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  • Writer's pictureLife Coach Bindiya Murgai

10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Couples and Marriage Counselling

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

How do we determine if we need couples counselling?

Take an honest and truthful look at the state of your relationship. Evaluate your overall level of happiness, peace, and satisfaction. If you find that you aren't happy with your partner, if you argue more than you talk, feel daily or frequent stress, find yourself lying, bullying, feeling intimidated, or avoiding your partner, it may be time to consider marriage or relationship counselling. We will work together to help you get to the bottom of your problem, and find agreeable and sustainable solutions that will restore a healthier, happier relationship. Some people feel shy and hesitant to share their intimate relationship dynamics with a third person. However, I can assure you a neutral, non-judgmental and confidential environment in which you can find a very real and viable solution to an improved relationship and life.

What do we expect from our counselling session and what will we need to do?

To get the most out of your session, prepare your thoughts, feelings, and motives so that you are clear and focused during the session. You will not be judged for anything you say and therefore to maximize the benefits of counselling, you must be totally honest and transparent. Don’t sign up due to external pressure, because no change can take place on a deeper level if you are not committed to it. Come with an open mind and adopt a positive attitude before heading into your session. Look at your sessions with hope and optimism. They are an opportunity to heal as a couple, not as blame game and something you need to resign yourself to.

Trust the process and give it some time. Issues that have built over a while, also take a while to resolve. Allow your partner to speak openly without the fear of emotional or physical repercussions. This will involve setting boundaries for disagreements, so both partners feel safe to express their views. You must be willing to do this. Remember, it isn't necessary for couples to agree on everything, but it is important to learn to voice your opinions while respecting what your partner has to say.

Sometimes in the course of the counselling, larger issues will come up, which may have no direct connection with your relationship, but maybe indirectly impacting it. These may be problems from the past, such as fear of abandonment, childhood insecurities, past emotional or physical traumas, or other deep complexes and misplaced beliefs. Be ready for this to happen, and willing to address them. Be willing to commit to working on goals that are set for you during your counselling sessions. These could vary from breaking bad habits and patterns, to spending emotionally constructive time together.

How many sessions will we need?

How many sessions you need, depends entirely on the challenges you are facing and on your unique circumstances, level of commitment and willingness to create change. Couples could need anything between 8 - 24 sessions. Sessions are usually once a week. However, in intense situations, you may need to have 2-3 sessions a week.

Will all our sessions happen together?

As your counsellor, my task is to identify and address the core issues of your relationship discord, as each of you may have a very different and contradictory notion about the source of your conflict. It's therefore important for me to evaluate each of you separately, prior to your first joint session. Post that, I shall formulate my assessment of the conflict and discuss the appropriate steps forward. This will be done jointly, with both of you. In some cases, especially where there is violence or addiction involved, you may be required to take a few sessions separately.  This may also be advised at some other times, depending on my assessment of the situation.

I am apprehensive that the counsellor may start siding with my partner. Is this a valid concern?

This is a very valid and important concern, as objectivity is an absolute must for an effective counsellor.  Rest assured, our interactions will be objectively evaluated and communicated to you. I work to help both partners recognize and understand the other person’s point of view, and my approach is in no way influenced by personal opinions, beliefs, or value systems.

What can any counsellor tell me about my relationship, that I don’t already know?

My or any counsellor's task is not to “tell” you things or give you sermons. My task is to help you unearth the truths about your relationship dynamics, enable you to step back and see your issues from another perspective, give you tools to create better communication and understanding, help you define goals within your relationship, and monitor progress as a neutral third party.

Will couples counselling fix all our relationship issues?

Like with any other therapy, couples counselling cannot fix every relationship issue. While it’s a very powerful intervention that has helped countless couples across the world, no counsellor cannot guarantee that she can “save” a  relationship. For example, couples dealing with domestic violence and substance abuse often find it very challenging to resolve their problems without added interventions such as rehab etc. That apart, couples counselling will help you learn about you and your partner's needs, expectations, and desires and empower you to make difficult decisions. People often learn valuable skills and a deeper knowledge of themselves that helps them deal better with other relationships as well.

What if my partner is not willing to come for counselling?

It’s very common to find one person in a relationship unwilling to seek help from a counsellor. The reasons range from denial to ego and pride issues but do not necessarily mean that your partner is not hurting. Other common reasons people give are lack of time, and sometimes even that it’s “too expensive.” Remember, whatever the excuse or reason, gently explain to your partner that your relationship is certainly worth more than a few extra hours at work or a couple of dinners, outfits, or movies.

Share how you are feeling with your partner. Explain that you feel your relationship is struggling, and it’s important for you to make a genuine effort to keep your relationship from falling apart. Let your partner know that you realize that you need to make changes, but it must be a two-way process and a couples counsellor will be very helpful in making you both look at your issues objectively. If your partner is still totally unwilling, then book an appointment for yourself and I can help you work through the matter.

Can I do it alone?

In most cases, going for counselling alone, is better than not going at all. And although you cannot change your partner, you can change yourself. Often changes that you make to improve yourself and your marriage can generate a healthy response from your partner. You may find that once you stop accusing, nagging, fighting, withholding affection, being clingy or change the root cause of your own issues, this will make way for positive changes in your partner. You can also learn to communicate better through counselling yourself and break negative habits and patterns that may be impacting your relationship. When you feel better about your own self, it will reflect positively on your relationship.

Is it only for married and straight, heterosexual couples?

Couples counselling is effective for any couple seeking improvement in their relationship, irrespective of their marital status or sexual orientation. More and more couples are choosing to get premarital counselling, as it’s very useful in understanding one another and the expectations, and makes the transition into matrimony a lot smoother.

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