Traditional Marriage Counseling Won’t Help
It stirs up problems and destroys trust
For most couples who are experiencing problems in their marriage nothing less than a total shift in thinking is needed
does your marriage need “outside” help?
If you are walking on a beautiful path, as marriage is meant to be, and accidentally step into quicksand, you're supposed to back up right away. But if you didn't stop in time, you should very carefully turn around and go back, if its not too late. If you really got caught, and start sinking, don't struggle, or you will sink faster. The best thing is to stop everything, and calmly look for a way out. If you can't see a sure clear way out, like something strong you can grab onto (like remembering why you got married), then you better call for help. Hopefully there will be someone nearby who knows what they're doing. It's the same with marriage. When you're sinking and struggling you don't want or need someone asking you "how does this make you feel?" But maybe you can still get out of your mess by yourself. Maybe reading a useful book, that reminds you of the principles of marital happiness will help you see what got you into the quicksand, so you stop what you were doing, and get back on the right safe path of marriage. When things are really rough people think the safest call to make is to a traditional marriage counselor. I wish it were true, but's its the worst call to make. I'll explain why, with insights and alternative ways to see things that are not just "negative". I'll also give you better (and less expensive) options.
I have written this for married individuals and couples who are past the self-help point, and due to “common knowledge” think marriage counseling is the answer.
Think of this as a warning from me, a former divorce mediator, who got his referrals from marriage counselors who failed their clients. It’s for those who reached the point of needing professional help but don’t have the actual information needed to realize how, and why, its dangerous to call a marriage counselor, or where to turn if you need help.
But read on. I didn’t write this to put down marriage counselors, who as people are like everyone else. I wrote it because there are alternatives to traditional marriage counseling that will give you what you need for your marriage.
Let’s begin with a logical question.
What should you expect from a marriage professional?
Put it this way. What are your expectations from other professionals?
An example is when you have problems with your car.
You seek out a reputable and honest mechanic. Someone qualified to diagnose, and fix, any problems; and, if necessary, find and fix their cause.
For instance, if your tires are balding unevenly you don’t just want to replace the tires, or you will be replacing them all the time. What is causing them to wear unevenly has to be pinpointed. You want to find out why its happening.
It could be alignment, tire pressure, or… no matter what the cause is, you would expect a “professional” to know their stuff well enough to tell you.
The same kind of expectations are reasonable for a plumber, computer repair person, dentist, or doctor.
In the case of your physical health most people also want suggestions based on the latest research, to help with improvements from that point forward. Like when your dental hygienist tells you to floss more, or your doctor tells you to use sunscreen. And, for practical reasons, your expectations of advice will almost always be met; its what they do.
Professionals know whats wrong, can tell you why something broke, fix it, and offer suggestions for better care. That’s what defines them as reliable professionals.
A “body of knowledge” is the basis for any profession
The reasons for their reliability have a lot to do with a consistent “body of knowledge” for their particular profession. The “body of knowledge” defines all of the above, and professionals draw from it as part of their work. There is no “winging it”.
Having a reliable body of knowledge is imperative. It means there is a build up of knowledge, and a lot of “testing” of protocols. It also means there is going to be consistent training, that goes along with the body of knowledge. All the schools for auto mechanics, as a simple example, are pretty much the same.
All professions generally have the same literal information that they draw from in their particular field. That’s an unspoken, and important, expectation. Experience is a bonus.
A big problem is marriage counseling is not “standardized”
Most people naturally expect knowledge and training to be rigorous and consistent for marriage counselors, too. They expect a marriage counselor would draw from a “body of knowledge” that all therapists draw from… But its not the case.
This may surprise you, because its not commonly known. But psychological training for marriage counseling is not standardized.
Every individual school of psychology has its own way of teaching what they choose to teach. They share schools of “consensus”, not factually based knowledge. Effectively, and although it’s a “crude” way to put this, they are all winging it.
To make matters worse, there are no specific “schools for marriage counseling”. Any individual who completes their psych training, and obtains a licence, or builds hours under a therapist, can, and often does, offer marriage counseling.
They do not have to be married, or have any ‘true” marriage-specific training. The therapists who are labeled ‘MFT’s’, or marriage family therapists, are not trained in a universal way. Again, because there are no universal approaches in their “soft” profession.
In some cases a therapist will be in their 20’s, unmarried, and inexperienced, while working towards a licence and their own practice. Its scary!
In other cases you could unknowingly end up with a “seasoned” therapist who is on their 3rd or 4th unhappy marriage; you don’t know. They may have a wise “look”. You might think, from their age and practiced demeanor, that they really understand marriage. You could be very wrong.
Because there are no “practical” qualifications. At least not what most people would consider useful for marriage help, there is just no way to know. They can tell you anything they want.
Remember, its a business. Psychologists are just people, not saints. Like with any and all businesses “buyer beware” has to be included in the vetting process.
Other professions have more specific and trustworthy qualifications for their practitioners
For medicine, and other professions, the consistency in training is based on double blind “studies” and proven theories.
But therapists refer to “foundational” studies that don’t specifically relate to marriage problems, nor do they give good indicators for treatments.
They are not like medical studies, which are ‘impeccable’ according to Western scientific standards. Psychological studies are loose, at best, often building on ideas they found, and liked, in other ‘loose’ studies, that were “accepted” by an academic board. Nothing is proven.
You wouldn’t want to stake the success of your marriage on treatments based on these kinds of studies.
