Maybe you don’t need Marriage Counseling…. but how will you know?

Many couples wrestle with this question. How do you decide if you’re not sure you need it, don’t know who to trust, doubt whether it can work, and don’t know the options for your situation? 

Many people consider divorce when there are workable solutions to their problems. That’s like junking out your car because it needs repair. The question is: Can it be fixed? Think about it. You see the engine temperature on your car is too hot. You open the hood and steam billows out. There’s a pool of liquid on the ground that is pouring out of the radiator. It will be a couple hundred dollars to fix. Sure, it's a hassle. But certainly worth a couple hundred dollars to replace the radiator.  

Like your car, there are common repairs that need to be done in relationships. They can overheat, run rough, or break down too. The most frequent problems are for poor communication and poor conflict resolution. These can be due to poor attitudes, poor skills, normal wear and tear, or all of the above. Relationship skill training and/or couples counseling can fix these problems. The difference is that you pay for expert help so that you can do the repairs. It takes sweat equity to have a good marriage.

Consider the common cold of marriage: not feeling close anymore. Many people think if they don’t feel “in love” any more, the relationship is over. Most couples have never been taught that couples go through predictable stages of development in marriage. Why does this happen? Well, lack of time together, taking care of kids, no time to have fun or relax, job stress, chemical changes in the brain, and a host of other things we all go through. Can it change for the better? Yes, with time, effort, and the right kind of help. Couple counseling and/or relationship education and skill training can help you fix these common problems.

Then there are the “big three”:  addiction, affairs, and abuse. Fixing one of these is akin to replacing the transmission. Sometimes it’s worth it – sometimes it isn't. These take serious work, and are worth the investment for some people. Either way, don't jump to conclusions. It takes good professional consultation and careful deliberation to make a good decision about whether to make the investment to restore a marriage with one of the big three. The needs of the whole family need to be considered.

Some couples are at odds about whether or not to work on the relationship. One wants to and the other has serious doubts it can change, or is worth working on. One leans into the relationship, the other leans out. The leaning in partner often tries to convince the leaning out partner to go to therapy. There is a specific kind of help called discernment counseling available for this couple. It is not therapy. Rather, it is designed to help both partners make a decision about the future of the relationship that they can feel clear and confident about, and have no regrets. 

See our counseling page for a description of our counseling services and how they work, and read more about our relationship education programs.  

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Duane Nelson

Born and raised in the Minneapolis, Duane is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has made his home in Rochester for the last 25 years. Duane has been married for 33 years to his wife, Cathy. The two met while doing music at the same church in Minneapolis. Duane and Cathy have two adult daughters, and the family love to travel and play cribbage together. Duane plays guitar and percussion, and the couple still make music together. Duane enjoys gardening, cookouts, hiking, reading, downhill skiing, and hanging out with friends. Duane holds three graduate degrees, two mental health licenses, and two major counseling certifications. He has worked professionally for 37 years in addiction treatment, mental health, clinical social work, pastoral counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Duane is widely regarded as an expert in marriage and family therapy. Following his retirement from Mayo Clinic, Duane founded Healthy Relationships Rochester. This innovative organization is based on developing the concept of Relationship Intelligence through teaching and disseminating best-practice relationship education and skill training programs in a variety of non-clinical settings.