“We went to a counselor, but they always just seem to bring it back to me, or make it about me and what I’m doing.” <- This is what I hear from couples who are still really struggling in their relationship. It’s sad because they both finally get to that point where they know they need help, but that help is short-lived. Before you know it, they’re back home carrying on like normal, just biding their time until the next big fight happens again. And it always happens again.
So Why Doesn’t Marriage Counseling Work?
Marriage counseling doesn’t work for three reasons:
- The intention of going is to fix the other person.
- The bias of the counselor has a 50% chance of supporting your subconscious intention to either stay or leave.
- Most of the “treatment” is band-aid work that doesn’t resolve the root cause of your trouble.
So let me preface this by saying that SOME marriage counseling works. I know of exactly one instance where it did, and this person went to a counselor trained in The Work by Byron Katie. And that is so similar to the way I coach clients that I’m not surprised at all that she found success through that time they put in. So if you really want to sit down together in person with a more traditional therapist, see if you can find a certified facilitator of The Work.
Now, let’s dive in further…
The Intention of Going is to Fix the Other Person
When my marriage was suffering and I finally scheduled an appointment, I was at least far enough along in my journey to say to her, “I want to know how to manage my expectations because he’s not meeting them.” Unfortunately for me, she didn’t even know what that meant and still decided to fix him instead by deciding he just needed medication for the disorder she thought he must have. This added a crazy amount of fuel (and disastrous side effects) to our already blazing fire.
If you think they’re to blame and are looking for a professional to back you up, then marriage counseling isn’t going to work for you. What I’ve learned is that we are constantly creating the other person. Think about it: if you yell and scream in reaction to something they do, are they going to be their a) sweet normal self or b) a little crazy and defensive in return?
In a relationship, we no longer exist in a bubble. We are constantly shaping the way the other acts through the way we act. The way we communicate, the boundaries that we do or don’t hold, the energy we bring to the space — all of it is shaping you and your spouse. Meaning, if he’s to blame, then you’re also to blame. His behavior didn’t just materialize out of nowhere. Until you’re ready to own that you have SOME role, even some teeny tiny itty bitty sliver of a role, you won’t actually be able to save your marriage. MY OWN WORK on ME saved my marriage. My growth changed the way he interacted with me.
The Bias of the Counselor Has a 50% Chance of Supporting Your Subconscious Intention to Either Stay or Leave
“What do you mean? I don’t want to leave.” Yes you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be thinking about marriage counseling. Whether you’re aware of it yet or not, there’s a subconscious intention shaping your relationship. It may present itself as FEAR that it’s not going to work out, but that is only a disguise. Because if you had an intention that it work (like you probably did when you were dating), then you wouldn’t be having trouble in the first place.
So why’s this a problem? Because if your counselor or therapist leans toward being pro-divorce, then eventually they will guide you there. In some cases, that might be a good thing. Maybe you’re with someone who’s abusing you and you need that kind of guidance. But if you just hate his or her face lately and don’t know what to do, this isn’t the professional you need.
I’m pro-marriage once you have a baby (and with the exception of the aforementioned abuse). So if you actually want to save your marriage, I’m your girl. I will teach you why things got the way they are and help you understand how that’s here for your personal growth. And as you grow and learn, you’ll start treating your spouse differently, and they’ll get uncomfortable. And when they get uncomfortable enough, they’ll decide to hit the road or change. And either way, you’ll be in the situation you’re worthy of being in.
“Heat is the element of transformation.” – Samin Nosrat
And yes, that’s a quote from a chef but it’s flipping SPOT ON. Heat–discomfort–is what causes us to transform. It’s what causes us to figure out how to change what we’re experiencing. It’s why you’re here to begin with and if you make the person in your relationship who’s not really uncomfortable feel the heat, chances are good that they’ll change too.
Most of the “Treatment” is Band-Aid Work That Doesn’t Resolve the Root Cause of Your Trouble
Just like my therapist made things worse, yours is likely to tell you to start doing some stuff that you’re just plain not ready to do. They’re going to point out the shitty communication skills you learned from your parents before their divorce. They’ll tell you to send loving text messages out of the blue. They’ll suggest you surprise your spouse with an act in their Love Language.
Does all of this work? Yes — but not YET. If you’re where I was and are still incredibly resentful, harboring intense cauldrons of anger, in distrust of him/her and ready to explode — this just isn’t going to work. Why? Because you’re already living an INAUTHENTIC life since you attracted your spouse by being an inauthentic, but super lovable, version of you. And now they want you to do more stuff that’s inauthentic??? Hell no!
You have to figure out what the heck you want in life before you can unapologetically be the real you and then see if he or she sticks around and loves you for who you really are. You’re going to stop agreeing to the stuff you don’t like doing and you can’t start that process by agreeing to do more stuff you don’t actually want to do!
See, the friction exists in your relationship to begin with because the party’s over. The costume is ready to come off. You can’t BEAR to be someone you’re not anymore. You’re bucking it and the resistance is coming on strong, but you don’t even know how to reclaim that real you who’s been hiding since childhood. You don’t even know how to reclaim the cheerful little girl you used to be, who would sob and cry if it was time to put away your dolls. Or you don’t know how to be the unhappy boy who threw a fit when he didn’t get what he wanted — all you know is how to be the funny guy everyone liked. The good girl the adults could count on to comply.
You don’t want to just be ACCEPTED anymore. You want to be LOVED for exactly who you are!
Here’s What to Do Instead
I saved my marriage without marriage counseling by rediscovering the real me. You can learn exactly what I did in my book, The Authentic Wife, or my course (add on coaching for personalized guidance), The Authentic Life. I’d tell you everything in this paragraph if I could but I just can’t. In a nutshell, it was first a lot of inner child healing, then opening my heart and reconnecting with my emotions, and finally paying attention to the lessons and my intentions.
I want you to do this work. If you’re looking for online marriage counseling because you really do want to save your marriage, I so recommend you take my course. Taking an honest look at you, your inner child wounds, your false belief systems and judgments, and the wisdom and intuition of your emotions is work I think everyone should be required to do. I know what’s on the other side of this personal growth. Yes, eventually you will learn the communication skills you need to connect. You will send those text messages out of the blue. You’ll go on date nights. But right now your job is to deeply understand YOU so your spouse can fall in love with the REAL, authentic, unabashed, unconditioned you.
And wouldn’t that feel nice?