Remember the “venting” phase, when people were told to “let it all out”? That rather stupid idea (sorry for the word stupid, but there is no more accurate description) was based on “studies”, too. Now only the most “dizzy” psychologist would ever suggest venting.
The “studies’ psychologists produce are only useful when they are “hard” data oriented, for statistical knowledge; like how many people get divorced more than once, or which categories have the highest divorce rate. Or how many children commit suicide from intact families compared to those raised in split homes (there is a much bigger difference than one would think).
Hard data is good for organizations like ours, because our counselors can tell parents how their children are likely to do if they get a divorce, when asked. The differences between children raised in split homes versus intact homes is not merely conjecture; we have the data (the added burden on kids is gigantic!).
Because of those useful studies we know a lot, but they do not lead to “treatments”. Psychologists and policemen should not change professions just because their professions have a higher than average divorce rate, nor does that statistic tell us how to treat marriage problems, at all; they offer no clues whatsoever about true causes of marital problems (which I can, and do, spell out in specifics).
“Statistical data” cannot explain the “causes” for unhappy marriages and divorces. Its just impossible to understand marriage based on data. You have to understand marriage from an “operational” point of view for that.
When it comes to the reasons why marriages work, or fail, therapists do not have anything but “educated” guesses; either their’s or someone else’s. Who they trust, based on their own personality pretty much determines what they think is legitimate. So, as you can gather, the basis for their ideas, diagnosis’s, and treatments, are quite random.
From my personal experience, having met scores of therapists, its hard to find two who will agree on any particular “diagnosis”. When I trained therapists in groups they sometimes commented on how “rigid” my protocols were. They laughed, and said my efforts to keep them ‘consistent’ was like herding cats.
You can’t help someone without having a thorough understanding of the subject
Our TMF counselors have a clear and consistent understanding of marriage. They offer practical understanding, when asked.
On the other hand, traditional marriage counselors don’t really understand why couples are unhappy in their marriage any more than they understand marriage itself. They can only measure and describe what they see on the surface. For them, the rest is guess work.
They may present their ideas in a “sophisticated” way, but ideas are not enough. “fixes” should be simple, fast acting, and permanent.
Sure, there are a few incredible therapists, but even they are doing their own thing. And those few who are truly good are hard to find.
Even marriage counselors who have good reputations are not usually good at helping marriages. They are not rated by successes versus failures. They are rated by things that don’t matter; like they wrote a good book.
So, the difference between the psychological profession and hard science professions is that any M.D. can evaluate your body’s health using specific tests of various organs, and by using the same tests and analysis all other M.D.s use. Therapist can only reliably test individuals for their individual psychological norms. For marriages, they have to wing it.
Inconsistency leads to all sorts of problems
Among psychologists, there are no universal agreements about
- how the mind works,
- what the soul is or its role in marriage,
- what marriage “is”, or
- why marriages that are happy are that way.
Why is this a demonstrable problem?
Because as a group, psychologists have a higher than average rate of divorce!
Unlike in other professions, where healing protocols are ultimately derived from all practitioners using the same protocols, testing minor changes in a standardized way, then improving upon the same protocols, there are no processes within the broad “school of psychology” to facilitate that. There is no “base”, so to speak. Its every man for them self.
Each and every therapist has their own way; its 100% subjective
The above is factual. Its not just an “opinion”
The contention I began with when I shifted my practice is simplicity itself
With professional help you should expect your marriage to be happy again
Just resolving a few “problems” or getting your arguments “mediated” are usually the best a marriage counselor can offer; that is if they are even close to useful. But are either of those enough value for the time and money you have to dish out?
What about if you really want to have a happy marriage, that gets happier every day? Is that a pipe dream? I never thought so. Yet most people struggle through endless sessions and end up discouraged, and divorced; most!
One should expect a professional to convey a clearly defined step by step way to achieve a happy marriage
Yes, there are some “typical” processes most traditional marriage counselors use. But that’s one of the big problems. The typical processes that may be fine for individuals are very dangerous to marriages.
Because they do not have consistency they cover up for this huge problem by calling their treatments “individualized”.
Individualized treatment sounds good, and logical. But unlike medical doctors, and car mechanics, who individualize treatment based on your particular symptoms, therapists also base it on their own individual ideas; that is not science.
Their treatment regimes (when they have one) are so disparate that even when there is a “marriage help center”, where a number of therapists work seemingly “together”, the differences between each and every therapist are huge. No two are the same.
And, to really drive home the point of them not having a consistent body of knowledge… the rate of divorce among psychologists is higher than average! As a profession they never found a “cure” for marital dysfunction.
Diversity is not an advantage. You should be able to expect that any professional you hire, for whatever purpose, can do what you want done, according to basic knowledge; and not use you as a source of income, or for their own experimentation.
When I first began my ‘experimentation’, based on my newly developed processes, I not only did not charge my clients, but I offered to handle their divorce (which they came to me for in the first place) for free if I was not successful. I had zero failures.
When you hire a psychologist there isn’t any way to know what they know, how they will approach marriage, how they will guide you, how their past clients have fared, or how your marriage will end up…its all risk!
In contrast, my specific list of steps were outlined on my whiteboard. Every client knew exactly what they needed to do, why, and what they should expect. And, the results were guaranteed. It is the same today for our courses.
Traditional marriage counseling is all so “flimsy”. Even a “doctor” label doesn’t tell us anything other than after a certain point of education the person did some kind of research, created a thesis, and earned a doctorate degree. Its not even close to the same as a medical degree. The intelligence and efforts required to obtain a medical degree are much greater, as are the licensing requirements.
