The Purpose of Marriage Therapy

Like marriage itself, marriage therapy is a highly demanding and rigorous process. It can be extremely uncomfortable to let down habitual defenses and delve into your core wound, and then share that pain with your partner — all in front of someone you hardly know.

So, why do it? First, if your marriage is in crisis, marriage therapy is often the only way to cut through the layers of hurt, defensiveness, and hopelessness that have hardened in place of the love you once had. Second, because this level of exposure — along with a commitment to making necessary behavioral changes — brings personal growth, and that growth brings many rewards.

If you do the necessary work, you'll come to accept yourself, wounds and all. Then, you'll find new ways to heal it and the scars left behind that get in the way of you being fully present in your marriage and available to your partner. You'll also gain a new ability to express your needs and respond with clarity to the needs of another human being with whom you've chosen to create a life. Finally, you'll learn to live in greater peace and harmony both within yourself and with your partner so the two of you can fulfill your vows to stick it out no matter what life throws at you.

Fact

Many couples enter marriage therapy in what can only be described as an emotional stalemate and a behavioral standoff, wherein the two partners are simply enduring in a relationship that has degenerated into a state of nearly perpetual conflict.

Go Together or Alone?

If there are repetitive problems in your marriage, it is definitely advantageous for both of you to enter therapy at the same time with the same marriage therapist. Better to put all your cards on the table honestly and openly and have a neutral third party help you find a way through the dilemma than to keep you stuck in your point of view. This requires both individuals in the relationship be open to the value of therapy. Quite often one party is opposed to therapy. Unfortunately, that is usually the man because he sees the therapist as someone appointed as the judge and jury rather than a neutral party who is simply there to help the couple find their own solutions to their problems.

A good therapist will help both individuals see what each can do to improve the relationship, rather than choose one side over another. A therapist can help you both understand what is going on underneath the surface of a conflict. Often, the actual cause of the argument is not initially understood, because the real issue is hidden from consciousness.

Question

What is the role of the therapist in marriage counseling?

A good therapist represents the marriage, not one or the other partner in therapy, regardless of who did what. A therapist is like the referee in sports; he keeps the process moving without allowing conflict to steer it off course.

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