Marriage and Partnerships Intimate or Boring

Is Marital Counseling Always Indicated?

A challenging aspect of couples counseling is when one or both

partners virtually ignore the other's needs. It is easy enough to pick up on who is controlling and see if it's possible for both clients to see how this contributes to their problems.

The marriage counselor will test the  patterns of  communication to see if couples counseling is indicated.  Certainly, a battered wife and her battering husband are not candidates for marital counseling.  One or both may benefit from individual intervention.  Quite possibly the abuser will be referred to the justice system. He may receive counseling with peers and jail time, if indicated. By bringing in the law,  the counselor hooks into a  significant system of resources and backup.  The family too, will gain the advantage of counseling that includes working with housing, schools, and some basic health and physical needs, usually long ignored.


while the counselor may be patting himself or herself on the back for the brilliance of their last session, the manipulating client may be satisfied that he/she has deflected the counselor's best shot to a danger zone(anywhere the counselor wishes to avoid)or off the partner, or anywhere that will keep the client's defenses stuck. A good example of this is a client who minimizes the drinking, gambling, or petty crimes.  neither partner nor counselor will have much success decoding communications

Typically, this client will take an oppositional stand, believing the counselor is "on her side."

He may express anger with threatening gestures and barge out of the room if he is challenged.  Often, there is little hope of saving these marriages and the counselor will know whether there is anything left to save, or even if anything is worth saving.

Similar to the alcoholic  gambler,  physical and sexual abusers, are the codependent partners.  Their anger may be stuffed until they let it all out with a sudden violent act.  

Homes with a patriarch and/or members belonging to a cult  will do everything in their power to destroy the counseling relationship, if discovered.  Few from these cults or religions ever ask for help or escape.

An emphasis on rules and military order carried over from the job to home is another group that  places  unreasonable expectations on family members who are often children.  A collection of writings may be used by a "special" religion to justify  killing, subjugation of women, and maniacal expectations of  a leader who hears "special voices" justifying his brutality.

Wives and children in these families place unusual constrains on the freedom of speech and movement of its members. A member who questions or strays may find themselves totally removed from the community.  Members fear and obey the community where even talking to an outsider may be treasonable . In every case, there is a need for each member to adapt or accommodate to what an outsider may only consider as bizrre or weird interactions among members.

Plural marriage is rare among main -stream Mormans. But even cult members show up for counseling, most always female, and where the partner does not know of the contact. These cases are troubling and tragic because often a break is made from counseling and the client returns to the cult. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is fear. Upon leaving, that person may never be part of the family again. usually they have few marketable skills. With l['ittle community support, they see no other choice but to return.

Many  persons seeking counseling pose challenges easily dealt with by short-term intervention such as couples counseling provides. The majority are not drug abusers or psychopaths, and no shoot-outs to talk your patient down from, thereby saving the city from a fiend. 

In any case, once you have agreed to take on a patient, you must stick around or guarantee a replacement so your client is not burdened with feelings of abandoment.  This is true of marriage counseling.  Only student counselors are exempt from the rule unless they have fostered a therapeutic relationship.  In my 17 years as a therapist, I obeyed the advice of one of my mentors from graduate school.  Her advice: " Look for the good.  Be gentle." And because of her, I have witnessed miracles.

copyright 2009 (c)

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Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

That's great advice: always look for the good, and be gentle. We are, after all, all just fragile humans, and some of us moreso than others. Encouragement often works better than admonition or implied judgement. Cool.

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