The 15 Relationship Questions Marriage Counselors Get Asked the Most
Here are the questions that marriage counselors get asked the most often from couples—and how they answer them.
Can our marriage actually get better?
A marriage takes some work to keep it going strong. “Most of the time, my clients don’t understand what makes a good relationship,” says Lesli Doares, a marriage consultant and coach with a private practice in Cary, North Carolina, and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage.“They also don’t understand how much power they have to create the relationship they want. They think others have it better or don’t have the same challenges, so there must be something wrong with them.” Check out the marriage advice of people together for 50+ years.
How can I rid the image of my spouse who cheated?
Infidelity is a common topic in marriage counseling. “I tell clients that what helps is counseling, promises that it will never happen again, and that they should work on their marriage,” says Gilda Carle, PhD, relationship expert and author of Ask for What You Want And Get It. Therapy will give you understanding and insight into what happened and why it occurred. Counseling can help you communicate better and give you peace of mind knowing that you tried to make things work if you do decide to step away from your partner and relationship.
Are we as bad as your other clients?
Don’t compare your issues to those of other couples. “There is always a range of ‘bad,’” says David Simonsen, PhD, LMFT, who practices in Olympia, Washington. “Your issues are unique to you. So ‘bad’ is a relative term I can’t answer that well.” Check out 12 tiny ways to make your spouse feel loved.
Our problems are silly: Are we wasting your time?
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“You have to live your life outside these four walls,” Dr. Simonsen says. “I’m not mad at you because you get to make choices in your daily life just like I do. You shouldn’t choose how to live based on how you think I may or may not feel as your therapist.”
Can you tell if our marriage is doomed?
The fact that you’re in couples therapy is a good sign that you want to make things work: “Couples don’t want to waste their time in therapy if they’re focusing on divorce or if they’re feeling hopeless about reestablishing a connection with their partner,” says Mindy Utay, LCSW, JD who practices in New York City. “Couples therapy takes courage. It requires being vulnerable, truthful and honest, even when you feel you’ve been hurt and you’re worried about your future together.” She tells her patients that she isn’t there to save their marriage, and they shouldn’t focus on that either. Couples therapy is about learning how to communicate openly and honestly and how to identify what conflicts are causing pain, she says. “I tell them it’s my job to create a safe environment where they can be honest and open with each other about their relationship.” She redirects their focus. “I try to help them focus less on the outcome of the therapy, and see if they can reestablish a connection.”
How do we find the time to save our marriage?
When kids’ soccer practices, doctor appointments, and birthday parties rule your life, you may have to deliberately schedule some spouse time—no phones, calls, emails, or other multitasking. “You have to be vigilant about setting aside date nights,” says Rachel A. Sussman, LCSW, relationship expert, writer, lecturer and author of The Breakup Bible. “People fight this, but it’s important. If you just become co-parents, you lose the romantic connection. If date night is too hard, do a day date, or breakfast before work. Be creative.”
Are we only going to focus on the bad stuff?
Rest assured, couples therapy isn’t full of gloom and doom. “Of course, we’ll explore what brought you here to begin with,” says Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, a couples therapist in Los Angeles. “But we also want to look at your hopes, wishes, dreams, and desires for your relationship. If we just focus on the negative, without helping couples create a healthy vision of what a great relationship could look like, then it becomes too depressing.” Find out more about what not to do after a fight with your partner.
Why does every discussion turn into an argument?
“Often, discussions become arguments when people don’t feel they’re being heard or understood,” says Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center in Baltimore. “The best way to stop this cycle is to interrupt it at any point and check that you’re hearing and understanding your partner.” Bilek suggests patiently and kindly asking your partner if they understand what you’re saying—and that you understand them. “If you don’t understand, ask for more explanation so you can learn to see it the way they do, even if you disagree,” says Bilek.
How long does couples therapy take?
“Couples therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and therapists aren’t fortune tellers,” says Laura Heck, co-host of Marriage Therapy Radio; she has a private practice in Salt Lake City. That’s why Heck says you can’t know how long it will take to reach your goals. She says to ask yourself what your financial commitment is to bettering your relationship—and keep in mind that the average divorce costs $15,000. If you do weekly one-hour sessions for six months, that’s a 24-hour in-office commitment, she says. “Compare that 24 hours to the hours spent in endless fights, sleepless nights, and time feeling miserable and hopeless about your relationship,” she says. “I tell couples that I’d love a three-month initial commitment. Breaking bad habits and creating new ones takes time. I can guarantee that you won’t be doing that in four sessions or less.” These 11 signs mean you can trust your partner.
We seem to have fallen out of love. Can we get the spark back?
“It’s not uncommon for couples to come to a marriage therapist reporting that they don’t feel the spark and intensity that they did at the beginning,” says Linda Lipshutz, MS, ACSW, a marriage and relationship therapist who practices in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “An accumulation of the stresses, gripes, and challenges of the years together may have taken a toll on their intimate connection, leaving both partners bewildered and defeated.” However, she says that if you’re both on board to revitalize your relationship, results can be promising. “A therapist can be instrumental in helping you gain insight into any destructive patterns that may undermine your closeness and to learn more effective ways of speaking up.”