Have you tried marriage counseling and it just didn’t work? There are many different styles of marriage advice, and some approaches work best for different people; at the same time, there is a lot of marriage advice that is flat-out bunk. Some “common sense” advice can actually be harmful for your marriage. (Read: 8 marriage myths) How can you differentiate between the good stuff and the waste of money? Here is Dr. Susan Heitler’s list for how to choose a marriage help source that will truly help you.
- Watch out for marriage advice that encourages you to take sides or has a “right v. wrong” approach to conflicts. In every disagreement both sides have a valuable contribution to the issue. Marriage is about drawing from both of those strengths to create a solution that is more than either of them alone—that is the “power of two”! Be wary of marriage advice that assumes one of you is right and the other is wrong. Therapists are guilty of this too. Marriage counseling is about encouraging dialogue and is not meant for the therapist to act like a judge. In the end, he or she should give you tools for coming to a win-win resolution that respects the rightness in both of your positions.
- Good marriage advice doesn’t just solve specific problems—it gives you tools to solve conflict and have a happier marriage for life. It’s important to reflect on the path of your relationship and investigate the roots of your issues. At the same time, therapy that only focuses on what happened in the past is not a great way to move forward. In addition, marriage counseling that just focuses on fixing one area or one problem just leaves you vulnerable to problems that surface later on. Your therapist should spend equal time addressing the past and helping you to learn the skills to move forward with a great marriage.
- Marriage is not compromise. How do you feel when you’ve been “compromised”? Not good. Compromise means that both partners have given up something that they want and, as a result, neither is fully satisfied with the solution. Contrary to common wisdom, marriage is not a place for compromise and self-sacrifice. Both of these behaviors breed resentment and alienate you from your spouse. Instead, look for marriage advice that leads you to win-win solutions.
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