"Couples Counseling? But We Aren't Even Married!"

Authored by Alex Peskin, LMFT, Summit's Edge Marriage and Family Therapist

Let’s face it, the statistics aren't friendly:
The divorce rate is around 50% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006),  the average length of a marriage before separation is just over 7 years (Stanton, 2003), and after 10 years of marriage only about 25% of couples will still be happily married (Glenn, 1996).  

In a time when we work so hard and have so many tools at hand to meet the right person, we should also be using the tools available to make our eventual marriages stronger and happier. We all deserve to be happy, supported, and with the person we love.  But don’t overlook the effect a positive relationship has on others, too.  Children deserve to grow up learning what love and care look like, and to have the comfort of their parents as a unified front.  The whole family is affected by divorce, and no two people should be so reckless as to let a 50/50 chance decide if they will stay together.  Just wanting to marry someone because they make you happy today does not mean you will stay married forever; what happens when the honeymoon is over and real life begins?

So What Do We Do?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cure that we so often look for is couples counseling as a last-ditch effort, when resentments and patterns of disconnect have already set their roots in the marriage.  We may also see the cure as individual counseling to help cope after a separation has already occurred.  In terms of marriages, the prevention is relationship counseling with the person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with…while you still love them and want to spend the rest of your life with them.  

Here is the friendlier statistic:  

A research study conducted several years ago concluded that counseling with your partner before marriage can reduce the chance of divorce by 30% (Stanley, Amato, Johnson, and Markman, 2006). 

Couples who can learn to open up more effectively by expressing their needs, expectations, and love for each other, will have stronger bonds moving forward.  They will be able to handle stressful situations with less of a burden on the care and connection they feel for each other.  Those positive feelings have room to grow a little more each time these situations are conquered together.  Couples will be prepared to handle conversations about marriage, children, money, the in-laws, and whatever comes their way.

We all come from a unique background, and sometimes that makes it challenging to be on the same page with someone who sees things a little differently.  It is okay to need a little guidance to get important conversations started and partnership skills strengthened.  Through counseling, you will learn to make it normal to talk about stress, fears, and doubts, as well as desirable to talk about love, care, and excitement for the future.  Couples counseling will help to set the groundwork for your most important relationship, the one with your partner, for the rest of your lives together.

What might be a difficult 50 minutes once a week for a few months can turn into a relationship bond that will outlast the test of time. Your happiness in a long and fulfilling marriage and even the improved physical and mental health of your children will be influenced by this courageous step of prevention.