When most people think of couples counseling, they think of a married couple sitting down in a therapist’s office to help them work through a difficult situation, such as an affair.
This is certainly a situation in which couples counseling can be helpful. It’s not the only one, though.
Couples therapists can do much more than work with married couples going through tough times. They don’t even work exclusively with married couples.
This article answers some common questions regarding couples counseling for unmarried couples.
Table of Contents
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Can you do Couples Counseling if you are not married?
Can Couples Counseling help you decide to get married or not?
Is our relationship doomed if we already need a Couples Counselor?
Can You Do Couples Counseling if You Are Not Married?
Short answer: yes.
Couples therapy is available to any two people in a relationship who need support. This includes dating couples, engaged couples, and married couples.
Marriage rates have steadily declined in the United States for years. Rates are currently the lowest they’ve been since 1867 — when the country first started keeping records.
Couples counseling is not about being married, it’s about identifying ways to improve your relationship.
Photo by THIS IS ZUN
Can Couples Counseling Help You Decide to Get Married or Not?
Couples counseling may be a good option for a dating couple that is unsure of whether or not they want to get married. During these sessions, a counselor will talk to the couple about several factors, including the following:
- The health of the current relationship
- Reasons for wanting to get married
- Potential problems that make one or both partners hesitant about getting married
Working with a licensed marriage and family therapist or another type of couples counselor is an effective way for two partners to decide if they want to continue their relationship. Marriage is a big decision, and a lot of people feel hesitant about it.
32 percent of adults who have never been married say they’re unsure whether they want to get married. Thirteen percent also said they do not want to get married at all.
With so many people on the fence about marriage, it makes sense that bringing in a professional could be helpful.
A counselor or therapist can help those who are hesitant break down their hesitancy and understand where it comes from. They can also help the couple have productive conversations about key elements of a healthy marriage — finances, kids, future career goals, where they want to live, etc.
If you are not sure about continuing in your relationship, consider participating in Discernment Counseling.
Is Our Relationship Doomed If We Already Need A Couples Counselor?
There is stigma around mental health and couples counseling — a lot of which comes from previous generations — that may prevent couples from wanting to seek therapy. The stigma may also cause couples to assume that their relationship is doomed because they need counseling in the early stages.
These attitudes are not productive, nor are they necessarily based on truth.
Couples counseling is not reserved for married couples or dating couples in crisis. Seeking therapy is not a sign that a relationship is broken or doomed to fail in the long run.
There’s a good chance a couple can go on to have a great relationship after they’ve started therapy. They may even be better prepared to have a great relationship than those who don’t work with a counselor or relationship expert early on.
Working with a therapist can help partners to identify issues with communication and overcome challenges early — before they have a chance to escalate into major issues. Working with a couples counselor also helps partners learn how to handle the ups and downs of a relationship.
Those who are hesitant about seeking help from a couples counselor should remember that couples counseling and marriage counseling are not rare.
51 percent of Millennials had attended counseling with a marriage and family therapist or another professional. The same was true of 48 percent of Baby Boomers and 46 percent of Gen Xers.
Those on the fence should keep in mind, too, that couple’s therapy has a positive effect on roughly 70 percent of couples.
When both partners are willing to participate, and the counselor is properly trained and credentialed, couples counseling can be a great thing for two people who are dating and thinking about a more serious relationship.
Marriage Rates in the United States, 1900–2018
Wang, W., & Parker, K. (2014). Record share of Americans have never married. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.
Lebow, J. L., Chambers, A. L., Christensen, A., & Johnson, S. M. (2012). Research on the treatment of couple distress. Journal of Marital and Family therapy, 38(1), 145-168.
Written By: Natalie Thongrit
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT
Edited By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik
Last Updated : 04/18/2023
Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
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