If you have seen any reality shows like The Bachelor(ette) or Love is Blind, you know that many couples can ignore major issues or red flags for the sake of being in an exciting relationship.
However, without addressing these issues directly, they are bound to resurface repetitively like a common theme. Yet, couples may not know how to effectively address or resolve the conflict by themselves. Then in sessions, it is common to see these very issues are brought up, but at times, one of them is caught off guard that it is still an unresolved issue.
There are common reasons why couples seek couples therapy or marriage counseling though some couples have stated, “I didn’t think it was bad enough to schedule a session, yet.” The important word to emphasize is “yet.”
In this article, I will identify 5 top reasons couples tend to seek couples counseling and then discuss 12 questions you can ask yourself and/or your partner before the first session to be on the same page.
1. Communication issues
2. Preventative measures
3. Feeling disconnected/lack of intimacy
4. Lack of trust or infidelity
5. Considering separation
If you have recently felt disconnected and distant from your spouse, connecting with a marriage counselor is a great step toward feeling unstuck. However, many couples come to sessions with different expectations––or hearing your partner’s true thoughts for the first time which can be scary. Luckily, there is a way to go into the session more prepared and equipped to address issues.
The following are 12 questions to ask yourself and your spouse to go into the session more prepared:
1. What Are Our Biggest Issues?
Sometimes the things one person considers to be an issue might not be aligned with what the other person feels. The fact that couples are divided about these issues is one of the reasons why the relationship might feel strained.
Once you decide to take the step to go to therapy, it is important to address these issues sooner rather than later. Ask your spouse what he or she thinks is the main issue that they would like to tackle or is putting the most stress on the relationship.
For example, you might think the main issue is that you do not spend enough time together, though your spouse might have an entirely different opinion. Perhaps it is not about the time together––from their perspective, they do not feel heard or understood.
Either way, it is difficult to resolve an issue if it is difficult to determine what the true issue is. This is when a couple’s counselor can step in and help you both feel heard.
2. What Issue Do You Consider the Most Important?
Ask your spouse which issue he or she considers a priority. This will help you decide which issues to address first. When discussing the biggest issues, you may notice an overarching theme or that other smaller arguments lead to an important issue such as trust.
Give your spouse your honest opinion of what you think are the most important issues.
3. How Do You Feel About Our Relationship?
You might not feel your relationship can be salvaged, but your spouse might have an entirely different perspective, or vice-versa.
While in therapy, it is important to have an honest and open conversation about how each person feels about the relationship.
If you both decide to go to therapy, chances are, you both feel strongly about saving it.
4. Do You Think This is a Bad Phase?
It is common for relationships to go through bad patches or for the couple to feel as if they are out of sync. When you and your spouse arrive in therapy, it’s important to determine if you both agree that it is a phrase or if there is something more going on.
If you both agree it is a phase, talk about when you noticed the bad phase started so you can take steps toward remedying it.
5. Have You Thought About Divorce?
When couples go through bad patches, maybe one or both have thought about divorce. If you want to know if your spouse has thought about divorce, this is the time to ask. Ask your spouse whether divorce was a fleeting thought or their bottom line.
6. What is Your Biggest Issue with Me?
As a spouse, you might not want to hear what the other person doesn’t like about you. However, it’s an important step to take if you’re serious about therapy. It is meant to be constructive criticism, not a chance to be harsh or intentionally hurtful.
It’s common in a marriage not to love everything about the other person. And while not liking things about each other doesn’t typically lead to divorce, it can create some tension between you and your spouse.
When you learn from the other person the things that bother them, you both have the opportunity to work on these issues.
7. Do You Still Trust Me?
Trust is one of the most important things in a marriage. Without trust, it can be really difficult to connect and rebuild intimacy.
Ask your spouse if they feel like they can trust you. If you don’t trust your spouse like you used to, or your spouse doesn’t trust you, it’s not too late to rebuild the relationship.
Marriage counseling can help you and your spouse restructure the trust that might have gotten lost through the years.
8. How Can I Get Your Trust Back?
If your spouse tells you they no longer trust you, don’t get discouraged. Start by trying to understand your spouse’s perspective and where they are coming from rather than reacting negatively to their feedback.
Ask your spouse what you can do to earn their trust back. Be patient and keep in mind that it is okay to not know the answer to that question right away.
Therapy can provide the opportunity for an honest and open discussion as well as the ability to explore the meaning of trust and what it looks like to both of you.
9. Do You Think We Have Lost Intimacy?
Intimacy is one of the elements of a happy relationship. Unfortunately, some couples experience a loss of intimacy over the years.
Ask your spouse how they feel about your level of intimacy as a couple. Find out what they need to rekindle that initial spark and rebuild the intimacy that has diminished over the years.
Remember that intimacy refers to the emotional as well as a physical connection—so be sure to consider that when discussing with a partner.
10. What Are Your Expectations for Therapy?
As you go into couples counseling, you might have certain expectations and your spouse might have completely different ones regarding the experience and outcome.
Make sure you ask and address the expectations with your spouse. If you are going into therapy hoping to rebuild the relationship and your spouse does not share those same expectations, it might not work out the way you intended.
However, if you both go into counseling hoping to fix your issues, you have a good chance of meeting those goals and making it work.
11. Have You Considered Seeing Someone Else?
It may be a difficult question but ask your spouse if they have considered or are seeing someone else. Sometimes couples begin other relationships when they have seriously considered divorce.
If you and your spouse consider giving your relationship another try despite the infidelity, it may be helpful to connect with a couple’s counselor to address these issues.
12. Why Do You Want To Work Things Out?
Ask your spouse (or yourself) why they want to work things out. They might have different reasons why they want to work things out than you, but it can be helpful to understand the motivation behind it.
One of you might want to work things out of love, while the other might want to do it for the children or financial reasons.
Marriage Counseling Questions: The Bottom Line
Keep these marriage counseling questions in mind when you attend your first therapy session. Remember to keep an open mind, be patient, and allow your spouse to have the time to answer these questions honestly.
Are you nervous about your first therapy session? If you want to know what to expect during your first session, check out this article.
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