The Australian divorce rate is notoriously high, with more than 60% of divorces involving children who never asked to have their families split up. Divorce might seem like the easy choice when you’re trapped in a failing marriage. But a year or two down the road, when you’re fighting over custody, struggling with finances, or facing the loneliness of life as a single parent, you might have second thoughts.
At Three Seas Counselling, we know that even the most troubled marriages can be saved with the right approach. Our counsellors help you explore issues within your marriage, offer practical solutions for managing these challenges, and provide an unbiased perspective on the topics about which you’ve argued for years. This doesn’t mean you should sign on for therapy with the first counsellor you stumble across, though. Good therapy is a fine skill honed with years of practice and education. Here are five things that separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to marriage counselling.
Good Marriage Counsellors Respect Your Values
No two couples are exactly alike, and there are a wide range of ways to conduct a marriage. Perhaps you want a feminist marriage where you share equally in childrearing and household chores. Or maybe you believe in a strict division of labor. No matter what your goals are, your marriage counsellor should ask about your values, rather than just taking them for granted. From there, the right counsellor will offer advice informed by your values, rather than pushing an agenda down your throat.
Consider yourself warned, though: respecting your values doesn’t mean telling you everything you do is acceptable. If your husband believes that women are inherently unequal to men, the right counsellor will correct this belief. Respecting values doesn’t mean allowing you to hurt one another, or embrace dangerous philosophies.
Good Marriage Counsellors Correct False Beliefs
Many marriage problems have their roots in false beliefs about what marriage should be. A good marriage counsellor will help you understand that you don’t have to be like everyone else, don’t have to mimic your parents, and that not everything you read about marriage is true. If he or she catches either one of you espousing dangerous false beliefs—such as the idea that men can’t control the desire to cheat—your counsellor shouldn’t shy away from correcting you.
Good Marriage Counsellors Give You Homework
No matter how good your counsellor is, a few minutes spent discussing your problems each week won’t help you make lasting changes. Your counsellor should give you weekly assignments that allow you to build upon what you learned and discussed in therapy. Whether it’s taking time to compliment one another, agreeing to refrain from criticism for a week, or something else altogether, if your counsellor isn’t giving you regular homework assignments, you’re not getting everything that you could out of marriage counselling. Good marriages take work, and that work needs to continue even when your therapy session is over.
Good Marriage Counsellors Take Sides (Without Bias)
You might have heard that good counsellors are unbiased, and that’s true. But freedom from bias doesn’t mean your counsellor will never express an opinion—or tell you you’re wrong. This means that you may occasionally feel as if your counsellor is taking sides. If your husband constantly yells at you or your wife is unfaithful, a good counsellor shouldn’t shy away from telling your spouse these behaviors are wrong.
Likewise, a good counsellor shouldn’t treat all emotions as equal. The pain of surviving a rape, for instance, is far deeper than the pain of not fitting in when you were a child. A counsellor who understands that not all emotions need to be treated equally is one who can help you make progress, correct you when you’re wrong, and quickly cut to the heart of your marital discord.
Good Marriage Counsellors Help You Get Better
Ultimately, you’re not going to therapy for entertainment or to waste time. You’re going there because you want your life and your relationship to improve. This means that you need to judge your counsellor not by how much you like him or her, or by how good you feel during or after sessions, but by whether or not you’re making progress. Some signs you’re progressing include:
- You can name a handful of things you’re doing wrong, and you know what to do to correct them.
- You have fewer fights with your spouse, and the fights you do have are shorter and less hurtful.
- You feel more comfortable expressing yourself to your spouse.
- You have a clearer idea of how to meet your spouse’s needs.
- You spend less time blaming your spouse for your problems.
- You have hope for the future of your marriage.
- You’re able to separate your personal problems from the problems within your marriage.
Couples counselling is neither a magic bullet nor a panacea. But it does work, if you’re willing to work.