Many couples going through rough waters in a marriage turn to counseling. Counseling can help a couple having problems, and troubled partners should not wait too long to seek professional help.
Partners who married at an early age, did not graduate from high school, are in a low-income bracket, or are in an inter-faith marriage are more at risk of a breakdown in marriage than other couples. Spouses whose parents divorced also run more of a risk of a marital failure. Additional red flags include frequent criticism, defensiveness and withdrawal.
Spouses who have realistic expectations of one another and their marriage, communicate well, use conflict resolution skills, and are compatible with one another are better set for sailing in smoother marital waters.
Some couples get more from counseling than others might. Young couples who love one another and do not have sexist views seem to benefit more from counseling. Spouses who wait too long before seeking help, those who are in second marriages and those who are closed to any suggestions that may save the marriage get the least.
A 1995 Consumer Reports nonscientific reader survey rated marriage counselors below other types of therapists, but a study by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) showed that families do want therapy and place a high value on the experience.
Some research studies suggest that marriage counseling is not as effective as people think. Women seem to get more from marriage counseling than men. Research also suggests that counseling may not have a lasting effect on the couple’s marriage. Counseling appears to be most beneficial before problems reach a critical stage.