Psychologists are not like medical doctors or licensed plumbers; who have to prove they know what they are doing in order to be licensed.
With traditional marriage counseling you never know what you will get
The inherent randomness may be reasonable for individual therapy, which is known to be more of an art form than a science, but is immorally destructive for marriages.
If even half of the myriad ideas concocted by Western psychologists about marriage were useful the divorce rate would be much lower than it is today
The indisputable fact is that while psychologists have “been in charge” of marriage study (for over 100 years) most people get divorced, or are unhappily married. That’s a “hard data” reality.
Further proof is that even wealthy people, who generally have access to the “best” of everything, suffer from the same rate of unhappiness and divorce. These facts really says something about them not having a cohesive, or explainable, formula for marriage.
It should be no surprise that the success rate for marriage counseling is well under 10%
Then the question has to be asked. Would you ask a doctor to operate on you if he told you the chances for success were less than 10%? I hope not.
Nearly every reliable source confirms the statistical “success” rate therapists score for “helping” couples rejuvenate their marriage is well under 10%.
Marriage family therapists don’t share relevant statistics with new clients. They are evasive, typically responding to sincere questions about their chances with “it depends” answers, while citing rigged “satisfaction” studies, and making the couple “responsible” for their success. How is that fair and reasonable?
A good marriage creates a reliable pathway to happiness brightening all along the way. Reaching that point is the goal
It truly does not matter how much you pay for marriage counseling. We can assume the wealthy and famous people who make the news when they get a divorce, took the route of traditional marriage counseling. Using the “best” money can buy, of that which does not work, leads to divorce.
Wealthy people are fed the same lines. So, many couples who trusted the traditional route, and could afford it, are now watching their families get torn apart. It is both very sad, and very unnecessary.
Therapists “reveal” they don’t have the answers
It seems like every year there is a new “we were bad in the past, but now we are good” pronouncement, with a new “treatment”. If you know what you are doing, you know. But they never really knew what they were doing in the first place. Their “new and improved” is a cover-up, nothing more.
Individually, some therapists experiment with new protocols of their own design; writing new books and selling “cures” as fast as “latest” diets are created. Their positive claims, made in articles that support marriage counseling, are usually over-stated, and disingenuous. They just don’t understand marriage. I know they don’t because I do.
Practical simple explanations and approaches such as ours work
Enough is enough. When your marriage is in trouble you don’t have time to play games and experiment. You need a solid path of specific things to do, that you can do, that will produce specific results. You need to shift your marriage into one that produces happiness; period.
Excuses don’t save marriages
Its easy for some to make clever excuses for their failures, often blaming the couple, while some of their self-created “statistics” promoting the ‘effectiveness’ of marriage counseling are highly suspicious. Their claims are false.
The most embarrassing excuses for the poor results traditional marriage counseling achieves, ironically come from some of the most highly recognized “experts” in their field. Famous marriage family therapists, such as Gottman, cautiously state “Marriage counseling is hard work, and there are no guarantees.”
Why shouldn’t you be able to guarantee your processes?
Although I agree that “there are no guarantees with “traditional” marriage counseling“, effective marriage help systems, like ours ARE guaranteed.
Their lack of confidence in their own success is an innate problem in and of itself. In contrast, to guarantee success means you know your guidance is practical and relevant.
Psychology does not apply to marriage
When I was a divorce mediator, virtually all of my clients were referred to me by therapists who tried but failed to help couples stay together.
After grueling (and expensive) months of little or no positive progress, therapists finally sent their clients to me, or to a family law lawyer (especially if they had screwed up by taking sides) to get a divorce. So I made it my business to analyze the deficiencies in their approach.
Marriage is not a “psychological” entity
Do you remember anything about getting married having anything to do with psychology? Of course not. Because at its core marriage is about souls joining together…remember?
Remember how before you got married you thought about love, friendship, family, intimacy, sex, and other deep and significant elements of your life, and lives together?
Psychologists’ main role, on the other hand, are for testing for clinical purposes. They learn nothing about the qualities of a soul in their studies. In fact they learn that a soul is no more than an abstract thought. Their profession has no business claiming they can help marriages.
Psychologists have other practical uses
A business, or government entity, may hire a psychologist to test an applicant’s propensities for stealing and so forth. A court may hire a psychologist to test for insanity, or a person’s ability to handle money etc. They administer and analyze tests.
Psychologists also help individuals who undergo extreme experiences in their life. They help create a more positive context for great losses or trauma. They ask their clients to share their experiences and feelings, so they can work from the problem(s) backwards to the causes and help them find balance. They help them get their footing back. Psychology is a purely individual affair.
A psychological approach is useless for a couple
Problems within marriages cannot be isolated to a chain of cause and effect. They cannot be traced back to a particular “cause” being responsible for the problem.
The “art” of psychotherapy is simply ill-fitted for marriage. Techniques commonly used by psychologists do more to create disharmony, resentment, and competition between the couple, which leads to more and greater problems, which leads to inevitable discouragement; often the final blow to a frail marriage.
Working on “problems” will only make them worse
The traditional psychological approach highlights your temporary conflicts, and drags them out. Both individuals independently feel discouraged, angry, falsely accused or falsely “vindicated”.
In contrast, because we know what we are doing, we get people back on track when they get discouraged or feel unsure. Our tutorial, with counseling approach, is the right way for any individual or couple.
