1.     When someone thinks of marriage counseling, they often think of two people, throwing issues at one another, being moderated by the therapist. The thinking continues that the issues discussed are often centered around anger, hurt and betrayal. But while that may be true in some cases, there is another approach that I have used that I have found to be just as, if not more, effective. 

       This approach is based on "Choice Theory", a theory developed by Dr. William Glasser. It is based on the idea that each person makes choices in their lives; conscious decisions that, with time, prove to be either positive thoughts, attitudes and actions or ones that lead to destructive paths.

        Couples in marriage counseling often try to take charge of the sessions and bicker over issues they feel are important. I have found that this bickering does nothing but deepen the issues between the couple. They are already experts at telling others what is wrong with their relationship; indeed, they get so entrenched and dwell on those negative issues so much that they forget what brought them together in the first place.  

        The first issue that needs to be explored is whether each person involved in the relationship is committed to making it work. When asked "What are you willing to do to make this marriage work?" , an unacceptable answer is "anything". That answer is nothing more than a message that divorce is down the road and the person is merely making themselves feel better about getting a divorce by thinking "Well, I tried everything… even counseling… and it STILL didn’t work out". Specific, measurable behaviors must be stated to answer this question adequately. Notes are taken, as the person is expected to keep track of how often the new behaviors or attitudes happen. This tracking is important; it shows if the person is truly committed to making the marriage work and if the counseling is effective. The main idea is that if each person is committed and is willing to accept responsibility for their behaviors that make or break the relationship, then there is a good chance the relationship can be saved.

        The next issue is what brought them together in the first place. Decisions based on feelings felt in the early stages of the relationship can be forgotten as time goes on. Unfortunately, this paves the way for thoughts and feelings to flouish that destroys the relationship. What needs to happen is the two must re-discover what those feelings were that happened in those first few weeks of their relationship. They must either add to them or to replace those feelings with other positive thoughts and attitudes.

        The last, and perhaps most important issue to be explored, is whether the two involved feel that the first feelings that lead to them going to counseling were the real issues in the first place. In all the couples I have seen that are truly committed to making it work, the answer is always "no". Once the couple realizes that there is a basic foundation of love and commitment to their marriage, everything else can be worked out.

        Is this an approach that works with every couple? Certainly not. Is this an approach that will cause lasting results? Yes, but only if the couple continue to accept responsibility of their own behaviors and are willing to continue their commitment. This is the key; the therapist may have a huge bag of techniques at his or her disposal; but if the couple involved do not take an active role in the counseling and have an honest desire to make it work, that bag of techniques may as well be thrown in the trash.

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