Marriage counseling will often make things worse. Usually that is due to the wrong approach to marriage counseling- where a therapist takes sides, suggests the couple separate, and makes a judgment about one of the spouses, only creating lots of doubt in the mind of the other spouse.
We want to invite you to start thinking about trying a radically different approach, one that has the highest rate of success in couples counseling. That is Imago therapy.
More inspiration about Imago therapy:
- How my therapist destroyed my marriage
- What is Imago relationship therapy?
- Does marriage counseling really make things worse?
- The man who started it all, Harville Hendrix and the gift of Imago therapy.
Here's a question on Marriage Counseling that we recently answered:
Just had first marriage counseling session and to say I hated it was an understatement. Really showed me just how hurt I am by my wife's actions these past twenty years. They want to meet with us both next time and want me to tell her what I am feeling. I really do not know what it will do, I have told her for years but she does not change. I’ve changed for her but it makes no difference. They seemed genuinely shocked by some of it, but whether that will be better or worse I do not know. I realized just how hopeless I feel right now.
When Marriage Counseling Makes things Worse
I'm sorry to hear about your horrible experience with marriage counseling. It sounds from what you wrote that you saw the counselor by yourself and that there were two counselors (as you referred to them as they). There are different approaches, but I generally feel that it is counterproductive to see a marriage counselor without your spouse. If the counselor feels sorry for you, it may be difficult for him/her to be impartial when your wife joins the therapy, which may make her feel that the therapist is on your side.
No real change will happen instantly and it may get worse before it gets better, but if your therapist is good, it need not be torture. Although my sessions with couples can get intense, they usually walk out of the room feeling better than they came in. That's because we focus on them connecting and relating to each other as opposed to me giving them a bunch of advice.
In order to save your marriage, you will need to go to the root of the conflict. That doesn't mean dredging up a bunch of old ancient history, it's understanding why your spouse is triggering you and what you need from him/her to heal.
Some marriage counselors make suggestions to show interest in each other, compromise etc... can be helpful, it's only a band-aid. It won't change the core issues that are preventing you from making progress. Of course, not knowing all the details of your situation, it's difficult to comment specifically, but this is a general overview of what I personally have found to be effective working with couples. Best of luck and hang in there.
We really can't speak highly enough of Imago therapy. We practice it EXCLUSIVELY with couples in crisis because we find it to be the safest form of marriage counseling. Please read more about Imago therapy and find out about why it's different than any form of marriage counseling, or if you feel more comfortable at this point working on your relationship from the privacy of your own home (because you're concerned about marriage counseling making things worse, take a look at our Marriage School. Our program is founded on the core principles of Imago therapy and has a 90% success rate with couples in crisis.
Be in touch,
Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin