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How Marriage Counseling Works

6 Common solutions for your marital problems you may have tried but haven’t worked for you


Click the tabs on the left to read about each solution

Everyone in an intimate relationship does this at one time or another. It’s all too tempting to buy into the idea that it’s all their fault and they need to change so that things will get better. It’s much easier to blame your partner than to take responsibility for how you are contributing to the problem.
This solution is usually born out of the agony of trying to face your relationship problems directly but without success. When it becomes unbearable to not come to any resolution, then sweeping things under the rug becomes the path of least resistance. If you pretend everything is fine, then hopefully it will become so.
Sharing your problems with friends and family might help in the short run because having someone on your side to support you always feels good. Yet, despite the best intentions from friends & family, they have their own biases about marriage and they are not getting the full picture because they’re usually only hearing about the situation from you.
This is a close cousin to the “ignoring it” solution. By staying busy and distracting yourself in a million different ways, you don’t have to feel or think about your marriage troubles. You might even be thinking you are simply “letting go & accepting things” as they are, but deep down you are haunted by the seemingly insurmountable challenges your relationship is facing.
Reading and educating yourself can give your marriage problems much needed validation. They can help you not feel so alone in it. Reading can also offer a way to understanding why your relationship is so troubled and perhaps offer a path forward. And yet, it’s difficult for even the best self-help books to directly help your marriage make the deeper changes it needs to make.
Doing your own personal therapy work is a powerful investment to make in yourself. It is also a valuable contribution to the relationship. However, it is not directly addressing the core issues of your relationship with both people present and engaged.

Why these solutions don't work

Why these solutions don’t work

Each of these solutions have one thing in common: they avoid engaging the underlying issue directly with your partner in present time.  They are providing a temporary solution to an underlying problem. While some of the above strategies may certainly help prepare you to face the underlying problem, they don’t in themselves actually engage the issue directly with the very person who you intimately share it with: your partner or spouse.

Let’s say you’re having car trouble and talk to a mechanic you trust about the problem. Will the mechanic be able to repair the problem if you just tell him about the issue your car is having? No way!  For the mechanic to really help, he needs to be with the actual car in order to see, hear, and feel the problem as it’s happening in real time.  This is a lot like how marriage counseling works.

First, it’s an imperative that you choose a couples counselor that you both trust.  We all know how unsettling it is to bring your car to a mechanic you don’t feel great about. That feeling is even worse with a counselor you don’t trust. Trust your gut and your heart when picking a couples counselor.

Next, your counselor must sit with your relationship and observe how the problem manifests itself in real time between you and your spouse.  For example, you may experience the problem as frustration around the inability for you two to communicate. However, your marital therapist is trained to see the larger context of how that problem occurs.  That larger context is called “the system.” And you and your spouse each have a part in reinforcing that system.  The couples counselor can help you see the larger system dynamic that is causing the problem you are experiencing.

Continuing from the example above, communication gets stymied between you two because there’s a larger dynamic at play:  One of you fights while the other shuts down. And the more one of you fights, the more the other starts to shut down. And the more one shuts down, the more the other is drawn to fight. Each part feeds the other, and vice-versa.

There is one key difference between your marriage problem and your car problem: you need to be actively involved in marital therapy for change to occur. If only saving your marriage was as easy as dropping your car off broken and picking it up fixed.  You engagement in couples therapy is an imperative for a real solution to be realized.

Two things are asked of you for your relationship to change:  Each of you will need to learn how to become mindful of your own experience.  And through mindfulness, you each will need to take responsibility for your part of the problem and then be open to learning something different than what you have been doing.

What does work

What does work

So, what does work to resolve your marital problems is a counseling approach that combines family systems with mindfulness.

Mindfulness is not just the latest and greatest fad. It is your ability to be aware of your own experience without judgement and with curiosity. It is a tool that allows you to cultivate awareness of your thoughts and feelings without having to act on them. Now, let’s look at family systems.

As alluded to above, family systems sees your presented marital problems as the outgrowth of the underlying relationship dynamics.  This is illuminating because family systems avoids blaming or diagnosing any one person as THE problem.  As you’re probably well aware of, there’s already too much blaming already going in the first place.  A system’s approach that uses mindfulness gives you each the opportunity to take ownership for your contribution to the challenging dynamic that has been identified by your therapist.

When you choose to take responsibility for your part of the struggle, then something amazing happens: you have the freedom and power to choose a different way of doing it.  You might need to learn a new skill or two. Or maybe you need to leave behind an old strategy that isn’t serving you like it once did in your past. And your couples therapist is right there to help support you in this process.

Why who we are and our unique approach will work for you

Our unique approach

Our unique approach

Our skilled therapists have been trained and practiced in family-systems.  A family-systems approach seeks to avoid blaming or diagnosing any one person because problems are seen as the result of the relationship dynamics within the system.

We also have chosen our experienced therapists with great care.  The therapists at Family Ties Counseling Center know a lot about how to be in relationship.  Just as important as their education and training is their capacity to be authentic, compassionate and insightful.

Our values

Collectively, we have over several decades of experience working extensively with adults and children, families and couples.

We have clearly observed some common values held by those who were helped the most.

If you connect with our values listed below, then you will most likely benefit from our approach at Family Ties Counseling Center:

  1. Inclusion
  2. Truth
  3. Prioritizing Closeness & Connection
  4. Open to Change
  5. Good Enough Parenting
  6. Willing to Get Help
  7. Strive for Love & Respect

Click here to read more about our values.


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