Couples or marriage counseling is offered to support people in relationship who may be considering separation or seeking improved intimacy and understanding. In couples counseling, the relationship is the focus, although each partner should also expect to focus on self-improvement and self-awareness.
People in relationships seek counseling for any number of reasons, from power struggles and communication problems, to sexual dissatisfaction and infidelity. Though counseling is recommended as soon as discontent arises in a relationship, studies show that on average, partners will not seek therapy until they have been unhappy for six years. And yet, the more time has passed, the more difficult it may be to repair the relationship. In some cases, a couple who has already decided to separate may pursue therapy in order to end the relationship amicably and respectfully.
Effective therapy will likely address many aspects of the relationship, although communication tends to be the primary focus of relationship therapy. When partners repeatedly employ conflict avoidance or engage in heated power struggles, communication problems ensue; resentment builds, and repairs are never made. Lack of adequate repair following an argument is the biggest contributor to marital unhappiness and divorce. One of the first steps in improving a relationship is to teach each person how to regulate their emotions, stay calm, and use healthy communication skills to resolve problems new and old, and many partners see their communication improved as a result of counseling.