While 76% of the population in Orange County, CA is married, about 60% of those marriages, regardless of a person’s spiritual beliefs or commitments, will end in divorce. That’s 10% higher than the national average and works out to about 32 new divorce proceedings started every day in Orange County. The failure rate gets much worse with each re-marriage. 40% success is outstanding if you’re playing the lottery, but not so great when you’re betting on a marriage. When couples come to The Relation Foundation for marriage counseling, most never considered they would end up so lonely or frustrated with their partner. They thought they made a great choice that would fulfill their ideal future and marriage and that couples therapy were for those people who didn’t pick a great partner. Who ever thinks they will face such a crisis and possible divorce when walking down the wedding aisle? However, what starts out with hope and great expectations can turn into repeating conflicts and feeling hopelessly stuck. So what’s missing?
The great news is that statistically, couples who married when they were older and had more education had a much better chance at making the marriage last. Panic yet if neither of those is true for your marriage because the central principle can be learned by anyone who is willing, regardless of age. You see, those who have had the life experience to know who they are and are willing to put the effort into learning and developing themselves and understand that they will also have to do this as a couple. Why? Because the marriage you start with is not the one you will end with. New challenges that confront couples along the way will invite change and growth. Either you will try to stay the same and likely divorce, or you will renegotiate what the marriage relationship looks like and grow together.
Staying together and doing well as a couple takes intentional work and courage to turn toward problems as a team and grow together. I can attest to the challenge in my own marriage as well as those I see for marriage counseling. So when a couple is considering what will be needed to grow in the marriage, the first thing to consider is whether they need marriage counseling, marriage therapy, or a bit of each. There is a difference and I would strongly recommend you have a therapist like myself who will do both well.
Marriage counseling is more of an educational process that helps couples learn what they may not know is needed for a thriving relationship. Doing the same thing over and over again to fix the problem only wears a person out and won’t work if a different approach or focus is needed. If you try hammering a nail into wood with a banana, it just isn’t going to work no matter how hard or often you try. Sometimes you need to expand your relational tool set to get the job done in your relationship. I’ve written about some of these tools and approaches and that may be enough to equip a couple in therapy to make a shift to something new in their relationship.
Marriage therapy is more about identifying and working with the blocks and reactivity couples have with putting into practice the tools they already know are important for a thriving relationship. They have the hammer in the tool belt, but under stress or conflict, they keep going for the banana when there is a nail to hammer. Some other belief system automatically takes over and all those great relational tools go out the window. In marriage therapy, I will use some of the methods I have written about to help slow the process down. This makes room for partners to create a new experience of something positive with one another and is less reactive the next time.
Maybe your marriage is not in crisis and you just want to work on a few issues and make a few improvements in the relationship. Terrific! Marriage counseling can be equally powerful in growing good relationships into great ones and in helping with life issues that can challenge even the most healthy marriage; parenting, job changes, loss of loved ones, health changes. Contact me and let’s talk about what we can do together to build a better future for your relationship.