Working with couples is difficult, in that, they often come to a marriage counselor after the affair, when they are already separated, when troubles have been brewing for years, or when divorce is currently pending. They come when they are in crisis. I find that they usually state their reason for seeking counselling is to learn to better communicate.
Regaining hope in marriage
For inexperienced counselors, or generalist counselors who haven’t been trained in marriage counselling, the couple may be allowed to ‘air their dirty laundry’ without resolve, over and over again, week after week. In fact, this inflicts more pain into the relationship. It is a challenge for the counselor to help the couple regain some stability and balance to begin the work of repair. It is very important to quickly achieve a place of hope that the marriage can be repaired because without hope there is no reason.
Mediation for couples
Mediation is necessary and must be incorporated with counselling. Each person in the relationship must be happy within themselves to be able to add to the others happiness. Counselling with a focus of respect, by mediating the issues will help them get to the place of hearing each other’s reasons and being more accepting. The other may agree or disagree and there may be a need to just agree to disagree. Many issues that couples have are due to their past and may be irresolvable, resolvable issues can be worked on and that brings hope. All individuals have the right to their own opinion.
Mediating with a couple is different than counselling and, can be incorporated. Conflict resolution or mediation focuses on brainstorming workable solutions to their problems. This works well with solution focused therapy rather than talk-therapy. Talk-therapy can go on and on about why one is annoyed or even angry, but without solution. For a couple this can add fuel to the fire and push them away from each other and maybe even into the divorce decision.
Mediators are trained to keep their own thoughts in check and to be curiously interested in their clients’ situation. Mediation is about maintaining a non-judgemental stance and working toward reconciliation. It is about looking at what is happening currently and not taking sides. It helps the couple resolve issues and learn how to work together rather than at odds with each other.
A meditator’s goal is to make couples feel hopeful
As a counselor, with mediator training, I find that assessing the issues quickly is very important. If the couple leaves the first session feeling ‘beat up’, blamed or judged, they may refuse to come back. My goal is to always have the couple leave the sessions feeling uplifted and with hope. A counselor who has specialized mediation skills can accomplish these goals with the couple and help them rebuild a partnership and their family.
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More by Eva L. Shaw