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When Should You Seek Marriage Counseling?

May 23, 2008
Most of us have a certain idea about what marriage counseling is all about - we usually always think of it as a modern idea, having grown out of the increase in divorces over the past years. Getting marriage counseling to most people would seem to indicate that the marriage is in some real trouble, and that getting counseling is a sort of last ditch effort to save it from disaster or divorce.

It is very unfortunate that we have developed this incorrent association. In the olden days, marriage counseling was not called marriage counseling - but it was still widely practiced, and usually occured before the actual marriage took place. Almost all religions, for example, have developed a sort of pre-marital counseling practice that is designed to help the couple develop clear and honest communication with each other and to be crystal clear about their intentions and goals with regard to the marriage. In modern marriage counseling, we do some of the same things - but they only usually happen after the marriage has begun to deteriorate and the problems have become worse.

The best time to actually start marriage counseling is early on - preferably before you even get married, or very early in the marriage, especially if either of you have some indication that you and your partner may need to improve on your communication skills. Communication breakdown is the most common reason for failure in marriages and relationships. Unfortunately, we also have created a negative association with the idea of marriage counseling.

Many people are afraid that if they bring up the subject up, it will be interpreted by others in the wrong way. This is a common mistake. Recognising the need to improve a relationship or marriage, or to work on better communication, should not be taken to mean that the marriage is headed for disaster nor divorce. The simple fact is that marriage counselling is more effective when it is not used as a last ditch effort. It should be seen as something that can strenghthen the relationship and marriage and should be considered at the moment any problem starts to develop.

In fact, the one time that marriage counseling will not help is when one of the partners has already mentally or psychologically detatched himself from the partnership completely. At this point, individual counseling may be what is needed. In order for marriage counseling to be trully successful, both partners need to really be committed to working at it. They need to be there to enhance and improve the marriage rather than simply looking for a reason to leave it.

If you are at that point in your marriage, check the psychological association directory in your area for names our counselors. Another option is to ask around - ask friends, or your family doctor. Marriage counseling is not an easy or quick fix solution, but it can be a new beginning - and it is definitely worth your while. If you have trouble affording counseling, some communities have free or low cost counseling programs.
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