Marriage counseling can be effective, but sometimes problems have gone on too long, and hurts are so ingrained that it’s difficult to heal. Or sometimes one or both partners don’t really share the truth with the therapist because it’s too difficult for them to admit it—or maybe they can’t face the truth even to themselves.

It’s only when both partners are motivated to make a sincere effort that marriage counseling can work. It’s also important that both partners are ready to try at the same time, which can be tricky.

Can Your Marriage Be Saved? Nancy'S Counseling Corner

Timing Is Everything

Mary and Don have had a rocky marriage for years now. Don is abusive and a narcissist. Mary’s mother was also a narcissist, so her insecurities and lack of self-worth led her to seek out a dysfunctional relationship like the one she had with her mother. Familiar, but destructive.

After years of suffering, Mary finally decided the marriage had to end. But did she ask Don for a divorce? No, she asked him to go to a marriage counselor with her. But the fact was, it was already too late for marriage counseling to do any good. Mary had decided long ago to end the marriage but wanted to appear to be giving Don a chance. She wanted to appear to be fair-minded. She wanted to appear to have given their marriage a real try with counseling.

When she and Don went to their first session she had already given up on it in her mind. She wanted to use the experience to help her articulate that she wanted a divorce—something that’s hard to say because once it’s said it can’t be unsaid. Once it’s said, the train is out of the station and it can’t go back. Mary thought counseling would help her find the courage.

The Right Fit with Your Therapist Is Critical

Sheila and Jeff were willing to be open-minded and were both ready to give counseling a try. But Jeff had found the therapist—recommended to him by a friend at work. After only a few minutes into their session together, Sheila perceived that the therapist was deferential to Jeff. She felt like he and Jeff were somehow on one side and she was on the other. She noticed her husband pouring on the charm, schmoozing the therapist and winning him over to Jeff’s side before she even had a chance to talk. She ended up walking out.

It’s important that both partners engage in the therapist selection process, and that both have equal and fair input. They need to find a therapist who is not aligned with one partner or the other in any way. They need to find a therapist who has experience working with couples and who can be totally impartial to both parties. Both partners have to feel completely comfortable with the therapist. If there’s any doubt, try another therapist and keep trying until you find one that’s right for both of you.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: