Few things frustrate marriage counselors as much as seeing couples come in for a few sessions only to declare that marriage counseling doesn’t work. In many such cases, one or both parties never gave counseling a fair shot. They came in expecting that one or two conversations would solve their problems. When that didn’t happen, they declared counseling ineffective.
What many people do not realize is that counseling doesn’t really fix anything. It can’t. Only the people involved in a broken relationship can fix it. Marriage counseling only acts as a tool to help couples understand what their problems are and why they are having them. Where possible, counselors suggest workable solutions.
Marriage counselors do what they do through a variety of means, including:
- encouraging couples to talk
- working through exercises with them
- giving them relationship homework to do
- recommending informational resources
- suggest strategies for dealing with conflict.
There really are few limitations on how counselors can help. They can be as creative as necessary to match the needs of the couples they are working with. And yet, success still boils down to the willingness of couples to actively participate.
Not Doing Your Homework
Relationships & More offers marriage counseling in Westchester County, New York. Imagine one of their counselors working with a Rye couple who already suspect they are on a path toward separation and divorce. The counselor works with them for several weeks, assigning homework at the conclusion of each session.
The homework is presented as the number of exercises designed to strengthen whatever positives the relationship already manifests. Unfortunately, neither husband nor wife bother to do the exercises. By the end of the third week, they determine that counseling doesn’t work.
Is that really the case? The counselor cannot say for sure. Because they haven’t done their homework, there’s no way to know whether or not counseling would have led to a stronger relationship. And now the couple will never know because they have thrown up their hands and walked away.
There Are No Relationship Prescriptions
Couples not giving marriage counseling a fair shot is partly the result of our prescription mentality. We’ve gotten used to the idea of going to the doctor when there’s something physically wrong. We have a brief discussion, describe the symptoms, and walk out with a prescription. We’re told to take the pills and everything will be fine in short order.
That sort of thing may work for physical maladies, but it doesn’t help broken relationships. There are no relationship prescriptions capable of solving a couple’s problems by taking two pills and calling back in the morning.
A good way to think of it is to compare fixing a broken relationship to losing weight and keeping it off. Serial dieters know that weight loss fads come and go. They know that latching onto those fads creates the yo-yo effect. In the end, the only truly effective solution lies in diet and exercise.
Relationships Take Work
Losing excess weight and keeping it off requires hard work. It requires a change in lifestyle. The same is true for fixing broken relationships. Just like strong relationships are not accidental, broken relationships will not fix themselves after one or two counseling sessions. Couples have to dig in and do the work over the long term.
If you have tried marriage counseling and determined it didn’t work, be honest with yourself. Did you really give it a fair shot? Did you follow your counselor’s instructions? Did you put in the work? If not, the failure may not rest in the counseling.