Does Marriage Counseling Work? spinsight

marriage counseling and couples therapy at The Life Change Group

Marriage Counseling Overview

Marriage counseling can save relationships, strengthen bonds and put a couple’s lives on a completely new trajectory. But it takes a lot of work from all parties involved to be successful. In our increasingly complex landscape of modern relationships, many young couples find themselves at a crossroads early in their marriage, contemplating divorce and seeking a way to salvage their legal union.

The bad news is that 40-50% of U.S. marriages end in divorce. The good news is that marriage counseling is effective at saving marriages about 70-80% of the time. Marriage counseling emerges as a powerful tool to navigate this challenging terrain, offering hope and assistance to those yearning to rebuild their connection.

In this article, we’ll explore common questions that our licensed psychologists, counselors and therapists get about marriage counseling and finding ways to get couples’ relationship back on track.

What are the key marriage statistics?

According to data in Forbes:

  • In 2021 there were nearly 2 million marriages
  • 50% of first marriages end in divorce, but second and third marriages fail at an even higher rate
  • The divorce rate per capita has dropped nearly every year since 2000, and over that time the crude divorce rate has dropped over 25%
  • 60% of marriages are firsts for both partners
  • 64% of divorced men remarry while only 52% of women remarry after divorce
  • Only 6% of divorced partners actually remarry each other (but marriage rates among reunited couples is 72%)
  • 66% of Men and 74% of Women Think Their Partners Should Have Worked Harder to Save the Marriage
  • The average length of a marriage prior to divorce is 8 years
  • Nevada has the highest divorce rate, while Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate.
  • Divorces typically cost couples an average of $7,000
  • For all you trivia fans – the only two countries in the world to not recognize divorce are the Philippines and Vatican City
  • Only 3% of married couples entered into a prenuptial agreement

What are the key predictors of divorce?

While there is never any single reason for divorce, there are several predictors that increase the likelihood of divorce. These include:

  • Statistically, living together prior to marriage is a predictor of the likelihood of divorce.
  • Couples who have friends who are divorced have a 75% increase in the risk of their own marriage ending in divorce.
  • Genetics have also been found to play a role in the likelihood of divorce according to a study published in Psychological Science; genetics contribute about 13% to the likelihood.
  • Gaming managers, bartenders and flight attendants are the three roles with the highest overall divorce rate (conversely, actuaries, scientists and clergy have the lowest divorce rates, respectively)
  • Income is a factor, but not necessarily a universal predictor. As a couples’ incomes increase, divorce rates tend to decrease—but only to a certain point. Once a couple has a household income of around $200,000, divorce rates remain steady at around 30%.
  • Gender is a predictor of divorce since nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women
  • Race is also a predictor of divorce since the divorce rate for Black couples is 31% while the marriage rate is 17.3%. This is completely opposite of white or Hispanic couples which are inversely proportional (twice as many marriages as divorces)
  • Education is a predictor of sorts. College-educated women are One particular demographic group has the highest likelihood of a long-lasting marriage: College-educated women.

Marriage Counseling FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here are some of the most common questions we get during couples counseling:

What is the biggest problem in marriages?

Communication breakdown is often cited as the most significant issue in marriages. According to renowned relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman, poor communication patterns can lead to resentment and emotional disconnection, creating a fertile ground for marital distress. Forbes noted these top 10 reasons for divorce:

  • Lack of commitment
  • Infidelity
  • Too much arguing or conflict
  • Getting married too young
  • Financial problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Lack of support from family
  • Health problems
  • Religious differences

Can couples counseling save a relationship?

Yes. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 93% of their patients said they were able to deal with marital problems more effectively after receiving counseling. Further statistics show that 70-75% of couples moved from a state of distress into recovery after going through Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). Couples counseling has shown remarkable efficacy in saving relationships. A study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy revealed that couples who underwent therapy experienced significant improvements in their relationship satisfaction. Expert guidance and open communication can contribute to the restoration of emotional bonds.

Can I save my marriage?

Yes, you can save your marriage with dedicated effort and the right support. Research from the National Divorce Decision-Making Project emphasizes that many couples, even those contemplating divorce, can find solutions and rebuild their relationship through counseling and commitment to change.

How often should you have couples counseling?

The frequency of couples counseling sessions varies depending on the specific needs and challenges of the couple. Generally, couples may start with weekly sessions and gradually transition to bi-weekly or monthly meetings as progress is made.

What is the success rate of marriage counseling?

Success rates for marriage counseling are promising. A study conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists found that 97% of couples surveyed reported satisfaction with their therapy, with 93% expressing improvement in their relationships.

What is the #1 thing that destroys marriages?

Infidelity is often considered the leading cause of marital breakdown. The betrayal of trust can have profound and lasting effects on a relationship, necessitating careful navigation through therapy and open communication.

Which years of marriage are the hardest?

The initial years of marriage are often challenging as couples navigate the adjustment to a shared life. However, the seventh year is often dubbed the “itchy” or “dangerous” year, where many couples experience a significant increase in marital dissatisfaction.

How do you fix a struggling marriage?

To fix a struggling marriage, effective communication, empathy, and professional guidance are crucial. Marriage counseling provides a safe space for couples to explore underlying issues, identify patterns, and work towards meaningful solutions.

How long are most couples in marriage counseling?

The duration of marriage counseling varies, but on average, couples attend counseling for about 12 sessions. However, the process can extend depending on the complexity of the issues and the commitment of the individuals involved.

What is the difference between couples therapy and marriage counseling?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, couples therapy typically focuses on addressing immediate issues and improving communication, while marriage counseling may delve deeper into long-standing patterns, exploring the roots of conflicts.

What is the downside of couples therapy?

One potential downside of couples therapy is that it may unearth difficult emotions or escalate conflicts temporarily before resolution is achieved. However, these challenges are an inherent part of the healing process.

Does couples therapy mean the relationship is over?

No, couples therapy does not inherently mean the relationship is over. In fact, seeking therapy is a proactive step that many couples take to prevent a relationship from deteriorating further. It signals a commitment to finding solutions and rebuilding the connection.

Can marriage counseling save a marriage?

Absolutely. Marriage counseling serves as a lifeline for many relationships on the verge of collapse. Research consistently shows that couples who engage in therapy are more likely to experience positive outcomes and long-term satisfaction in their marriages.

What type of therapist is best for marriage counseling?

A licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) is often the best choice for marriage counseling. LMFTs specialize in addressing the dynamics of relationships and family systems, possessing the expertise to navigate the complexities of marital issues.

Should husband and wife see the same therapist?

While it’s possible for a husband and wife to see the same therapist, some couples may prefer individual therapy alongside joint sessions to address personal concerns. The choice depends on the unique needs and dynamics of the relationship.

Is a therapist better than a counselor?

Both therapists and counselors can offer valuable support, but the distinction lies in their training and scope of practice. Therapists, particularly those with an LMFT designation, specialize in relational dynamics, making them well-suited for marriage counseling.

What type of therapist is best for divorce?

For couples navigating divorce, a divorce coach or a therapist specializing in divorce counseling can provide valuable support. These professionals assist individuals in managing the emotional and practical challenges associated with the end of a marriage.

Is it unethical for a therapist to see a husband and wife separately?

Therapists may see individuals separately, provided they adhere to ethical guidelines and maintain confidentiality. However, communication and collaboration between the therapist and the couple are essential to ensure a balanced and effective therapeutic process.