Why Does Marriage Counseling Fail So Often and What You Can Do to Improve Your Marriage

Here are four common reasons that marriage counseling often fails.

  1. People, even counselors, feel both spouses MUST attend. I once saw a counselor and explained to her that despite horrible arguments, my husband refused to see a counselor. "Well," she said. "You just need to say that this is something very important to you. He has a problem managing his anger and if he cares about you, he'll do this for you. Frankly, if he isn't willing to do something so important to you, then is this really a relationship that you want to be in?"   Bad Advice!

    Several years later I dragged my husband (yes, same husband) to a counselor. He basically went, because I "made him" and sat hostile and sullen through a not-surprisingly unproductive counseling session. I realized he had a huge vested interest in showing me that counseling would not help. All I had done by coercing him into going was extend the power struggle into another area of our life.

    Counseling or books about marriage need only one spouse who is interested in changing their marriage to work.

  2. People only try one counselor. I had a very good friend who explained that when you are choosing a counselor, you are hiring someone. An effective hiring process would include getting recommendations and choosing two or three that you considered strong candidates. Then you would interview each of them. He suggested that I choose at least two counselors and see each for at least one session before deciding who I wanted to see. This is great advice and is true whether you are seeing a counselor for marriage problems, problems with your children, depression, etc.

    If your spouse is not interested in participating in counseling and your primary goal for counseling is improving your marriage, discuss this with the counselor before the first appointment and ask whether they feel they can help you with that situation.

  3. People give up on their marriage too easily. If your physical health were at stake, would you only seek information about a life-threatening illness from one source? Would you say "I went to the doctor and he had me undergo radiation, but that didn't help. Now he wants me to go through chemo, but frankly, I don't think the guy knows what he's doing." But for some reason people consider it reasonable to say "We saw a marriage counselor and it didn't help. So I'm moving out."

  4. Many marriage therapists are general therapists who also treat couples. Their training is often geared to maximizing individual's happiness and while sometimes that is enough to improve a marriage, there are also situations where this is not enough to save the marriage.

So What Can I Do?

There are three books that I think you will find helpful in addition to any counseling you may seek. They are designed to help you without benefit of a marriage counselor. But each includes advice on choosing an effective marriage counselor. It is probably too much to try all three at the same time, so I recommend that you choose the one that seems the best fit for your situation and get as much as you can out of it. But, if your situation still needs improving, move on to the next one. You may want to bookmark this page, so you can find the recommendations in the future.

Again, think of your marriage's health as you might the health of a loved one. Some are blessed with good health with no effort. Others have many problems. However, one doesn't just try one time or one technique for improving a condition. Your marriage is worth every bit as much effort.

  1. The ebook, Save the Marriage by Lee Baucom, is the most expensive of the books that I recommend at $49.97, but worth the money. Much of the advice was unique and gave me a new perspective on my marriage. Dr. Baucom's North Star analogy and his instructions for how to set boundaries in your relationship were new to me and I'm finding them very useful. I only bought this book recently, so I can't speak about it transforming my marriage yet, but I'm giving it my highest recommendation. Click here to learn more about Dr. Baucom's stunning success rate and exciting approach to relationship coaching.

  2. I also recommend the ebook, Save My Marriage Today! by Amy Waterman. This purchase, currently priced at $29.95, is really a collection of products:

    • Save My Marriage Today
    • Save My Marriage Book 2: For Marriages in Extreme Crisis
    • How to Catch a Cheating Spouse
    • The Journey - A Home Study Course that Changes Lives
    • 6 Most Common Reasons for Divorce and How to Stop Them Happening to You!
  3. AND at the moment, it includes both a money-back guarantee AND a free email consultation. Click here to check current bonuses offered with Save My Marriage Today

  4. Finally a book I love. Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again by Michele Weiner Davis. I read this book at a very low point in my life and marriage. It gave me comfort and hope. I've applied many of the ideas and yes, they have helped. No, I can't pronounce my marriage "saved", but being married is a process, so I'm not done yet.

So let's review how to avoid each pitfall of marriage counseling that I've mentionned.

Avoiding the Four Common Pitfalls of Marriage Counseling

Your relationship has problems and you want to get some help improving it either by seeing a counselor or reading a book. Tell your spouse that you want to work on your marriage, that you care about them and wish you both were happier. Encourage them to participate with you in working on the problems in your marriage. BUT, if they decline your invitation, don't hesitate. Get help yourself. The idea that both partners must seek marital advice together is wrong, wrong, wrong. The books mentionned above can explain why this is so better than I can, but one spouse can change the situation no matter how disinterested the other spouse might seem.

Shop around for marital advice. Being happily married is usually a learned skill. Sure a few people have the gift naturally with no formal training. But then there are the rest of us. If you wanted to learn to play tennis, you might get a set of lessons, then practice what you learned. If at some point in the future you were still disatisfied with your ability to play tennis, you probably wouldn't curse that those previous tennis lessons were a waste of money and quit playing forever. If you still loved the game, hopefully you would instead evaluate whether the same instructor or another could help you the most and get some more lessons.

Good luck on your search for marriage advice. Know that you aren't alone in your frustration and you don't need to feel helpless and without ideas. Try the above sources of information. I truly believe they have a lot to offer.

You are to be commended for making the effort. May a lasting meaningful relationship be your reward.

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