is free marriage counseling worth it?

Should You and Your Spouse Try Free Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling is becoming more and more mainstream, and demand is growing for counseling services around the country and around the world. Marriage counseling is becoming so popular that there is even free marriage counseling available for couples that feel like they need some help working through marital problems.

With this increase in marriage counseling there is also an increase in advertisements for marriage counseling. Which means that if you are married you are probably inundated with ads for free online services all of the time. These advertisements might have you questioning whether or not you and your spouse should give free marriage counseling a try. We are here to tell you: no, no you should not. While free marriage counseling might sound enticing, there are lots of hidden costs associated with marriage counseling.

If you and your spouse are serious about improving your marriage, marriage counseling is not something that you should try to do on the cheap (AKA for free).

Why free marriage counseling doesn’t work

People often say that if a married couple starts going to marriage counseling divorce is right around the corner. But why is this the case? Shouldn’t marriage counseling ~ save ~ your relationship rather than end in divorce? It seems as if almost everyone knows a story about a troubled couple going to marriage counseling and getting a divorce soon after... This is often the case because couples view marriage counseling as a ‘hail mary’ attempt at ‘saving’ their marriage. What this means is that couples often wait too long before going to marriage counseling. Though we as a society are seeing counseling as less and less worthy of stigma, couples are still reluctant to admit that they are having problems that necessitate counseling. But as a marriage counselor will tell you, almost all problems are worthy of marriage counseling, and the earlier you and your partner are able to recognize and address the problems, the more successful your marriage will be.

Unfortunately, this is often not the case and many couples wait until their problems are too big or have been going on for too long before they finally decide to get help. And at this point, there is not much a marriage counselor can do to help you improve your relationship. Think about it! If you and your partner have had unaddressed issues in your marriage for years there is not much a counselor can do for you unless you are both willing to make some major changes. And as much as we like to think we are capable of major changes, humans are creatures of habits and bad habits (including bad relationship habits) die hard.

So long story short, even the most seasoned marriage counselor cannot help your marriage if you and your partner let your relationship problems go unaddressed for too long. This means that free marriage counseling, which let’s face it is probably not the highest quality (it is after all being offered for free...) definitely will not save your marriage. Free marriage counseling can actually end up being quite expensive considering the fact that last-ditch marriage counseling often leads to divorce.

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The financial cost of free marriage counseling

Free marriage counseling often ends up in divorce which is anything but free and is actually quite expensive. The average cost of divorce per person in the United States is $15,000. This average takes into account the divorce filing fees (which can range from around $100 to around $300) and the average fees for divorce attorneys. This means that IN TOTAL divorces cost $30,000 per couple, which for most people is not an amount that is readily available (even if you did save money with free marriage counseling...).

While $15,000 is the average in the United States, each state has slightly different costs based on ranges in the divorce filing fees and the rate that divorce lawyers charge. In addition to the upfront cost of a divorce, you have to consider the laws in different states that dictate how to divide up assets between a couple after a divorce. Do you co-parent children? Will child-support be owed to one spouse? Did you sign a prenup before getting divorced? Are there assets to split up? Do you owe debts as a couple? How will the debt be managed?

As unromantic as it may seem to focus on the financial aspects of divorce (especially when divorce also has high emotional and mental health costs), it is important to consider the financial repercussions of divorcing a spouse.

Other costs associated with free marriage counseling

In addition to the cost of divorce that is often associated with “free” marriage counseling, it is important to consider the other inherent costs that render this counseling anything but free. Sure, you and your partner may not have to pay for the sessions, but you do have to dedicate a significant amount of time to marriage counseling. And under capitalism, time is money, so there is an inherent cost in marriage counseling.

In addition to the cost of your time, marriage counseling (free or not) can also take a huge emotional cost. Even if you and your partner don’t end up in divorce, last-ditch marriage counseling can be very emotionally taxing. Relationships are difficult and if you and your partner have years of unaddressed baggage, problems, hurt feelings, marriage counseling can come at a high price in terms of the emotional toll that it takes. If you are able to work through these problems, then the emotional price of free marriage counseling is often worth it. But like we mentioned before, free marriage counseling often ends in divorce which comes at a high financial AND emotional cost.

The moral of this story is that couples should recognize problems in their relationship early and work to address these problems before they get out of hand. Couples should invest in their relationship by using trained counselors and other services to address these problems in a meaningful way. Investing time, energy and money into high quality counseling services (NOT free marriage counseling) will not only improve your relationship, but it will also save you money and other less tangible costs down the line by preventing financially and emotionally costly divorce.

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