From Dr. Jane's Notebook
The Myth of Marriage Counseling
Marriage Counseling has long carried with it the stigma of "failure".
Marriage counseling has been viewed as the "last stop before the lawyer", often
as proof that the marriage was unsalvageable. But as so many couples have learned, divorce
is not always the best or the easiest answer. As such, this article will attempt to
provide a view of marriage counseling as it is practiced today.
- In Marriage Counseling, the relationship is the patient. People are not viewed as sick
or defective. There is no shame involved. In business, partners often require a
facilitator to insure that all parties are satisfied and functioning well. When two people
are involved in such important relationships as marriage and parenting, it is essential
that they understand each other and communicate well. Marriage counselors assume that each
partner is a fine individual, but that the relationship between them may need a tune-up.
- Marriage is a complex system composed of people, relationships and lifestyle. Each of us
desires to live our lives according to our own plan and value system. When we merge
lifestyles, we may be unaware of differences that can create unhappiness. Add children to
the picture and the difficulties multiply. It requires an effort to make things work and
there is alot at stake. When trouble areas are spotted, it is generally best to seek help
as soon as possible.
- Conflicts can be resolved constructively without blaming either party. Many people
assume that the "blame" will be cast their way if they enter into a discussion
with a marriage counselor. However, the truth is that marriage counselors attempt to help
both parties achieve their goals, not to change or blame one or other spouse. Each
spouse's needs and desires are viewed as legitimate so long as neither party is being
injured. Counseling is aimed at helping the relationship become more flexible and
satisfying for all.
- We often lack good role models for success in marriage. Unconsciously, we often try to
recreate our families of origin. This means that we usually want to do things the way our
parents did. Unfortunately, when parents' relationships were not functional or happy, we
need to devise new methods for getting along in marriage. Marriage counseling can provide
just this sort of education. Other conflicts arise when husband's family was organized
differently than wife's family. Trying to combine these different ideas of what marriage
should be, may turn out to be a tug-of-war or competition. Marriage counseling can help
spouses arrive at compromises that will be pleasing to both parties.
- What's love got to do with it? Going for counseling means you care to remedy your
problems. It is not a sign of lack of love. Just as we go to medical doctors to maintain
or regain our health, marriage counseling is equally important to the health of our
marriage. When both partners participate, it is a shared experience which can enhance your
love. Additionally, when couples learn to solve problems effectively, they gain greater
confidence in their relationship, and the relationship gains a greater sense of stability.
As a secondary benefit, going for counseling demonstrates to our children that we are
willing to solve problems, rather than just endure them or allow them to destroy the
family. Modelling that we are willing and able to solve problems is a gift that we can
give our children!
If and when marriage counseling becomes a necessary resource for you, be a wise
consumer of these services. The American Association for
Marriage and Family Therapy is the National accrediting body for over 8,000 Marriage
and Family Counselors. For a referral in North Carolina, call (919) 266-6156. As with any
medical or psychological provider, use your own judgement as well to find a therapist with
whom you are comfortable and confident.
ęCopyright, 1992, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated August 30, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.