There is no set formula for a healthy marriage. Each marriage has is its own essence with different needs just as each individual is unique with their own needs. What works beautifully for some, may not work at all for others. It’s important for couples to understand the unique language of their own union.
Sometimes there are feelings of guilt or shame about when discussing private family matters in counseling. You may feel uncomfortable in expressing your true feelings about a spouse or family situation. Understanding that being honest and open about your true thoughts and feelings ― is essential to the success of your counseling sessions.
Relationship issues can take its toll on most partnerships, and often it’s a good idea to first seek individual counseling to first work through your own individual and private feelings before joining your life partner in marriage or couples counseling.
Marriage counseling gives your marriage a great advantage at any stage. You don’t need to wait until you are actually having problems to get help. You can learn the skills that can make all the difference in your marriage from day one – starting with pre-marriage counseling.
Marriage is an entity with a life of its own. It does not remain static, but changes as the couple grows and develops. There are no definitive steps in marriage, but most couples can expect to go through the following stages:
- The Pre-Marital Stage – This is probably the most important marriage stage of all to set the tone for a successful marriage. Today so much attention is spent on the wedding day that tending to the actual marriage gets lost in the planning. A healthy self-esteem can help you to make better relationship choices early on – especially for the biggest choice of all – your marriage partner. Although personal growth is part of marriage, pre-marriage counseling can help you to avoid unnecessary painful experiences later.
- The Newlywed Stage – During this stage, couples are adjusting to each other and defining their roles. Adjustment problems usually occur and power struggles begin, especially for those who marry later in life and are more set in their “single ways.” This is a time of working out not just emotional needs and differences, but financial as well. Difficulty at this stage surprises many newly married couples who don’t expect to have marriage trouble so early on, though often the first year of marriage can be extremely difficult.
- Settling in – The honeymoon is over and couples continue to work on merging two lives together as a cohesive unit. The initial difficulties are smoothing out and they begin to operate as a team. The focus of the relationship becomes about “us” and not “you” or me.” But if the “us” never takes hold, or if arrangements of how to handle the finances were not worked out early in the marriage (preferably before marriage), then coping with financial issues in the marriage can cause added stress and perhaps even begin a pattern of deception.
- Parenting – At some point the couple will decide whether or not to have children. This decision is often difficult for couples and not having children has become more acceptable in society, making the option more accessible. And if the decision is made not to have children, both partners may not be entirely on board. This may infuse an undercurrent of resentment in the marriage that may erupt later if not dealt with early on in the relationship.Couples are also getting married later in life, making conception more difficult and stressful. Contending with infertility can bring up complicated emotional issues for one or both partners. Couples may eventually turn to adoption, which has its own set of stressors to deal with as well. Therapy can address these sensitive issues.
- Crossroads – Mid-life arrives and this seems to be a “checkpoint” for many couples. Sometimes there are children still at home and for others there is an empty nest. In the empty nest stage, the central focal point of the marriage is gone and a major role as “parent” is drastically changed. This is the time partners will reflect on the marriage and evaluate where it’s been and where it’s going. Often couples are trying to decide if it’s worth continuing or if there is a breakdown in communication that is beyond repair. Therapy is essential for many in helping to work through this critical time.
Fighting fairly and respecting each other is a crucial skill that must be practiced in a marriage in order for it to be successful. How you fight with your partner is more revealing than what you actually fight about in the argument. Conflict can be healthy if done appropriately and can actually strengthen your marriage.
Understanding how to fight fair and learning good marital conflict resolution skills can be taught by a qualified marriage counselor. Many people find marriage counseling to be enormously helpful in achieving a happy and healthy marriage.