Too often an incompetent counselor will take sides, or pass judgments, based on their own ideas of right and wrong.
The worst therapists act as superior judges, explaining to seasoned adults how and what they did was “wrong”. They may use nice words, but the result is always going to be resentment, because none of us want to be corrected.
Marriage counseling almost always begins with a “what is going on” question.
It seems logical, I know! But starting there is the opposite of what you should do when you want to improve your marriage!
I never allowed my clients to talk about their “problems” unless they had emergencies. Why go there? I have never heard of a person changing themselves because they at last realized they made a mistake, or were foolish, or “wrong”, or whatever.
The right way and wrong way to deal with problems
It must be pointed out that, for many “reasons”, the idea of working on problems in your marriage seems perfectly logical. But it is not, and there is however, a MUCH better way to begin your efforts.
Marital problems result from the underlying ideas, communication and other elements of marriage being out of balance. I call the collective cause the “underlying dynamics” of your marriage.
The ONLY way, for instance, to heal ‘communication’ or any other issue in a marriage is to create, or re-create, the “correct” dynamics of a deep loving and mutually respectful connection.
Marriage has its own context
Marriage is not like anything else. Its a venue of life that is not subjected to the same kinds of problems you encounter in “regular” life.
Marriage is so great because there are immense benefits you cannot find anywhere else in life. Marriage is superior to anything else in the world, and we knew it when we got married.
But because there is no consistent body of knowledge we didn’t know how to make the best use of marriage.
People get married and treat each other like they treat everyone else; but worse, due to what I call over-familiarity.
Then, because of reactions, and re-reactions on both parts, people end up in all kinds of descending cycles of pain. Those cycles are the REAL problems! Its the first thing to address, so you can stop sliding, get your bearings, and get moving in the right direction.
What if you make a mistake while walking on a beautiful path, such as marriage is meant to be, and tumble down a hill? Reliving the mistake, or blaming your partner for dragging you both down, will not get you back on the trail of happiness any faster. In fact, it will keep you off the trail, as you try to "sort through" who was at fault, and who should apologize and so forth. All your efforts should be to get along better, and learn more about the path you want to be on. That positive effort alone will be what keeps you steady, and happy.
The reason why you have the visible, and often destabilizing, problems in marriage are because you do not act as though you are “married”. Both of you act the same way you do in all other of life’s arenas. Instead of acting married to each other,
- You take one another for granted
- You communicate from a “side”
- You expect more from them than of yourself (this can be subtle)
- You compete, and protect yourself
- You love your kids more than each other
Many of the above mistakes in marriage actually seem “normal” to you, especially the ‘loving your kids more than your spouse’. But that’s because our world is generally “behind” in understanding marriage. We never learned how to be married.
So, the first step to take is stop the negative cycles, not bring them up for analysis. This should be practical, understandable, and clear. But in marriage counseling “whats going on” is usually the first question. How you will feel is terrible, as you relive the painful experiences.
In contrast, when you systematically stop the cycles, the current problems will gradually lose their power over you.
Then, because we shift your focus to the positive vision of marriage, and behaviors that are natural to marriage, you soon realize an authentic understanding of marriage. You learn how to be yourselves in a “married” way. That’s the right way.
A marriage professional should know what they are doing well enough to be able to get you back on the path of happiness, almost no matter what.
Excuses are not useful. They only make you feel bad, and discouraged. There is almost no legitimate excuse for failures, which almost all come from giving up.
Psychologists’ excuses discourage people
There are more plausible excuses for failure than colors on a color wheel. But they do not stand up to willful positive actions that are designed specifically to make your marriage work the way its supposed to.
I have heard the excuses because many of our clients tell us they want to save their marriage but their marriage counselor told them it was impossible because…
- You waited too long.
I hate that!!! There are rare times when its true, of course. We get emails all the time from men, and sometimes women, who say “my wife (or husband) left last week for… and I want her back. What should I do?” We don’t know. That’s usually (not always) when it IS too late.
- He cheated on you, so he will cheat again.
There is no “excuse” for infidelity, but there is no excuse for a lot of things. Because of the way the world views infidelity (as acceptable in many cases) it is a “trap” that is set, and ready to spring, all over the place. The rule of thumb is that when the marriage is working as it should, men (and women) find the sexual offers repulsive instead of enticing.
- There is too much abuse
Unless someone is beating the heck out of the other and delights in it, or its a brand new marriage, the first step has to be to calm things down; first. Then, and only then, will men be receptive to the obligation they have to protect their wife, and NEVER even raise their voice to their wife. Also, the wife must learn her job is to nurture and be the “heart” of their marriage, and behave in that way.
There are many excuses marriage counselors have for their failures, instead of admitting they don’t truly understand marriage. So its not worth listing more.
Some excuses get elaborate, like the armchair diagnosis made from descriptions of the spouse by an angry partner. There is the ever present narcissism, attachment to mother, workaholic, etc.
But rarely do we hear “I promised to remain in sickness and in health”. So, I say, lets try making the marriage “right”. Then we can look at problems that may need addressing.
My philosophy is have a marriage neither want to leave, not be forced to live in a marriage that is destroying them. 99% of the time its just a matter of knowing what to do to make it work really well.
Psychologists lie about your kids, telling you they will be fine if you divorce
This is the one deception that really gets to me, because it is so selfish to imagine your kids will be fine if they have to grow up in a split home.
