Do You Need Relationship or Marriage Therapy?
How do you know if you need marriage or relationship therapy? Here are some signs you need professional relationship help.
What do you do when things aren't going well in your relationship? Have you just outgrown each other? Do you both need to act more mature and learn how to compromise? Or do you need professional help to make things right?
Common Relationship Issues
Difficulties in a first relationship: Very frequently, when people are in a first relationship, they believe it will go on forever. Often it feels very special and magical. So, even if you know that - statistically - first-love is unlikely to last, it can be a terrible blow when it doesn't. However, it's important to remember that if your first love ends, you can still treasure its memory for the rest of your life. Its experience will also help you move on and find something even better in the future.
In love or just loving: Maybe your problems are about the intensity of the relationship. The kind of change that happens after you've been in a relationship for a while is natural. But it can worry people. You may feel your relationship is no good just because you no longer get breathless at the very thought of your boy or girlfriend. But what you have to remember is that the first stages of being 'in love' are so intense that it's difficult to get on with real life at the same time! After a while, you're bound to want to concentrate on your job or to see your friends more. This doesn't mean that your relationship is passed its sell-by date unless there are other things wrong with it too.
First baby: Research shows that the most dangerous time for a relationship is around the time of a first baby. And that even if the relationship doesn't end for another 20 years, its troubles can usually be traced back to the months surrounding the first child's birth. This makes bleak reading, doesn't it? But of course loads of young parents stay happy and enjoy their babies. However, it's worth realizing that this is a difficult time and it's time to seek some help from a counselor or therapist before your problems get out of hand.
Are you sure this isn't about sex? If what's going wrong is about sex, one of you finds it hurts, one wants it more than the other or one can't have an orgasm, you may want to consider sex therapy.
Common Sense Tips to Get Your Relationship Back on Track
If your relationship is in trouble, there are a few things you can try before going the whole hog and getting a counselor:
- Never have an important discussion or argument after 9 pm. The chances are that you'll be tired or boozed, or both - you'll solve your differences much better in the morning.
- If the guy in the relationship feels he hates to open up emotionally, or isn't good at talking, or feels he gets interrupted all the time, or shouted down, then it's worth using the 10-minute rule. This means that you sit down together to discuss things calmly and you each have ten minutes of uninterrupted talking time to make your case. Neither or you must interrupt or swear, or shout, or act out. You just talk when it's your turn, and listen when it's not. If you need another 10 minutes each, then have it. But agree before you start that you won't let this discussion go on all night. Guys in particular hate the idea of an open-ended row that goes on and on. So agree that after, say, half an hour, you'll go and get a pizza or something.
- Try to be pleasant and respectful to each other even if things aren't going great. A smile and a thank you when appropriate keeps things civilized.
When Do You Definitely Need Therapy?
Most therapists will tell you that couples tend to come for therapy as a last resort. And often they leave it so long before coming that at least one of the partners is past caring. So, do seriously consider therapy in time to do some good, especially if:
- One of you is very insecure, clingy or jealous and this is ruining the relationship;
- You're both moody with each other most of the time;
- One or both of you can't discuss feelings with the other;
- Discussions always turn into rows;
- One or other of you is unhappy much of the time;
- You've stopped having sex.
Is This Going to Cost a Lot?
Free: Most religious leaders have received at least some training in dealing with relationship problems. If you belong to a church, synagogue or other religious institution, check that out. Free marriage seminars and workshops are also held by many voluntary organizations. In addition, many of the marriage seminars and conferences hand out free literature on communication skills, how to fight fairly and other important issues that affect a marriage.
Low-cost marriage therapy: Try your local women's center or contact the United Way. Additionally, if there is a college or university nearby that offers graduate programs in psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy or counseling, they usually offer low-cost counseling to provide training for their students.
Private marriage therapy: Family and marriage counseling costs can vary widely. Rates vary from about $75 to $200 per hour, but many therapists offer sliding scale fees based on income, while some accept insurance and some do not. The average cost for marriage and family counseling is about $100 per session. Since most marriage counselors see couples one session a week for the first three months, you can expect to pay about $1200 in that period of time if it's at about $100/hr.
In an article, Willard F. Hartley, Jr., author of 5 Steps to Romantic Love provides this perspective on marriage counseling:
"To help put the cost of marriage counseling in perspective, there's nothing you can buy for $10,000 that will give you the same quality of life that a healthy marriage provides. If you and your spouse love each other and meet each other's important emotional needs, you'll be able to do without many other things and still be happier in the end. Besides, I've found that people seem to earn more and save more after their marital problems are solved. The money you spend to resolve your marital problems is money well spent."
Last Updated: 25 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD