In short, the answer is – it does. Or more precisely – it could. But it is even more challenging than therapy with one individual because ideally, both partners need to be willing to change and to have the capacities to do so. How well the therapy will work for the couple, as well as for the spouses individually, will depend on a number of factors, among which the most important is the commitment of the partners to the process, the nature and the depth of the problem, the level in which the clients relate to their therapist, and the general suitability of the partners in the first place. Here are some interesting and important facts to know before you embark on consulting a marital therapist for your problem, or when already in the process:
1. You might have already decided on whether you are going to allow for the therapy to help save your marriage.
And this decision is largely unconscious. Whether it is your conviction that half of the marriages end in divorce (statistics that are not true anymore, as nowadays people who get married do so mostly out of a careful consideration and firm beliefs in the institution of marriage), or your more intimate decision to end the marriage although on the outside you still look that you’re fighting for it tooth and nail. And such preconception, whether you are fully unaware of or you might see a glimpse of it, is the single most influential factor that can decide on the successfulness of all the therapist’s attempts to help you restore your marriage. It is not uncommon for the couple to come to marital therapy with at least one of the spouses set on sabotaging the therapist’s efforts, in order to receive a confirmation of their deeply held beliefs about how their marriage is going to evolve and end. This is a complicated issue and requires careful attention of the marital therapist, and once brought to the surface of the awareness, the remainder of the therapeutic process is fairly simple.
2. The sooner you get into marital therapy the better are chances for it to work
Marital conflicts have a habit of becoming chronic and changing beyond recognition. It might have started as a simple frustration of one or both of the partners’ needs, an easily solvable communication problem, or a single-dimensional dissatisfaction, but leaving any such issue unattended results in a deepening of the discontent, broadening of the disappointment, and getting into a chronic state of unhappiness that only attracts new and greater problems. Some therapists even advise, in that regard, that couples begin with premarital counseling so that they are taught the techniques of healthy communication and expressing their emotions before they run into typical marital problems. However, for those who are already married and already experience disagreements, it is crucial that you seek advice and professional help as soon as possible for the marital therapy to have the greatest chances of success.
3. You might end up getting a divorce anyway – but it will be the healthiest and an informed choice.
None of the clients of marital therapy hopes for it to help them get a divorce (not consciously at least), but they expect a magical cure-all for all their frustrations. All clients in couples counseling are there because they want to feel better about their marriage. However, this sometimes means that they will get a divorce. Sometimes the partners are simply not a good fit, sometimes the problems got so profound that the differences become irreconcilable. In those cases, the marital therapy process will become a period of healing the relationship and empowering the spouses as individuals, but with the end result of reaching the least painful and the most civil dissolution of marriage as possible. Sometimes, the therapy serves as a cushion that will soften the fall that was inevitable in the first place.
In conclusion, there is not a universal answer to the question in the title. It definitely can save some marriages. But some are better divorced, regardless of how much stress the divorce brings – as staying in the wedlock is sometimes highly toxic situation. The world is full of both happily divorces individuals and those whose marriages were saved and improved with the assistance of an adequate therapist. The only bad solution is for the couple to remain in the position of an unhealthy persevering conflict and discord, one that has a potential of wrecking the lives of everyone involved.