But because we make it easier to heal your marriage than ask you to stick it out for the sake of your kids, I will only say that if you had a a crystal ball that showed what a divorce will do to your kids you would not split. I say that knowing that many readers did split before.
We cannot change the past. But we can learn, and not repeat the same mistakes.
Our counselors are clear, and positive because they share and express the same TMF principles
The combination of an online tutorial and access to our trained and loving counselors is the best way I know of to heal any marriage as quickly and effectively as is humanly possible.
Marriage success comes from what you will do now, and in the future, in spite of any errors you made in the past
Some marriage counselors say you cannot heal your marriage unless both of you participate; FALSE
One of you CAN heal your marriage, alone
The only psychological part of marriage is individual. Both of you have to deal with, control, your own mind. So learning how is important. If you have to be the one who has to heal your marriage by yourself, please read this informative article.
If a marriage counselor can help you in that regard, by showing you how to be a better person and spouse, your marriage would be fine, almost no matter what your other half does.
But most neither know that, or how to do it. Too often one of the couple will go to sessions and hear that their spouse is a creep, or cold, or whatever. A pox on those evil therapists!
Some therapists are “evil”
There are some counselors who will keep you in counseling for months or years with the “promise” of a better future or better “you”. They know they cannot help your marriage, but they want the income. That’s evil.
We have had to discontinue the training of some therapists who wanted to be certified by The Marriage Foundation. They just wanted more clients.
We see GREAT results when only one takes the course designed for their gender. Our in-house stats (over 10 years or so) are that couples who both willingly take their course will not only turn their marriage around, but even couples who are not in emergency have astounding success; pretty much 100% of the time.
However, even if only the wife works on her program, the “it takes the efforts of both to have success” theory is shattered! Even if her husband is on the verge of leaving, or has left, the failure rate is less than 4%.
Individual men, however, rarely have success if his wife already left. But we still encourage men to try. With our generous guarantee it should be a no-brainer to try.
Marriage is a joining of two souls
That’s not a Hallmark invention, its the truth. So when only one is “ready” to do some bridge building its not only possible, its nearly inevitable for the marriage to get back on the track it was on when the light was at its brightest.
Then, as is the nature of a healthy marriage, things only get better from there; every single day. You should always try. Never give up.
We want to be positive, encouraging, and supportive. Fact is you will not know till you try. And our TMF trained counselors will help and encourage you when you need it.
Give your marriage your all before you consider giving up. Your marriage is important! It should be the happiest part of your life. And the way we have set up our program will show you how to achieve that ideal of happiness…so try!
It is NOT too late
Every second both your life and marriage start anew
Almost anything that “happened in the past” (from infidelity, to lying, to …. whatever), that got you serious about trying to fix things, might by some people be used as an excuse to give up. Change that around.
I say you can use ‘what got you here’ as an incentive to do what you need to do, starting now.
Past errors do not control your future. You are in charge of your future. Use the breakdown, big or small, as a warning, instead of a sign that your marriage is over.
Don’t keep putting things off, either. Putting off your efforts, “giving things more time”, just means more pain and suffering. Your marriage will not heal itself; marriages never do. You must proactively do your part
It takes proactive, knowledgeable actions to work the wonders you deserve in your marriage. All our clients had horrible experiences before they came to us. The declining happiness in their marriage was why they became our clients.
Starting now is fine. The depth of the hole you may have dug yourself into is barely an issue. You can get out of it and start afresh, creating a great marriage.
Whenever you start on our program, that is exactly the right time; it does not matter when. You will still get the great (not just “good”) results you seek. That is what we promise, and our promise is backed up by our guarantee.
Unlike with traditional marriage counseling, where you pay your money and take your chances, we will tell you exactly what is involved, and if it fails (but it rarely does) you will not be out one cent.
Most couples who try traditional couples counseling stagnate, suffer even more, or end their marriage altogether. No matter how long they participate, or how much they spend, most couples spend months or years trying traditional counseling, end up thousands of dollars out of pocket, and just as miserable.
If you are currently in marriage counseling you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Although the fear of things getting even worse prevents many couples from cancelling their next appointment, getting out will not hurt you. In fact, a better alternative can save you from a lot more pain and probably save your marriage.
Having a wonderful marriage does not require “work”
Yes, there is always some personal effort required when you work on your individual flaws, and some pain when you recognize some of your past mistakes. Realizing our errors and struggling to change ourselves is not the easiest thing to do, but because of whats at stake its the most rewarding thing to do.
Most marriages heal quickly. Your marriage should get better, right from the start, as you recognize the simple “toxic” things you do that undermine your happiness, and stop them.
Happy marriages come from re-focusing your efforts on the underlying dynamics
Your desire for happiness, through love, is why you got married in the first place.
The above statement is an irrefutable “truth”. The key to happiness is always rooted in love, no matter what. But its especially true in marriage. You literally got married for the happiness that comes from love!
The underlying dynamics of your marriage, which need to be oriented around happiness and love can always be refashioned into happiness producing actions, and pretty quickly. This is the key!
The most rational idea is to heal and evolve your marriage through increasing happiness producing efforts
I want to give you advice you can use now. You will probably not hear this anywhere else
Never talk about your marriage problems, not with each other, not with your friends, relatives, or anyone else. It will not help!!! Regurgitating the painful experiences is almost ‘perverse’. Nothing good comes of it. It will only hurt your marriage even more. Forget the “elephant in the room” idea; it does not apply to your marriage.
