“Maybe you’ve tried and it didn’t help“.
You may know a couple or two where it didn’t help. While every situation is unique, here are some of the most likely culprits of unhelpful marriage or couples counseling.
Lack of Time
It may be you or your spouse can’t dedicate the time to attend therapy every week. Sometimes if a partner’s work schedule is busy, or a family crisis takes you away, or “excuses” keep popping up, the inability to get an ongoing therapy rhythm can mean marriage counseling doesn’t get traction in your marriage.
The other possibility is that your outside life is so busy you and your partner have no time to connect between sessions. It goes without saying, spending an hour a week (in therapy) on your marriage is not going to create miracles.
Lack of Motivation
Time may not be an issue but lack of energy to connect and do the hard work of restoring a marriage.
There are many reasons there may be lack of motivation but it would be important to look at any mental health issue getting in the way – depression for example, can mute a persons energy.
Sometimes the timing is just not right. If you’ve just spent a year battling your aging mothers dementia and she finally passed, the last thing you’re wanting to do is find fresh energy for your marriage.
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Lack of motivation does not mean the marriage is doomed. If you can be honest about why, and you can both agree to relook at marriage counseling when the slump is over, it’s very possible to survive a mediocre marriage until the energy is there.
Not Getting to Root Causes
This is more likely an issue of an inexperienced therapist who doesn’t know couples, but what we think the problem is in our marriage…often isn’t. We are inherently blind to our own marriage and the role of a good marriage counselor is to dig deeper. Most marriage battles are about a deeper issue, often buried and unseen. If you stay at the surface, one or both of you may feel marriage counseling isn’t changing anything and you may be right! It is important to be challenged in therapy and if you find you aren’t learning and growing, it may be you aren’t with the right therapist – either you’re personality is strong and they’re unable to get through to you, or they aren’t experienced with couples to have the clinical instincts to dig deeper.
Addiction (Denial or Untreated)
Substance use can get in the way of marriage counseling in numerous ways. This doesn’t mean the marriage can’t be saved but the spouse who doesn’t have the addiction should be looking at the ways they contribute to marital struggles (nit picking, over controlling, being too codependent) while the other partner hopefully gets treatment or support for an active addiction.
Bad marriage counselors
One reason we exist here at Modern Commitment is the sheer fact that any mental health professional can legally see couples but very few are trained in couples work and the majority are neutral to pessimistic about your marriage. This means you could be given a bad prognosis which leads to lack of motivation! You could also be not learning enough in session that one or both of you decides your lives are busy and therapy isn’t useful.