Category: Better Relationships | Author: Elly Prior | First published: 24-09-2010 | Modified: 22-11-2018

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This article will help you get a really good insight into what you can expect from marriage counselling, and how it can help you and your partner navigate those troubled waters.

Relationship or marriage counselling can be very helpful even if your partner doesn’t want to go.

You can expect that the therapist will still be able to help you without judging either one of you. He or she will remain aware of ‘the empty seat’, even if, clearly, what happens in couple counseling is different from what happens in individual counselling.

Bad times need not mean the end of your relationship. Discover what you can expect from marriage counselling or relationship counselling.

What you should expect from marriage counselling

In my view, too many therapists ‘dabble’ in relationship counselling. They think that they can do the job based on their training for working with individuals.


Couples counselling techniques are very different – what happens in couple counseling is in many ways different from what happens in personal counseling.

No doubt, you’ll now want to know how you can make sure you’re going to see the right professional.

I’ve got your back!

Read my article on how to find a good (relationship) counsellor to discover what questions to ask.

Assuming you have found the right counsellor, here’s what you can expect from marriage counseling and what happens in couple counseling…

What happens in couple counseling

15 things you can expect from marriage counselling

What happens in couple counselling?

Well, it goes without saying that you should feel at ease with your counsellor and trust that he or she has your and your partner’s back, but will also challenge you. You should feel heard, taken seriously and respected!

Here’s what else you can expect:

Your therapist will encourage and support you to…

  1.  Explain your hopes, dreams and concerns uninterrupted and in your own time and your own words
  2. Understand each other better – one of the greatest benefits of couple counselling as it leads to fewer unnecessary arguments
  3. Manage differences of opinion!
  4. Enhance both your communication skills
  5. Explore whether there’s still hope, increase hope that you’ll make it through
  6. Learn effective problem solving strategies
  7. Identify your personal wants and needs and how to incorporate those in your relationship goals
  8. Identify what works well in your relationship or marriage – there are always things that are going well!
  9. Process and move on from the disappointments, hurts and anger, such as affairs, life-changing events, big losses, problems with children, etc
  10. Identify each of your personal innate and acquired resources and learn how to utilise these to (both) your advantage
  11. Identify your resources as a couple and how to utilise them effectively
  12. Explore the potential impact of a breakup – positive and negative
  13. Cope with and manage your losses if it’s your (not your therapist’s) decision to separate
  14. Come to terms with, heal and move on when dealing with infidelity
  15. Get to know yourself and each other better

I may earn a commission from BetterHelp. You pay the same fee, regardless.

A couples counsellor knows that often one of the partners is coming along to the sessions reluctantly (maybe even both!). Most couples are somewhat anxious about what might happen in couple counselling.

Let’s face it, when you got together you probably never imagined you’d end up in someone’s counselling room!

However, you can expect a good therapist to make every effort to help that person feel at ease.

Of course, a partner may also be reluctant if he or she is having an affair! Naturally they fear being found out. An experienced relationship counsellor will sense when there’s information missing… but won’t be able to read minds!

What not to expect from marriage counselling

What won’t happen in couples counselling…

What you won’t get…

  • advice to end your relationship, without you having come to that conclusion yourself (though your counsellor will discuss your options with you, particularly if you’re in an abusive relationship)
  • an opinion on your partner in terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • destructive criticism about behaviours, actions and opinions
  • hope that your counsellor can change your partner

If both you and your partner agree that counselling is what you need right now, you can seize the moment and get started straight away. Online relationship counselling can make it even easier to access the support and guidance you need. Scroll down to the blue box at the end of this page if you’re ready to start today. There’s no time like the present! 😉

Pre-marriage counselling

Pre-marriage counselling is a really good idea before you tie the knot. So many problems can be sorted before you both commit yourself to the marriage, including…

… arguing
… general communication problems
… issues with in-laws
… financial problems
… problems with the children (if it’s not your first marriage)
… sexual problems 

It may feel difficult to get the relationship you want when it seems so much is stacked up against you. You might feel it’s impossible to stop the marriage preparations. The thought of telling your future wife or husband that you’re worried may fill you with horror. Yet in secret, you wonder if you should go ahead with it at all.

