I recently read an article on Huff Post, written by Laura Doyle titled, ‘6 Reasons Why Marriage Counseling is BS’.
I thought the title was creative, and it made me want to read it, especially given I am a marriage counselor.
It turns out the author, makes some preposterous claims about the nature of genuine marriage counseling. While she may be a best-selling author and relationship coach, she is clearly not trained as a marriage therapist.
It’s obvious she hasn’t read about the new science of love, how powerful modalities like Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) are and how research has shown EFT trained therapists are able to help 70-80% of couples make long-lasting changes in their marriages.
Here are the things I disagree with on the 6 Reasons Why Marriage Counseling is Not BS by Laura Doyle
1. The first claim
‘when a wife suggests going to counseling, she is calling her husband a loser!!’
I cannot agree with this. Whenever any spouse asks for counseling, it is because they are hurting in the relationship. It takes a lot of courage to ask your partner to go to counseling. It means you love them enough to risk being vulnerable, and asking for change from both of you. It is not to criticize your partner or to make them feel bad; it is about wanting to make things better.
2. The second claim
‘some marriage counselors are failures.’
I do agree with her on this, but only up to a point and not based on her reasoning. Doyle says marriage counselors are failures because some have been divorced twice, or are unhappily married. Therapists are human beings first, and many go through good times and bad, just like everyone else. Therapists are only ineffective when they haven’t gone through the necessary training to work with couples but practice couples counseling anyway. An experienced therapist has gone through many years of training, spending a lot of time and money to become experts at what they do. I, myself, specialize in Emotionally Focused Therapy and was trained in this modality well after graduate school. It has taken me a long time to learn how to use this model successfully.
3. The third claim
‘any fool can complain—and most do—during marriage counseling.’
As an EFT therapist, I do not let my couples do what they do at home with each other. Of course, I have to hear what is going on at home and where they get stuck. Beyond that, we get to the feelings and emotions. What happens when they are caught in their negative emotional pattern. With this understanding, I help them frame their experience in a new way and develop different ways of communicating with one another.
For example; when Mary is angry at her husband and shuts down, she is feeling hurt. Because she doesn’t know how to make things better, she retreats. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. It means she doesn’t know how to communicate her feelings in a way that she not only feels heard but initiates positive change.
4. The fourth claim
‘couples go to therapy to secretly have the therapist fix the partner’s shortcomings, or for their spouse to change.’
While that may be true for some couples, most of the couples I work with come in because they both know something must change for them and for the relationship. I don’t make it about either one of them, because neither spouse is the actual problem. The problem is the dance, or negative pattern, what happens when they get stuck in their patterns and can’t resolve an issue. In those moments, they feel hurt or angry, and don’t know how to come closer and fix—or even just change—things. Negative patterns are the problem and each partner needs to step back to see those patterns as the real challenge. Then they need to work together, as a team, to make positive changes.
5. The fourth claim
‘Men are not big, hairy women.’
According to the article, “Trying and failing to get a man to talk about his feelings in marriage counseling may confirm a wife’s worst fears that her husband is defective. But the real failure here is her lack of respect for the man he is — the one she picked to marry.”
The idea that men are unable to talk about their feelings is simply not true. It is not a lack of respect on the wife’s part to want a deeper emotional connection to feel closer to her husband. What happens over time is a couple’s negative patterns become worse, and the distance between them greater. As a result, husbands and wives are often both lonely and longing for that connection they’ve lost.
For example; it may be the wife’s constant nagging has caused the husband to shut down, and not want to open up. On the hand, the source of that nagging may be the husband’s retreat. In marriage therapy, we can process these kinds of patterns, and break them down for each partner, so they can hear the impact their behavior has on their spouse. Each partner can then hear how these destructive patterns are hurtful. This is what good marriage therapy looks like and what how someone specifically trained in a model like EFT can help.
6. The final claim
‘marriage counseling is the most expensive way to control your spouse.’
According to the author, investing in marriage counseling is a waste because it is diverting you from what would really save your marriage, (which, in her mind), is self-care. Basically, as a wife, if we take care of ourselves and are happy, it will change the way we feel about our husbands and in turn, our husbands will see us as more attractive, too.
I might agree this approach may help a relationship, but marriage counseling cannot only potentially save your marriage, but it can also save you thousands of dollars in court. It is not all up to one person – (from Doyle’s perspective, the wife) – to change. That position is just unfair. It takes two people to create a relationship. Marriage therapy is an investment in your relationship, in your happiness and your well-being. I would say that isn’t a tragic waste!
So, don’t fire your marriage counselor, and don’t let articles like that one dissuade you from going to marriage counseling. If you are feeling emotionally disconnected in your marriage, and have been considering counseling, as a qualified professional, I can assure you there is help and there is hope.
Feel free to contact me here or call me at 561-542-2466. I would be happy to discuss how effective couples counseling can have an amazing and long-term impact on you, your partner and your relationship.