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Why Marriage Counseling is More Important than the Wedding Vow

Why Marriage Counseling is More Important than the Wedding Vow

Most couples have a 50 percent chance of getting divorced, and marriages after the first are even more likely to break up.

    When people get married, they usually aren't thinking about their potential for divorce or the need for marriage counseling in the future. But maybe they should spend less time thinking about their wedding vows and more time considering what they will do when things get rocky in the future.

    This is why marriage counseling is something that couples should consider seriously.

    Premarital counseling helps you to foresee the relationship's future.

    Marriage counseling can actually begin before the wedding. Some churches may require marriage preparation classes that include premarital counseling as a condition of performing the ceremony.

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    This counseling might include talking about the couple's individual family histories and the family they plan to build together, including the possibility of children, whether they will be raised in the church and how you might deal with conflict.

    You can also go to a marriage or family counselor with your intended for premarital counseling, which should help you to start your marriage with a clean slate.

    It can be a way to clear up any resentment or fear of marriage and give you a safe place to talk about things like if, when and how many children you want, how you might deal with money issues or other stressors on your relationship and to make sure you have similar values and goals for your relationship, your family and your life together.

    Taking the time to do premarital counseling also sets you up to be more willing to engage in marriage counseling later on if you should need it.

    It isn't just about fixing things, but building stronger roots.

    The most common reasons couples choose to go to marriage counseling include lack of communication within the relationship, lack of emotional support or engagement and worries that they might be headed toward divorce.

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    Other issues that often send couples to therapy include fighting or specific relationship issues like infidelity.

    Other people simply want to make their marriages stronger and look to professionals to help.

    Before trying a counseling, be clear about what you want from it.

    Most couples engage in marriage counseling after issues have been simmering for months, or even years, and the longer you wait to seek help the harder it is to work through the issues. Some experts say the average couple waits six years longer than they should to start counseling.

    Know what you want from counseling from the beginning. Are you and your partner all in, fully committed to saving the marriage, no matter how much work it takes? Or are one or both of you pretty sure you want to break up? Knowing the answer will help define what a success looks like, but either way, you should maintain an open mind about the process.

    Learn all you can about the counselor you are going to see. A license is a baseline, but what kind of training do they have in marriage counseling? What's their success rate at keeping marriages together? What is their style? Do you feel comfortable spilling intimate details of your life to them? Take the time to find someone who feels right to you both.

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    Research and find what's best for you and your partner is a must.

    Now that you understand that marriage counseling can be so important to a marriage, you maybe thinking about how it's really like and whether there're things you should take good care of before trying it. Let's take a look at some of the things you should know before going to a marriage counseling.

    What marriage counseling is like?

    Some counselors will see each person in the couple separately, then bring them together for sessions where they can work through issues as a group. Meeting together or separately can sometimes lead to resentment because a member of the couple might feel their partner is getting more attention or that the counselor is taking their side.

    A popular and effective form of couple's counseling is Emotionally Focused Therapy, or EFT. The idea behind this approach is that emotional responses are tied to our individual needs, and that changing emotions can lead to changes in attitude and approach within a couple.

    The aim is to rebuild the attachment bond by focusing on the emotional needs of each partner and changing their interactions based on the other person's needs. The EFT process involves stages that take a varying amount of time to work though, depending on the issues the couple has.

    How much does it cost usually?

    For 90% of professional marriage counselors, one session equals one hour. Couples are usually recommended to have one weekly session of counseling for at least 12 weeks.

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    Most marriage counselors charge between $75 and $150 an hour on average.[1]

    Marriage counseling doesn't guarantee a happily-ever-after marriage, but it does improve relationships.

    Research into the effects of counseling find that most people who have been through couple's therapy are satisfied with the result. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists has found that 98% of people surveyed said they received good or excellent therapy, while 97% said they got the help they needed.

    That doesn't mean all those couples stayed together, of course. About a quarter of couples that receive counseling will get divorced within two years, and about 38% will break up within four years.

    But going to marriage counseling can be just the thing to turn a troubled relationship around, and is certainly better than not trying to fix things that aren't working in a relationship.

    Chart credit: The Single Father's Guide

    Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

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    Sarah White

    Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

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