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5 Things You Can Not Expect From Marriage Counseling

Sometimes couples come to marriage counseling expecting miracles. I, along with many couples’ therapists try hard to help our couples who come to us in pain. However, I want to warn you about what NOT to expect from marriage counseling.

  1. Couples therapists are not judges and we cannot tell you who is guilty or innocent. Many couples treat my office as if it is a courtroom. It is not. Marriage counseling is not about establishing facts or even the truth, as no one knows what that is. It is about understanding your partner’s reality and their experience about what is happening for them and to learn to care about that.
  2. Marriage counselors do not tell their clients whether to stay together or to break up. We are not gods. The decision is up to our clients and what they want and feel. The exception to this is if the marriage or relationship is actually dangerous to one’s life.
  3. Our clients often expect us to change the other person. It is not a therapist’s job to change either partner. Often in couples therapy people explore their values, feelings and “deal breakers”. We attempt to foster communication around these issues for people to come to terms with their partner’s needs and feelings. We do encourage both partners to be open to rethinking and taking in feelings of their partner. Sometimes one partner is the source of most of the conflict. Still, ultimately both people have to adjust and this is a couples’ issue. We try and identify what both people contribute to the conflict in a relationship.
  4. It is important to understand that even though couples therapists do their best to help people stay together, sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes marriages or relationships end in a therapy session. This is not unusual as therapy session becomes a “safe space” and difficult feelings become more manageable to communicate. Some patients are disappointed by this, but it is important to understand that this happens. Couples therapists do not dictate what happens in the relationship, we only are there to “hold” our couples and help them move through their process.
  5. Often times, clients come to marriage counseling and want us to tell them if they are going to “make it” or if what is going on with them is “normal”. Again, as a couples’ therapist, I do not make predictions about the future of a relationship. I can only help work with what is happening now. I also do not know how to answer what is normal or not. What is normal for one couple may be unacceptable for the other. I do not set that standard, but help partners understand what theirs is.