Marriage guidance counselling - is it for you?

Every relationship, no matter how strong, requires work from both parties. But for some, the cracks that appear become chasms and it may seem as though your marriage or partnership is beyond saving.

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Marriage or couples counselling has saved many a partnership, however, so before you rush into a divorce or separation it is worth considering this option.

Is it for me?
Long working hours, looking after the children, money worries, whatever the issue, maintaining a happy, healthy relationship when you are under pressure is tough.

While all couples argue, if you find yourself constantly at loggerheads and rowing more and more frequently it may be time to seek help. Trouble within the relationship may also manifest in a lack of intimacy, a feeling that you are stuck in a rut with no clue how to move forward.

One or both parties may find they avoid conflict rather than try to resolve serious issues, you may even consider the idea that you would happier with someone else. Often it is the case that only one partner or spouse believes (or will admit) that the relationship is on the rocks but this does not mean that counselling will not work.

What should I expect?
Whether you find a counsellor through Relate or another such organisation, or find a specialist counsellor in your local area, it is important to feel comfortable and trust your therapist.

A good counsellor will not only help you to work through your issues as a couple, they will provide you with the tools that enable you to resolve conflict and communicate better with your spouse at home, and also work through any personal issues that may be affecting the relationship.

Counselling allows couples to properly listen to their partners fears and issues - talking to a third party means each person will feel that their worries (which are often ignored for too long) are finally being acknowledged, and it's important to be aware that you may hear things that will hurt.

But before long, counselling will enable both partners to better understand and hear their loved one.

It also allows you both time to reflect on problems within the relationship without everyday stress getting in the way. Your counsellor will help you to find ways of resolving these issues and moving forward towards a shared goal.

They will not judge either party, whatever they may or may not have done, take sides, apportion blame or discriminate. And no counsellor should encourage you to stay together if things really aren't working, nor will they advise you to divorce, though they may offer help and advise should you decide this is the only option.

Couples counselling is not a quick fix solution - some couples find three months of therapy is enough to set them back on the right track, for others it can take much longer. But if you truly value your marriage, counselling can provide you with the tools to not only repair, but ultimately strengthen the partnership.