Marriage Counseling 101: How to Approach the Conversation with Your Spouse

There are many different decisions that inspire couples to look into marriage counseling, but oftentimes it is not a realization that couples come to at the same time. Most of the time in fact, one partner may come to the realization that the marriage is not where it should be and come to the decision to go to marriage counseling on their own. This requires them to convince their partner that it is time for counseling, which can be a very difficult process. Spouses are often reluctant to bring up marriage counseling because they are fearful of acknowledging the real issues in their relationship (even if they know these issues exist), because talking about your issues often makes them seem more real. Spouses are also worried about being rejected by their partner if they mention marriage counseling and the idea that they are not feeling happy or fulfilled in the relationship.

Though it can feel very scary to bring up the idea of marriage counseling with your partner, it is super important to bring it up if you are feeling unhappy. Going to marriage counseling can help you and your partner set goals together, take responsibility for things that have happened in the past (which is the first step in moving past those problems) and show continued commitment to one another. As intimidating as it can seem to broach this conversation, the benefits far outweigh the potential costs. Who knows, maybe your spouse is feeling the same things and is totally open to the idea. Or maybe they just need a little push before happily going to marriage counseling. Here are a few things that you can do to prepare for the marriage counseling conversation with your spouse:

Be honest about your feelings

The decision to pursue marriage counseling does not come out of the blue and is often due to feelings of unhappiness or unfulfillment that have been persisting for a while. It’s important that you are honest with your partner about how you are feeling so that they understand the reasons that you are asking them to go to marriage counseling. Being totally transparent can feel very vulnerable, but it will help them understand and hopefully empathize with your desire to seek out professional help. The marriage counseling process will require a lot of honesty, so may as well get in the practice of being open about your feelings with your partner as you broach this conversation.

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Use ‘I’ statements

It can be easy to play the blame game when things are not going well in your relationship. Instead of coming at your partner or critiquing them (using ‘you’ statements), reframe the conversation as something that you need for yourself. When you use ‘you’ statements, there is often a lot of associated blame that can cause your partner to become defensive or closed off to the idea of discussing your problems. Using “I” statements and talking about how you want and need counseling will prevent them from becoming defensive and emotional. Admitting that your marriage needs help is an emotional conversation to begin with, so avoiding blame will save these hard conversations from becoming more difficult.

Tell them you love them

Some people are afraid of marriage counseling and think that seeing a professional is the beginning of the end of their relationship, but this could not be further from the truth! A lot of happy, healthy couples turn to relationship therapy to help them work out things in a constructive way. And a lot of couples that are having problems can completely save their relationship with a little help from a professional. When you first broach the idea of marriage counseling with your partner, make sure to tell them that you love them and are in this marriage for the long haul. Rather than think of marriage counseling as a last ditch effort, reframe it as an opportunity to make improvements and grow together. Reminding your partner that you love them and that is ~ why ~ you are pursuing counseling in the first place will help them feel secure in your relationship, while noting that improvement is necessary. If both you and your partner still love each other, there are things that you can do to improve the relationship! Focus on the love you have for one another while broaching this topic and carry it forward as you navigate relationship counseling as a couple.

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Make the decision together

At the end of the day, you cannot force your partner to go to counseling if they do not want to. It’s important to give your partner time to think about the decision after broaching the idea of marriage counseling with them. Giving them some time to think about it will ensure that they are totally bought in on counseling, which is super important if you want the counseling to be effective for your relationship. If your partner agrees to go to marriage counseling, the next step is deciding what form of counseling is right for you. Marriage counseling is a lot more common than people realize and it’s likely that your friends and family have a recommendation for a good professional in the area. If you are not comfortable with that, or can’t get a good recommendation, you can always google counselors in your area. Finding the perfect match can take a couple of tries, but there is a counselor out there for you and your partner!

Try Relish

If you are interested in trying counseling with your partner but can’t get them totally on board, consider using Relish, a relationship coaching app for couples. Relish makes working on your relationship super accessible and easy. You can contact relationship coaches throughout the day and work on creating goals for your relationship. This is often a great introduction to counseling for people that are opposed to the traditional type of counseling that can involve a lot of time at the therapist’s office. Relish is also a great option for couples that don’t have the time or resources to pursue traditional counseling.

With Relish you can text with a qualified relationship coach for one-to-one advice, take therapist-approved quizzes about communication, conflict, intimacy and more. Try our award winning relationship coaching app free for one week!

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