Marriage Counseling 101: Costs, Benefits and Affordable Alternatives
What is marriage counseling?
Marriage counseling is a form of therapy that can help married couples address a variety of different issues and barriers in their relationship. Marriage counseling can not only help you and your partner identify the problems in your relationship, but it can also help you work towards addressing and resolving these problems. This type of therapy is often focused on conflict resolution and improving your relationship with your partner.
Marriage counseling can help address issues like communication problems, substance abuse, infidelity, financial issues and blended families. It can also help you and your partner navigate changing life circumstances such as unemployment, empty-nesting, retirement and things of that nature. Marriage counseling is not only about solving problems in your relationship, it’s also about strengthening the bond between you and your partner to help create a stronger connection. This type of counseling is normally facilitated by a licensed therapist who guides couples through talk therapy sessions to help understand and navigate their relationship.
While all types of marriage counseling aims to address similar problems, there are many different philosophies that guide marriage counseling. You may have heard of the Gottman Method, for example, a type of research-based marriage counseling that focuses on improving verbal communication, increasing intimacy, increasing respect, increasing affection, removing barriers to conflict resolution and creating more empathy and compassion within relationships. The Gottman Method is one of the most popular types of marriage counseling, but it is by no means the only type of therapy out there. In addition to the Gottman Method there is psychoanalytic relationship theory that focuses on childhood issues and the unconscious (think Freud here) and how these things affect interpersonal relationships and marriages. There is also the strategic-structural philosophy that focuses on present problems and changing the structure within a relationship. Additionally there is the social-cognitive method that examines our learned behaviors (behaviors taught to us by society) and evaluates how to unlearn the bad behaviors and address problems in the relationship. There are tons of other types of marriage therapy philosophies out there. Finding the right type of counseling for you will often take some shopping around. It’s important to approach marriage counseling with patience and an open mind so that you and your partner can find the most appropriate form of counseling for you.
Marriage counseling is for married couples (obviously) in addition to any couple in a long term partnership. Couples that plan to get married soon can also participate in marriage counseling, but this is normally called pre-marital counseling.
What are the benefits of marriage counseling?
Marriage counseling can be beneficial for your marriage no matter what stage your relationship is in. Each of the five stages of a long term relationship, the honeymoon, power struggle, stability, acceptance and lasting love stages all have unique problems that can be addressed with marriage counseling. Whether you are having some problems in your relationship or are just looking to grow closer to your partner, marriage counseling can help you learn the skills to navigate problems as a team and grow together. Some couples even go to marriage counseling before they are officially married! Thinking that it can’t hurt to establish a relationship with a therapist before the honeymoon phase of the marriage wears off.... Marriage counseling is all about establishing the skills to navigate the problems in your relationship with as much ease and grace as possible.
Learning and relearning these skills will help at any point in a marriage (and even just a long-term relationship), so starting early - before there are any major problems, is actually a great idea. Marriage counseling can seem intimidating and even awkward at times, I mean let’s be honest, most people are not thrilled by the idea of talking through some of the most personal aspects of your personal life and relationship with a stranger.... But committing to the process and learning to trust your therapist and your partner can lead to huge improvements in your relationship. And while some problems can be sorted out without a therapist, it is sometimes necessary to have a trained and experienced third party weigh in on things.
Participating in marriage counseling probably won’t fix all your problems overnight, but it will give you and your partner some tools and strategies to help you navigate your marriage for the rest of your relationship! Having tools and techniques to fall back on when you are at a loss for what to do can be empowering and it can allow you to communicate better and find better solutions. It is also really refreshing to have an outside perspective on your relationship. While it can feel super intimidating to air your dirty laundry with a stranger, it’s also really empowering to open up about your intimate problems in an attempt to solve them. It is common for partners to wind up in the same fight over and over again which can feel frustrating and even defeating. Bringing in an expert with an outside opinion can provide insight into the source of these problems, helping you name the issue and make strides towards addressing the issue.
Marriage counseling is not the solution for every couple, but it does have a lot of benefits for couples that buy into the process and learn to implement the skills they learn through their therapy sessions.
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What are some cons to marriage counseling?
While there are many benefits to marriage counseling, there are also some drawbacks that you and your partner should be aware of before deciding to take the dive. Marriage counseling is more often than not, SUPER expensive and rarely covered by any type of insurance. The investment can definitely be worth your time, but if money is already a source of stress in your marriage it’s better to avoid adding any financial stress to the situation.
In addition to high costs (and also a contributing factor to the high cost) is the amount of time that traditional marriage counseling requires. Traditional marriage counseling is a long term investment that requires meeting with your counselor for a short period of time over an extended number of weeks, months and maybe even years. Not everyone has the time to dedicate to this type of counseling, and not everyone can afford the price of marriage counseling for that amount of time.
In addition to these drawbacks, marriage counseling can also be inconvenient depending on your schedules. If you and your partner already feel like you don’t have enough time together it can be hard to justify spending your time together at therapy. If you are both super busy, it can also be very difficult to find a time that works for you, your partner and your therapist. You should not use scheduling issues as an excuse not to address your relationship problems, but it is true that scheduling and lack of free time are barriers to traditional marriage counseling. Furthermore, it can be very difficult to find the perfect match with a counselor. Like we mentioned before, finding the perfect counselor (someone that both you and your partner like and find helpful) can often take a bit of shopping around. This means that you may need to go to a couple consultations before the real work on addressing your relationship issues can even begin. Finding the right counselor is such an important part of the process, but it can take some time.
All of these barriers are not meant to deter you and your partner from getting the marriage support that you need, they are just things that you should consider before entering what can be a long-term and pricey engagement.
