Couples often seek couples or marriage counseling when relationship problems begin to interfere with daily functioning or when partners are unsure about continuing the relationship. Couples often approach counseling with the expectation that a counselor can help in some way—though they may not know just how they expect the counselor to help. Some couples may want to develop better communication skills, enhance intimacy, or learn to navigate new terrain in their lives. Others may expect the counselor to mediate their arguments, or take sides and declare which partner is right.
Several counseling approaches have been designed for couples in particular, such as Imago Relationship Counseling, but any type of counseling can help with relationship issues. In fact, many people address their relationship problems through individual counseling, and then they apply that learning in context with their partners. In addition, family counseling can benefit families whose children are affected by the tension in their parents’ relationship.
Relationship counselors are unlikely to take sides or recommend that a couple ends their relationship. Instead, they will allow the counseling process to unfold naturally without a predetermined goal of “saving” the relationship. Trained counselors help partners by supporting the goals set by the couple and helping each partner to communicate his or her needs, thoughts, and emotions more clearly and to listen to the other partner more carefully.
For relationship counseling to significantly help a relationship, each partner needs to commit, at a minimum, to the relationship counseling for the time it continues. Each partner should demonstrate honesty, an interest in doing relationship work, and a willingness to accept personal accountability.