Whether you've been married five months or fifty years, are best friends or barely speaking, your relationship can benefit from marriage counseling. A professional marriage counselor can help you see issues from your spouse's point of view, make you aware of potential points of conflict for the future, and create a safe environment to talk about painful topics. But the wrong attitude can easily negate any positive effects of counseling. Here are some easy ways to make counseling effective in your marriage.
First of all, don't expect the counselor to take sides. Their purpose is to mediate, and guide you both to be partners in marriage. A counselor will often point out things for both spouses to work on, this is for your benefit, not to criticize either one of you.
Keep in mind that marriage counseling will not work if you're not honest with your counselor. No matter how uncomfortable it may feel, marriage counselors have heard it all. They're not there to judge you, they just want to help. If you are honest about any struggles in your marriage relationship, no matter how small or large they seem, a counselor can get the whole picture and better understand what you need to work on.
You also need to show that you're committed to benefiting from counseling. Make your appointments a priority in your schedule. Don't limit yourself to one or two appointments, it can take a few weeks just to get to a place of knowing what work needs to be done. Commit to sticking it out until you've seen real change in your relationship.
Commitment also means that if you're given an assignment by your counselor, you do it! Real change won't happen just from one hour of discussion a week. It can be difficult to change habits such as how you respond to your spouse or stressful situations in your marriage. But if you practice what a counselor advises, you will begin to see benefits on a daily basis.
Once you have a few weeks of marriage counseling under your belt, see if you and your spouse can create that safe communication environment at home. Try to talk about what benefits you want to get out of counseling as well as what you've learned so far. Be careful to keep the conversation safe by using "I feel" statements, not pointing fingers or laying blame. The more you're able to communicate at home, the sooner you'll see progress in your relationship.
Finally, keep in mind that not every marriage counselor is right for you. Two or three sessions should tell both of you and the counselor if their style is the right fit. Follow these steps, and you're sure to see your marriage benefit from counseling.