in a special interview with me in 2009.
In other words, what I believe she is trying to say is that expressing your feelings in a positive and constructive way can lead to healing but that this does not “fix” your relationship. It makes it stronger because now you have the tools to handle future problems that may arise between you.
3. Deepen the intimacy between you and strengthen your relationship
Another problem why spouses fight is because of the loss of intimacy. You won’t be able to feel intimate with your partner if you are constantly fighting with them. Talking to a professional on the matter can bring you closer together. This can only benefit your marriage.
You will get an objective view of the entire situation. If some corrections have to be made on your part, you should take the expert’s advice. It’s the same with your spouse as well. Willing to work out the problem is crucial. This way, you will slowly recover the intimacy you have lost for a while now.
4. Personal growth is important for you and your relationships
When you are talking to a marriage counselor, you are not only trying to fix your marriage but yourself as well. Maybe there are some feelings deep inside that you weren’t aware of. A marriage counselor can help you grow and discover yourself. By doing this, you will be able to make decisions more clearly in the future.
Loving yourself always comes first. It’s an essential thing that people often forget to do because of their unhappiness. Whatever the outcome of therapy, you should make sure you are happy in the end.
5. Learn how to resolve conflicts that affect your marriage
Yelling and ignoring your partner is no way to resolve anything. Stubbornness can lead to nothing but more problems in the future. Every issue you have in your marriage should be resolved in a healthy manner. A marriage therapist can help you and your spouse with that as well.
There are plenty of ways to resolve a conflict, as long as there’s an understanding between the two parties. If you are feeling angry, you should learn to control the anger and not let it speak on your behalf. The more you learn from a professional, the better the outcome. You should check out Alinea marriage counseling to fix any issues you have in your marriage.
6. Improve communication to improve your marriage
Communication is the most essential thing in a marriage. If you don’t talk to your partner about what’s bothering you, all that negative energy will start piling up on your shoulders. This is how things get worse because every disagreement will turn into a heated fight. This is not something you want.
Having a couple of sessions with a licensed marriage counselor can help you improve communication between you and your spouse. As mentioned above, the more you express yourself, the more liberating you’ll feel in the end.
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7. Be a better parent and help your child build self-esteem
There are many things we can do as parents to help our children develop healthy levels of self esteem. But we have also seen that parents can damage their child’s self esteem if they are not careful. So what should we do to build self esteem in our children? I asked this question to my friend and colleague, Dr Ingrid Schweiger for her ideas and this is what she told me:
In order to help a child with low self-esteem, there are several steps that any parent can take. And I certainly suggest that every parent pay attention to these steps in order to prevent low self-esteem from developing and to prevent any child from developing this problem. First of all, it is so important to listen, really listen to a child because when someone is listening, they feel valued. When you were listening. And I’m talking about really listening, making time to listen. That means getting away from the distractions. That means making eye contact. That means getting down on your child’s level if that’s what needs to happen. You’re going to make your child feel validated. Speak to your child. I think you’re important. I care about you. I understand you. And I’m able to put my feelings and opinions aside long enough to be aware of yours. When we don’t listen, we say things like, are you crazy. What did you mean by that? That’s ridiculous. Or we ignore or avoid or stay very, very busy with other things.Dr Ingrid Schweiger 2009.
The crucial thing she is emphasizing, I think, is the act of giving your child the most valuable thing you have, your time.
- Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors Website. (2020). 7 Common Relationship Challenges. https://www.aipc.net.au/articles/7-common-relationship-challenges/
- Bowman, M. (1990). Coping Efforts and Marital Satisfaction: Measuring Marital Coping and Its Correlates. Journal of Marriage and Family, 52(2), 463-474. doi:10.2307/353040
- Dr Schweiger, I. and Perera, K. (2009). An interview about Parents, Children and Self-Esteem.
- Tasker, R. (N.D.). Does Marriage Counseling Work? 10 Surprising Statistics and Facts. https://guidedoc.com/does-marriage-counseling-work-statistics-facts
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.