High costs and other logistical cons should not stand in the way of improving your marriage. Check out these affordable alternatives to in-person marriage counseling, so that you and your partner can get the help you need without breaking the bank or adding any unnecessary stress into your life!
While some marriage counseling plans do only involve one partner, marriage counseling more often than not requires both partners to participate in counseling. For many couples, it is crucial for both people to participate in the counseling process, so that together you learn how to communicate with one another, see the other’s point of view, and navigate problems more effectively. But in some cases, it's not necessary to pursue marriage counseling, you should instead consider individual counseling. Marriage counseling is a great resource to use if you and your partner need help navigating problems in your relationship or problems related to how you interact with one another.
But marriage counseling can’t really help you navigate these things if the source of the problem is an unaddressed issue with either you or your partner. Marriage counseling probably isn’t for you if the problems in your relationship stem from you or your partner’s anger management issues, or controlling tendencies for example.
In these cases, it can be necessary for you or your partner to seek individual therapy to help sort through how to deal with these things on a personal level. It’s important that partners support one another as they navigate what can be difficult individual therapy, but it’s not necessary to pursue couples therapy in these cases. Individual counseling can often be more effective than marriage counseling in cases where your interpersonal problems are stemming from someone’s personal problems. Individual counseling is often much cheaper than marriage counseling, and will often end up improving your marriage.
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If you and your partner decide that you want to pursue some form of counseling, you should consider looking into group therapy as an alternative to traditional marriage counseling. Group counseling is basically marriage counseling with other couples. While it may seem a bit weird to talk about really personal aspects of your marriage with other couples, many people find it very comforting to know that their problems are often not unique to their relationship. All relationships have similar struggles, so meeting couples that are going through the same thing as you and your partner is not only validating, but can also inspire you and your partner to try different ways to approach your problems.
Hearing how other people cope or work together or effectively communicate can help you and your partner troubleshoot your same problems. Additionally, group counseling can help you and your partner forge bonds with other couples that are committed to improving their relationship. Surrounding yourself with other strong couples that are willing to do the work it takes to be happier and closer will create a good environment for you and your partner to do the same. Group counseling is often a cheaper alternative to marriage counseling, and is a great option for social couples that are open to tackling their problems in a group setting.
Another great option for couples that are considering marriage counseling, but are scared off by the price tag is a couples retreat! There are many different types of couples retreats with varying lengths, focuses and methodology, but the basic idea is that you and your partner go on a therapy vacation together. A lot of the time changing your setting can do a lot for your state of mind and for the state of your relationship!
Going on a little vacation can help you clear your head and get out of the daily routines and habits that might be contributing to your relationship struggles. A couples retreat adds to the benefit of a vacation through specialized courses and counseling sessions aimed at improving your relationship. A couples retreat packs in tons of therapy and counseling work into a weekend or week long crash course that can often be very intense, but is faster than traditional therapy. You might be wondering why a couples retreat is listed as a cheaper alternative to marriage counseling, I mean after all, vacations aren’t cheap. But in the grand scheme of things, making a one time investment in a couples retreat can end up being cheaper than weeks, months or years of therapy to work out the same things.
Couples retreats are also great for couples that aren’t necessarily having any problems, but just want some structured time together to work on improving their relationship. Regardless of what state your relationship is in, it can be super fun and very rewarding to participate in a couples retreat. Next time you need a getaway or want to take a small vacation, consider looking into a couples retreat!
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Self help books
If talking about your feelings with a therapist or with a group of people sounds like your personal nightmare, but you are still interested in improving your marriage, don’t worry! There are plenty of other more private ways to improve your relationship. Self help books are a great resource to use if you want to get relationship advice on your own terms. Like we said above, a lot of relationship problems are fairly universal, so it’s possible for you to find literature that can help you navigate and address the exact problems that you are facing.
Relationship self help books are very popular these days, and there are super specific books for most of the common struggles out there. Self help books are great because they can offer pointers about how to address certain problems. The books are also totally on your terms. You can read at your own pace, on your own terms and try things out that you are comfortable with. These types of books are written by all types of people, so you can tailor the kind of content that you want to consume. Do you want to read research-based relationship advice? Turn to a published therapist or psychologist.
Are you more interested in testimonials and personal experience? Look into authors of that genre. These days there are so many books out there that with the right amount of research you can probably find the perfect relationship self help book for your relationship. Following this avenue is great because it's super cheap, especially compared to the price tag of full-blown marriage counseling. If you are a driven and hands-on person, relationship self help books could be the perfect way for you to improve your marriage.
Relationship coaching with Relish
Self help books are not for everybody, it can require a lot of personal drive and dedication to work through a self book and apply the techniques and teachings to your relationship.
And honestly, sometimes you really just want/need someone to help you figure out your relationship problems and goals. If that rings true for you, you should check out the Relish relationship coaching app. Relish breaks down the cost and convenience barriers that often prevent people from seeking out relationship counseling by providing users access to a trained therapist through their app. Relish users can chat with relationship coaches through the chat function on the app to seek guidance in addition to tips and tricks on how to improve their relationship. Relish focuses on relationship goal setting, so that you and your partner can move towards a better relationship in a super practical and methodical way.
Relish fits into your life easily because you can engage with the app whenever you have a spare five minutes. And if you forget, Relish sends you reminders so that you stay on track with your relationship goals. Relish is much cheaper than traditional marriage counseling, and only requires a monthly fee to stay subscribed to use their relationship coaching service and quality, and highly personalized relationship advice.
Interested but not ready to commit? No worries, you can try Relish free for one week! Click here to start your free coaching trial.