7 Signs You've Found A GREAT Marriage Counselor That Can Actually Help You

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What To Look For In A Marriage Counselor

All marriage counselors are not made the same.

According to The National Center for Health Statistics, there were 2,140,272 marriages in the USA last year. Unfortunately, there were also 813,862 divorces.

Let's face it, far too many people get divorced. As we have said for the past 35 years, most marriages are worth saving, but it takes hard work to do so.

We have studied successfully married couples for over 35 years. We have traveled to 53 countries on all seven of the world’s continents, all 50 USA states, and all 10 Canadian provinces.

And while our focus has been on those who have made their marriages work, we are also constantly reminded that some marriages need help. Some marriages need a third-party to help them make their marriage survive and thrive

Oftentimes, reaching out to a qualified marriage counselor can save a marriage. And while a good marriage counselor can be important to sustaining your relationship, a bad counselor can often cause even more harm.

As you seek someone to help your marriage work through the issues confronting it, it is critical to find marriage advice from a counselor who exhibits these seven characteristics:

1. Great marriage counselors never talk jargon with their clients when Simple Truths are required.

Here’s the bottom line: it doesn’t matter if your marital relationship is at "Stage 4." Moreover, does it really matter if your marriage, like most marriages, goes through the so-called "stages of marriage"? How does that knowledge help your marriage?

The best help a counselor can give you is to lead you and your spouse through whatever challenges your marriage is facing without resorting to jargon that you don’t understand.

Working through the trying times in a marriage is not about the mystical powers of your counselor. Rather, it is about your relationship and their ability to help you and your spouse reach resolution about important issues that confront you.  

2. Great marriage counselors don't over-intellectualize marriage and marital conflicts.

Without a doubt, love is something you feel — in your heart, your soul, and in your being.

When your relationship needs help, the last thing you need is for someone to tell you that what you and your spouse are feeling with regard to your relationship can be explained by some entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (currently referred to as DSM-IV-TR), the most widely-used psychiatric/psychological reference book and standard diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals worldwide. 

Don't get us wrong, the Manual is a great reference source, but in the end, an intellectual tool can’t measure love! Love is an emotion, and the best counselors know this. They act as a "guide on the side" as you and the one you love address the challenges confronting your marriage.

The best marriage counselors help your marriage get in touch with the respective emotions of you and your spouse. They help you feel the emotions that cause you to come to grips with what you want from your marriage.

3. Great marriage counselors are NOT advocates for a particular marital perspective. Instead, they focus on YOUR marriage.

Here's a truism you can take to the bank: it is not the role of the marriage counselor to be an advocate for anything while counseling you and your spouse about your marital problems! 

Frankly, their personal opinions are not relevant to your marriage. Their stories about their marriage, their parent’s marriage, or other marriages they have treated do not matter when it comes to YOUR marriage.

Your marriage is, in most ways, unique! The answers you and your spouse are seeking about your marriage are not always informed by the experiences of others.

While common positive themes run through the best marriages, and while there are tell-tale signs of failing marriages, in the end, each marriage that is in failure is in failure for reasons that are unique to that marriage. 

4. Great marriage counselors don't make marriage too difficult to understand. They know that "simple things matter."

Our 35 years of research on successful marriage has revealed that successful marriage is, in fact, simple to understand! The problem now and always has been this – marriages fail most often because couples do not do the simple things required to make their marriage work!  

A marriage counselor failing to explain and focus on the simple things required to have a successful relationship can make the marriage relationship seem more difficult than it really is. Unfortunately, when a counselor makes marriage too difficult to understand, they inhibit the relationship development of the couple they are trying to help.

The best marriage counselors work by guiding you and your spouse to understand that acts of kindness, respect, love, and care must occur every day of the year consistently for your marriage relationship to be successful.

5. Great marriage counselors do NOT choose sides in a marital dispute during counseling.

If you are in marriage counseling, look for this action from you marriage counselor — if they take sides and choose the perspective of one of you over the other — get a different counselor! 

Settling or resolving a marital dispute requires objectivity on the part of your counselor. The best marriage counselors understand that unconditional positive regard for their clients is of the utmost importance.

Making judgments, taking sides, and advocating for one or the other can be destructive. Choosing sides can fracture the trust that is required in marital counseling.

6. Great marriage counselors understand the old axiom that most marriages are worth saving, but not all.

We have said for years that most marriages are worth saving... BUT NOT ALL! Most couples that go into marriage counseling truly believe that their marriage is worth saving and can be saved. In their heart of hearts, they want their marriage to be successful.

But the truth is, some marriages are NOT worth saving. Some marriages have traveled so far down the path of no return that there is no hope. Some marriages are beleaguered by abuse — physical and mental — that they cannot and should not be saved. The consequence of saving such a marriage is destructive.

Marriage counselors make a mistake when they tell you that they can save every marriage with work. They must understand their limitations and the fact that sometimes saving an abusive relationship is downright dangerous.

7. Great marriage counselors do not interject personal opinions and experiences into the counseling session.

The research on marriage counseling over the decades is clear: the best marriage counselors hold back expressing their personal opinions and experiences during the marriage counseling session. 

Here is a telltale sign: you are having an exchange during your therapy session and your counselor says something like: "Well, my wife and I have never experienced what you and your spouse are experiencing."

The question is, who cares?!

The relationship your marriage counselor has with his or her wife or others is irrelevant to your marital relationship. And frankly, the interjection by the counselor of his or her own personal marital relationship teeters on the edge of unethical behavior on their part. 

When you are participating in marriage counseling, you are in a very vulnerable position. You deserve the best counseling you and your spouse can get.

Counselors are not selling snake oil. They are selling their expertise, their professional judgment, and their years of training as professional counselors. They do not have the right to be incompetent and make any of these mistakes.

When you seek marriage counseling you have the right to seek it from a trained and competent professional who meets the requisite requirements to be a marriage counselor.

Dr. Charles and Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz are America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts. Having been married for 50 years, the Doctors give advice that you know you can trust. For more tips to enhance your relationship get the best-selling and multiple award-winning book, Building a Love that Lasts.