Many couples in troubled marriages wait too long to get help. By the time both spouses agree to counseling, the relationship has often been strained to the breaking point. Simply speaking, many couples start too late and give up too soon. This doesn’t mean their issues are insurmountable, it just means that they have let the problems in their relationship go on for so long that when they finally do decide to deal with them, there is so much hurt and resentment built up, they often give up too soon. Some spouses, though, have found a way to work on their marriages even if their partners won't go to couples counseling. They get counseling alone. What does this accomplish?
Several studies now show that individuals who receive relationship-skills training see as much improvement in their relationships as those who get the training as a couple.
Often couples approach couples counseling with the idea that they are going to “fix” the other partner; couples go to counseling and complain about one another expecting the therapist to validate one or the other of them. In reality, couples therapy is often about teaching the couple basic conflict management. We all have different ways of viewing and dealing with the world and this inevitably brings conflict. Couples therapy helps people identify the negative patterns in how people interact with one another, teaches each partner to recognize his/her individual role in those patterns and then teaches them how to do their part to change them. While the process works best if both partners participate, some counselors now say troubled marriages can benefit even if just one spouse seeks help from a couples therapist.
Whether investing in an online marriage counseling solution like StrongMarriageNow or going to couples therapy alone, one must recognize that they won't be able to change the other person, only themselves. Each spouse needs to recognize his or her own role in creating the issues in the marriage. The fact is, there is no relationship where all of the problems are the fault of one person. Rather than griping, focus on the problems that can be solved. Is one partner always late? This can be addressed. Hate your in-laws? Too bad, they come with the package. Try to re-frame behaviors in a positive way. When one husband felt his wife was overly focused on details, it was pointed out to him that the bills were always paid on time! The focus shouldn’t be on the conflict; rather, try to remember why you were attracted in the first place.
Most couples report that even if the changes take some time, when one partner changes and chooses to focus on being happy, the negative pattern shifts.
One couple, married for 21 years, reported significant improvement after 18 months of the wife learning relationship skills on her own. She learned how to stop fighting with her husband and instead to start calmly explaining to him what was important to her and expecting him to respect her needs. She stated that, "He is probably treating me differently because I won't tolerate certain things anymore. But I've also become a happier person, because I am not looking for him to make me happy anymore." The husband reported he was confused by his wife's changes at first, but gradually came to appreciate her independence. "When she changed her behavior, the pressure dissipated," he said. "And when that was gone, I could think more clearly and my whole perspective changed."
For more information on how to get your marriage back on track and fix it on your own, watch our free marriage counseling video below.
Check Out Our Video: How To Regain the Love, Rekindle Passion and Save Your Marriage
Do you and your spouse need to learn how to manage conflict better? Please comment below.
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com