There are two main reasons you SHOULD NOT talk about your marital problems
First – Working on “problems” or “issues” distracts you from learning about and working on the underlying dynamics of your marriage, and that is an absolute requirement to have a happy and fulfilling marriage.
Even if working on problems and issues ‘worked’, what good would it do to just stop a problem or two, anyway? More would crop up in their place.
The underlying dynamics have to change. Once you begin to change the underlying dynamics of your marriage, they will become the “cause” of continual happiness. The underlying dynamics are like the nourishing soil in which your marriage can grow.
Fixing the underlying dynamics of your marriage has to come first
Think of the underlying dynamics as the soil in which your marriage is rooted. When the soil is healthy, everything grows as it should. But if your marriage is rooted in chronic conditions, such as taking each other for granted, arguing, or routine disrespectful behavior, the fruits of your marriage will all be problematic.
Just fixing a “thing” or two, or even heavy pruning, will only produce temporary relief, at best.
Do you recall the law of cause and effect? Nearly all marriage problems, including poor communication (the most common complaint), are symptoms of the underlying dynamics of your marriage.
The underlying dynamics of your marriage are THE supreme cause of either
A – Problems and issues.
Or, when the underlying dynamics are good,
B – The lovely experiences that each and every one of us seeks in marriage.
When one does something that terribly hurts the other, or their marriage, the “reasons why”, the causes, are always traceable to things lacking in the couple’s underlying lack of understanding, and it shows up in the way they behave.
The underlying dynamics of your marriage have to be learned, and understood. There is no getting around this. It is the shortcut, as well as the only thing that will work to create permanent marital happiness.
When your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors are intentionally shifted into “marriage friendly” expressions everything seamlessly shifts into a happy marriage mode.
This ‘shift’ is the only thing that brings about results. Otherwise, all you’re doing if you’re trying to “fix a problem” is sweeping the porch in a dust storm.
Secondly – “Working on” problems further reinforces the negatives, including the poor communication that is already damaging your relationship.
Raising and exploring “issues” (that are the result of your marriage’s underlying dynamics) creates more frustration and anger. How is that going to help your marriage??
I’m certain you have already experienced the futility of bringing up problems. Calling them “concerns”, or using other euphemism, will not help soften the effects.
Using “I” statements won’t help. That is merely a cheap trick, that almost always backfires. Most problems, when opened up, turn into a can of worms.
Don’t buy into the idea that issues and problems have to be “worked out”. They don’t. Issues and problems you experience today will simply cease to exist once your marriage’s underlying dynamics are marriage friendly.
You don’t need a mediator for your problems
Some therapists attempt taking on the role of a “mediator” in their sessions, which completely misses the point; that marriages need to be built on love and positive intentions, not negotiation.
Moreover, you can’t keep a counselor at home, so you need to have the right tools on hand for your marriage.
Theirs is a terrible approach to take, because, ultimately, it reduces your marriage to a business deal of sorts.
Marriage reboot is not the time for mediation
In my mediation practice, where I assumed the role of an unbiased expert moderator to help split asetts and assign roles for parenting, I broke communication into three distinct types for my clients.
- Discussion – This is the perfect form of communication when couples don’t take sides, but team up to address a topic where they both want the same thing; like what is best for their children. Married couples should always use this type of communication, all the time, because the mutual goal of mutual happiness should be the highest priority. I wanted my couples to remain friendly, so, because they were still married I guided them this way.
- Negotiation – This form of communication is effective when there are competing interests. An example would be ‘who gets the dog, and when’. It was my job to keep the arguments fair, and the couple calm. Then they could adjust their demands using compromise or consideration for each other. It is never the “right time” for a married couple to negotiate with ‘competing interests’ and there are many reasons for that. Everything, big or small, should be addressed through discussion (which is learned in our courses). Some people think: no problem, we can do that. But they have not learned how, so their attempts at discussion turn into arguments.
- Arbitration – This is really the last form of communication civil people should want to use. In society, the next steps are forms of war, like taking each other to court. When neither could come to an agreement, whether discussed or negotiated, they reverted to arbitration and relied on an objective 3rd party, me, to decide on a solution for them. Things are bad when it gets to that point. I always guided my couples back to discussion, whenever possible.
When you are married you have the perfect set-up for selfless service, love, and consideration. Mediation or negotiation reduces your marriage to a “common” relationship. Marriage is not common. It is extraordinary!
Some therapists claim they are needed for negotiation and arbitration; they think it is their role. But negotiation and arbitration do nothing to train the couple for marriage, instead those become the quickest route to failure.
Correct marriage counseling is educational while guiding
Good therapists for marriages, never try to solve problems, or even help couples solve their problems. They show applicable techniques for how to connect, let things go, and grow their marriage on the foundation of love.
Good marriage counselors know it isn’t the problems that are wrong with a marriage. So, instead of focusing on existing problems, they teach couples HOW to use marriage building techniques; how to get along so well that there won’t be any more problems. Our TMF counselors never leave people hanging. They make sure the person reaching out is 100% clear, and know how to approach their next steps.
I wish all marriage counselors understood marriage
In my earlier days I was introduced to a wonderful therapist, Paul Hagenburger (unfortunately he passed away too soon). Paul was better than “good” for couples; he was a rare exception.
