If You Have Been Married for Five Years
If you have been married for at least five years, I recommend that you find a licensed marriage and family therapist and do some marriage therapy. It is during these first years that the marital dyad or partnership is formed and conflict cycles, communication styles, and couple patterns are established. If this dyad is not formed in healthy ways, the marriage will suffer.
Too often, couples think that marriage therapy is only needed when the marriage is in crisis. This is a misconception that needs to change. If the couple waits until the marriage is in crisis before seeking out professional help, the patterns of communication or conflict can be so deeply engrained and dysfunctional that they are hard to change. However, the sooner the couple can work on these couple patterns, the more likely the patterns will respond to therapeutic interventions. The goal for the therapy during these early stages of couple development is to make a good marriage even better.
Another misconception is that marriage therapy is intended to change each other. The reality is that the client in couple therapy is the “couple.” Even if one person could “fix” everything about their behavior and become the ideal spouse, the other spouse still has to adjust to the change in the relationship. Successful therapy requires that both come to the sessions with a willingness to change.
Too often, couples expect change too soon. They will attend four or five sessions and give up saying, “Counseling didn’t work for us.” If the therapy is working, then change is happening and we all resist change. Rather than dropping out when resistance starts, it is better to give the therapy at least ten sessions before you evaluate. By the tenth session, a therapeutic alliance with your therapist will be established, the therapeutic goals will be clear, and the interventions will have time to work. I am not suggesting that ten sessions is all that is needed. I am suggested that by then, you can decide if the therapy is helping and be better able to determine if you will continue.
Some argue that marriage therapy is too expensive. Yes, therapy is expensive both in time and in money. However, expense is relative. Therapy is much cheaper than divorce or an unhealthy relationship. Many couples will spend more in one vacation week at the beach than they will in ten weeks of marriage therapy. Think of therapy as a long term investment in your marriage.
So, if you have been married for five years, go ahead and find a licensed therapist and get started enhancing your marriage.