When It’s Time to Try Couples Therapy

Couples therapy has the best chance of succeeding when partners don’t wait until it’s too late. One partner may have already given up, and at that point, holding the marriage together can be difficult. Finding new ways to communicate can be a struggle when the couple has been locked in a negative pattern for a long time.

Therapists believe marriage counseling works more often when a couple seeks therapy as soon as possible. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists says 93 percent of patients who have worked with a marriage or family therapist come away with more effective tools for dealing with their problems.

One tool that has had success is emotionally focused therapy, which helps couples understand their emotional cycles and to reorganize their emotional responses. Partners gain a better understanding of each other and learn healthy and productive new ways to strengthen their attachment. The Association reports between 70-75 percent of distressed couples can move into recovery using emotionally focused therapy.

If one partner balks at therapy, the other may be able to change the dynamic of the relationship by going alone. However, couples usually see faster and more effective improvement if they go together.

Are your fights escalating?

It’s time for couples therapy when your fights are escalating in intensity but failing to end in some solution. If you feel just as bad or worse than you did when the argument first started, there’s a good chance there are ongoing problems in your marriage. If you’ve come to view your spouse in a generally negative light, you may have developed a negative bias of them. You may feel that even if your spouse does something right, there’s a suspicious motive behind it.

Sometimes there are so many problems in the relationship that couples frequently lash out at each other but never get around to addressing the real causes of their anger. Couples who are stuck in this pattern don’t want to share in therapy. They fear hearing about things that reflect poorly on them. They find a way to communicate instead by doing things to hurt each other. They want their partner to feel their pain.

Looking hard at what you need

Working on couples therapy requires taking a hard and honest look at what you want and what your goals are. Is your marriage worth saving? Is there violence or abuse in the relationship? What is best for you and your family? 

While counseling is recommended for help with creating a healthy relationship, it can also lead to divorce. Approximately 25 percent of spouses who go into couples therapy report two years later that their relationship only got worse. Within four years of completing therapy, up to 38 percent of couples who received marriage therapy got divorced. While these statistics are grim, they are not a reflection that couples therapy necessarily failed. Instead, those numbers reveal that marriage counseling may have succeeded in an unexpected way. Couples therapy showed the couple that their relationship was not healthy, and it gave the partners encouragement they needed to end the relationship once and for all. 

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