The good news is that you could perhaps consider talking to your partner about making a really positive step. You’re much more likely to get a positive answer if you say you want to invest in your lives together by going for pre-marriage counselling.

If you’re both committed to sorting things out, there’s every chance that you can have the marriage you want.  Professional relationship advice can certainly help you on your way.

Alternatives to visiting a couple counsellor

I know there are lots of reasons why people don’t like the idea of counselling – let alone relationship counselling. However, you can turn the tide all by yourself if your partner seems to have lost the will to work on your relationship.

If that sounds familiar, the best resource I can recommend – whether or not your partner is willing to help to make things better – is my Positive Communication Kit for Couples.

Your partner won’t go for couples counselling?

Often one of the partners doesn’t want to go for couple counselling – for whatever reason. Very often it’s the male partner. If you really think that counselling can help and your partner won’t go, then you can start by yourself. Your partner may decide to join you at a later stage.

You can expect Individual counselling to help you to…

  • consider and manage the effects on the people around you of changes in you, your circumstances and your decisions
  • explore the role you might play in your relationship problem – without judgement
  • explore your options in terms of your future
  • improve your communication skills if necessary
  • identify and deal with any problems – personal, as well as joint ones
  • get support if you or your partner break up, from someone who is completely independent

Counselling can now be very easily take place online!

If you’re ready to get started, you can speak to an online licensed therapist today.

Now there’s another option to couples therapy

Just watch this video from the University of Rochester to discover how watching movies about long-term relationships can cut the divorce rate by half…

Did you take notice of the advice to talk about your own relationship after watching the movie together?

Is it getting to the ‘make or break’ stage for you?

Not sure at all that you want to save your relationship or marriage?

My Comprehensive Relationship Test will help you think through all the important issues so that you can make the right decision.

Taking responsibility for ‘personal stuff’

Sorting out your ‘personal stuff’ is very likely to have a positive impact on your interactions with your partner. You may have been trying to pretend for years that you’re over those emotional problems! However, deep down you know that they are still there.

Just think how much better you could be feeling if you finally dealt with all that ‘stuff’ – traumas and difficulties from the past. It could release emotional and physical energy that you could re-invest in other areas of your life. It’s also very likely to contribute towards you having the relationship you want.

Just think, in couples counselling your therapist and your partner are both there to help you increase your awareness of how that ‘old stuff’ is affecting your relationship. When we talk about what happens in couples counselling, this is one of the most important things to mention. However, you can of course expect your counsellor to be really sensitive towards your needs.

Take that first step now and ask the advice of a qualified online counsellor for support and advice. I promise you – it is confidential, you won’t even need to give your real name if you don’t want to.


A couples counsellor should be happy to discuss with you, at first contact, what you can expect from marriage guidance or couples counselling.

However, he or she is unlikely to have a lengthy conversation with you about your difficulties. This is to prevent starting the journey with a knowledge of the problem from one partner’s perspective only. But you’d be very welcome to chat about what you can expect, what happens and what it’s like to go for marriage- or couple counselling.

I wish you all the best for your happiness. I am rooting for you. 🙂

Please, rate this article …

I really hope this article is of help to you. 🙂

I frequently update my articles based on feedback, therefore I really value your vote.

Thank you so much in anticipation. 🙂

Related articles

Free or Affordable Counselling
What are the Human Givens?
Divorce Advice and Counselling
How to Choose the Best Divorce Lawyer
How to Get over a Nervous Breakdown
Relationship Quizzes
How to Survive Infidelity

Other helpful links

University of Rochester – Divorce Rate Cut in Half
International Association for Relationship Research

Do you need help?
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