When we first spoke, it was clear he didn’t need our TMF system. His philosophy and approach were effective, and he helped many couples. But he explained that he wanted to be part of The Marriage Foundation anyway. He liked how I framed and laid out the ideals of marriage succinctly, and saw the beginnings of a body of knowledge. He thought marriage counseling should be all about educating a couple; “they don’t need therapy” he used to say.
Because he taught counseling at the collage level his aim, before he passed, was to introduce our principles and techniques to his students. I miss him.
If you follow my system all your efforts will be “positive”, and you can expect better results than any other way will bring
The goal of marriage help should be to end all problems, permanently
Make that your mission, instead of trying to figure out who is “responsible”.
Now, that you are at last resolved to do heal your marriage, strive to establish new habits that bring both of you ongoing happiness
Your marriage should be the happiest part of your life
Let the problems you are experiencing be only regarded as your “wake-up call”.
It is time to address the core of your marriage. It is time to address the underlying dynamics that sustain everything else.
Don’t just seek a little relief, seek true marital happiness!
The underlying dynamics of your marriage are always the roots of the problems. Or, when marriage friendly, they will be the cause of your blessings.
But I’m not saying “don’t worry” about very real and difficult problems?
Of course not! There are, at times, such horrendous behaviors that are rooted in deep mental sickness, or evil. When there is danger, leave! Those few horrible marriages are due to truly “bad” (as in evil), or incurably insane people.
But those people rarely reach out to us. They know they are in deep trouble. We do not pretend we can help them, and always advise contacting the authorities.
Marriage is so utterly amazing when you get it right
Marriage is intrinsically different from any other venue in our lives. Therefore, it has different “rules” than any other venue.
Marriage is unlike commerce, friendships, or other encounters. In most of life’s interactions there is competition on one level or another. There is a winner, a loser, or a fair deal. This is not the case for marriage. Marriage is the “safe zone” in the unsafe world.
Marriage has “supreme” benefits you cannot find elsewhere. So you should expect there to be unique “rules”.
Many of marriage’s rules will not work in other venues because you will be disadvantaged. Likewise, the rules of other venues will not necessarily, or usually, work in your marriage. Marriage is a unique venue where selflessness is the most beneficial approach, always.
In marriage you have to use a “different” approach, that enhances, rather than detracts from its unique conditions. In other, less complicated, venues, the approach of finding micro-solutions works just fine. That’s not for marriage, though. In marriage, the happier you try to make your spouse, the better off you both will be.
Marriage is not a business, where problems need immediate solutions.
In business environments a person can correct their behavior to become a better team member, or to create more success. It happens all the time. You eliminate a problem behavior and voila, you do better, and prosper.
HR may call in an employee to explain why a certain behavior is not working. The employee then changes his/her behavior, and everything will be fine from then forward.
It doesn’t work that way in marriage. You and your spouse are too intricately interlaced, and this at a very deep level.
To be happy you need to work both harmoniously and synergistically in all aspects of your marriage.
Happiness is the goal of marriage, and it is quite a different goal than just trying to be productive, as in business
It may sound complex, but it isn’t so difficult when you start to “get it”. Our overall approach, which addresses all four aspects of marriage (connection, communication, sexual communication and individual psychology) brings you to a realistic path of love and harmony. Our programs are definite, clear, understandable, and effective.
Why can’t we just address our one issue?
We get questioned (challenged may be a better word) regularly, mostly by men, who just want to change “one thing”, or two.
They want to know what they may be doing “wrong”. But marriage does not work that way. Marriage is a complex organism, and you cannot pretend otherwise.
And, we don’t want you to just stop doing a few things you are doing “wrong” (and wrong in one marriage may be fine in others). We want your marriage to be the happiest part of your life. We want you to be so happy that you can’t take it!
We want you to enjoy the enormous benefits of marriage; not just be relieved of the pain that comes from current misunderstandings
Make no mistake! Both of you are individual and complicated people. You need to understand how to create the wonderful underlying dynamics of marriage, as well as avoid feeding your detrimental habits, those that undermine individual and mutual happiness.
That is “it” in very simple form. That’s why traditional therapy cannot possibly provide what you need in order to accomplish a happy marriage.
Marriage is not complicated once you understand it
Marriage is a living organism
Marriage is a “whole society” comprised of only the two of you.
An example of a ‘whole living organism’ is the human body. In the human body a bad heart can be caused by bad dental hygiene that infects your jaw, which then strains the heart.
If you work on the heart problem without correcting the underlying dental hygiene, you will, at best, do a “patch”. Your heart will definitely fail again, later.
On the other hand, when you pay attention to your dental hygiene, which is an underlying dynamic, your heart will probably heal itself.
Similarly, when you work on the underlying dynamics of your marriage, the problems (a therapist wants to address) will disappear as a matter of course.
Sure, we hear about outer influences that appear to affect your marriage, but they are not supposed to be allowed into your micro society.
Creating parapets of protection is another part of what you need to learn, as this is part of the underlying dynamics.
The whole of your goal, the whole of your efforts, should be mutual happiness
Then everything else can, and will, spring from the happiness you share. Doesn’t that make sense?
99% of marriage problems are solved addressing the underlying dynamics
Another reason I strongly oppose the use of marriage counseling has to do with the “set-up”.
Here is what happens in sessions. The way a session almost always starts is when the therapist asks a “what’s up” question.
From that one question it is only a matter of time before the overt and subtle accusations start flowing.
One or both say hurtful things to, or about, the other.
Remember, both of you are already feeling awful, usually angry, discouraged, and disconnected. Your marriage is not delivering so, naturally, you are frustrated. Add to that your general lack of patience with each other and the fact that trust is very low.
