It is difficult for many married couples to admit they are having problems. However, most couples at some time or another will go through a trying period. If this happens, seeking marriage counseling advice is one of the most beneficial things to do, as a counselor can help each part of the couple find out the most important issues to tend with and some changes each individual can make.
When going to relationship therapy, being prepared is best and knowing some marriage counseling questions that may arise can be very helpful. The following are some couples counseling questions that a couple may encounter from their marriage counselor, and some things to think about.
Questions to Answer with your Spouse
Though some marriage counselors are more talented at repairing relationships and fixing marriages than others, the vast majority ask similar questions to their clients. You can use these marriage counseling questions to either prepare for an upcoming counseling session, find out if you need help from a professional therapist, or, if you and your partner are committed to repairing your relationship, you can ask these questions of yourself and of each other.
1) What brought you to this stage? What has happened since the beginning of your relationship to bring you to this point?
Major relationship problems don’t truly arise from nothing, even if they can seem like it sometimes. Trace back major issues to their smaller beginning points. What went wrong? Would doing something differently have changed the path that led you here? If you had to do it again, what would you change (if anything)?
2) What has changed in your lives between your happiest times and your most difficult times as a couple?Children, increased work responsibilities, lack of time for each other, general stress, and other internal and external factors that perhaps didn’t even come from the marriage itself can nonetheless be major strains on a relationship. Think back to the days when you felt happiest and most in love with your spouse, and contrast the way you feel now. Try to pinpoint the exact events, people, obligations, etc. that have changed in your lives and affected your relationship with each other.
3) Which marital problems are most important to each of you to solve? Are your lists the same?
Once problems are identified, a therapist can help a couple prioritize them. As he or she questions the partners and helps them to vocalize their feelings, the bigger issues can come to the forefront. Even if the most important issues to each partner are different, a therapist can still help the couple to prioritize. If you are setting out on your own, this step will require a lot of communication, and a promise not to judge each other for each set of responses. Help each other craft a fair list of things you’d like to work on, prioritized from the biggest issue down to the smallest. The act of making the list all by itself forces you to acknowledge that your relationship isn’t perfect and helps you think about what could fix these problems.
4) What is one thing that each of you could do to improve your relationship?
This question encourages you to take control of your part in the relationship, and to acknowledge that no matter what the situation is, it’s never completely one person’s fault. You will be asked by your counselor, or if you are conducting this exercise at home, you should take a few minutes to come up with something tangible you can do from now on that will help your partner out and make a better relationship for the two of you. It should be something meaningful but simple, so that you can begin implementing it immediately and frequently, such as following a monthly shopping budget or letting your spouse know if you will be home late and where you will be going. Each of you should make a commitment to a simple, positive change that your spouse agrees will help his or her side of the relationship.
5) What is the most frequent cause of your arguments?
Think back for a moment…what do you and your spouse fight over most often? Money is a major source of tension between many couples, especially how they should be spending it. Distrust is another major factor, particularly if one or both partners has cheated in the past. The problems could also stem from feeling unloved or unappreciated, or fear that your spouse will leave you. Finding the root cause of disagreements will often lead you to the seed of many of the problems in your marriage.
6) Think back to your latest argument – WHY did you fight? (Not what did you fight ABOUT?)
This is one of the most common couples therapy questions, but it is also one of the most difficult to pinpoint. There may be a lot of things disrupting the marriage at this point, but the couple needs to figure out the specifics. It is probably not that the husband is not taking out the trash, but maybe instead the real issue is that the wife feels she is not being supported. Some other common problems that come up in a relationship are things like finances, communication, parenting, career choices and intimacy. Many of the small things can be linked to something larger.
7) What is each spouse willing to do to help – how far are you willing to go? Are you willing to make the time commitment?
Once the issues are prioritized, a counselor may ask both partners what they are willing to do and what changes they are willing to make in their lives and toward each other. A counselor’s job is not to tell a couple what to do but guide the spouses to build steps to take.
This question also subtly asks each partner how far they are willing to go to save their marriage. Many couples will not see a noticeably better marriage for months after they begin counseling, and up to a year. Are you willing to work day after day, having conversations that may be uncomfortable and tense? If you’re not willing to put some hard work into repairing your relationship, then maybe the marriage isn’t that important to you and the two of you should part on amicable terms.
8) Are you willing to admit your weaknesses? Will you actively work to improve them?
Many couples are used to ignoring their marital problems and shutting their partner out. They may be very defensive in conversations, especially when the topic that perhaps they have made a mistake comes up. One of the biggest factors that will play into how well marriage counseling can work is accepting that you will be vulnerable while you are working through this. You will be admitting flaws in yourself and your reasoning with no guarantee that your partner will meet you on the middle ground. However, in many circumstances, your spouse will see your acknowledgement as a peace offering and will likely concede his or her own past mistakes as well. Conversations like these, where you are vulnerable together, may be extremely uncomfortable, but they are critical to rebuilding your marriage on an understanding that you and your spouse both have flaws, but you love each other anyway.
Hopefully, as your time in counseling moves forward, you’ll be able to feel a higher sense of communication developing between you and your partner. Just remember, be open-minded, honest and trusting. The truth can hurt, but something obviously isn’t working now, and being honest with each other is an excellent first step to fixing a marriage permanently.
Alternative marriage counseling methods are available online for people who don’t believe traditional one-on-one counseling is right for them, or even just answering these questions with your spouse can be a great starting-off point. However, no matter which method you use, it’s important to make opportunities for each of you to voice your feelings in positive, constructive ways and explore solutions in a proactive way. Whatever path you choose, trying any of these techniques to improve your marriage is a wise and brave step to take, and the first step to a happier relationship.