“What’s up” is a set-up for lighting the fuse to even more cycles of negative actions and reactions.
The last thing to do is point out each other’s flaws and errors, which will make both of you angrier and less appreciated; but that is exactly what happens, almost every time.
Perhaps there are therapists who begin with something along the lines of “would you like to have an amazing marriage?”, but I have never heard of them. All of them seem to start with “what’s going on?” So, naturally, here is what that results in (remember, “cause and effect” is a universal law):
- One, or both of you, become defensive
- One, or both of you exaggerates, or lies
- The focus of the session shifts to blame and self-righteousness
None of the above leads to happier ‘anything’, and certainly not to a happier marriage.
Occasionally, but not often, you might feel “better” because you were able to get your feelings and complaints out on the table.
However, that table is now covered with nasty “stuff”. So, although the one who vented their frustrations may feel some relief, the one who was talked about, is going to feel abused.
Occasionally, one of the couple will think they were “heard” and that the other, now “knows”, and will make changes; that never happens.
The above is the “fools gold” that some claim as success. In reality, it does damage to both individuals, and the marriage as a whole.
I have suggested counseling to some individuals, but never for couples.
The other day someone told me the marriage counselor she and her husband were seeing worked wonders. When I told her how unusual it was, from my experience, for marriage counselors to actually help marriages she said:
“Oh, she, (the marriage counselor), wasn’t able to help us stay together, we’re filing for divorce at the end of the week, but we really like her.”
Ouch! Her family includes a precious four-year-old daughter, so fortunately I was able to convince her their marriage was not only worth saving, but her marriage could be everything she ever hoped for.
Therapists may take it upon themselves to affirm a small, or gargantuan flaw in one spouse or the other; after all, we all have them. But it is a tragic error to do so; it is “taking sides”. Unfortunately, that is generally how marriage counseling plays out.
Correcting individual flaws requires individual effort. It’s not a community project
There are four primary “aspects” to marriage.
- Spiritual aspect, which is the soul-to-soul connection. This is the most important aspect!
- Sexual communication
- Individual psychology – note the “individual” part
An individual’s “psychological” flaw, whether it is in their thinking, acting, or believing, is not a “marriage problem”. It is the individual’s problem.
Every marriage is comprised of two “flawed” human beings, so having a psychological flaw is not a deal breaker.
However, being married does not give anyone the right to intrude on their spouse’s flaws. Each must address their own flaws in their own time, in their own way. It is all about free will.
Bringing out individual flaws in a counseling session is intrusive and malicious… even though many will try to convince you that problems “have to be worked out”… they do not; not in marriage, not anywhere. The deep study of free will precludes anyone from intruding on the free will of the other.
It’s true, a good therapist may be able to help an individual overcome their individual flaws, but they should never do so in front of the other spouse.
Traditional marriage counseling is a frustrating waste of time. The generally used protocol used by virtually every marriage and family therapist is to begin with getting to know you and your spouse. Not in just five or ten minutes, but often over the course of a few or more forty-five minute sessions.
The reasons they give for trying to get to know you are numerous, and they may seem reasonable at first glance. However, the only information they actually need to know, beyond the fact that you are both suffering in your marriage, is that neither of you are pedophiles, or dangerous in some other way (as those are warning signs which cannot be ignored). Otherwise, getting to know you is useless for saving your marriage, and moreover, it is invasive.
You are an individual first and foremost, so communicating “problems” is problematic
- How you see your own actions and past experiences is unique, subconsciously edited, and highly filtered. You could not be accurate if you tried.
- How you communicate your past, or current problems, is never going to be truly accurate because your memory is imperfect.
- You would need a month to fully talk about what happened just last week. How can you fit enough useful information into forty-five minutes, or forty-five days.
- But most of the time… so what?
- Why is getting to know you or the “problems” necessary for a therapist to help your marriage? Your marriage problem isn’t you, or your husband or
No matter how well a therapist gets to know you, or your problems, they will never really know you. besides, little to none of that information can be utilized to help your marriage. It’s a huge waste of time during a period you should be proactively learning what to do, and how to do it.
Here are some normal “human nature” things you can expect in traditional sessions
- A ‘complainer’ will exaggerate for effect. It is just human nature to make our complaints really sound good so we get sympathy…right?
- The person being complained about will become defensive, and shut down. So nobody wins.
- Both will try to get the therapist on their side. After all, both of you think you are the victims, and both of you are, but not of each other as much as of your self created circumstances.
The whole idea behind marriage counseling by psychologists was ill fated from the beginning. I cannot tell you its origins, but clearly the idea was along the lines of treating dysfunctional marriages as a psychological problem.
The first marriage counselors were clergy, which makes much more sense. But that’s not working out too well, either.
I have created a very commonsensical approach that is efficient, effective, and coherent. Many clergy, and many honorable psychologists, refer their members or clients to us. For that we are thankful. But we are most thankful for those marriages we help. I hope we can help yours.
At the end of the day, a marriage that you both want and are excited about, that should be your goal. That is how we at TMF see it, and that is realistic. Traditional marriage counseling will not help you to “ get from here to there”. You need to learn about marriage and all the components that together make for a happy and fulfilling marriage.
There are two online programs, one for women, another for men, and both include access to our specially trained counselors. Each program contains about 40 videos and additional text supplements. You may try them, free. Everything is guaranteed for 90 days. We also have two books.