Marriage counseling questions often come up when couples consider the merits of starting couples therapy.
If you’re considering starting couples therapy, you might benefit from having a frank and open conversation with your partner about the scope of your relationship problems.
An important primary question is are you ready to start couples counseling?
If you’re going to get the most out of your couple counseling, it would be helpful to learn how your spouse sees you without getting defensive or argumentative during the process.
You can expect marriage counseling to provide a safe place to discuss your issues. But it will also ask you to explore what you want from this marriage instead of what you’re settling for now.
This post assumes that you are a loving, motivated couple, not in crisis, and that you both want to improve your marriage.
If that’s not the case, you can skip this post as it doesn’t apply to you.
So here’s what I want you to do. Get two pads of paper. One of you will ask the questions and take careful notes. The other will answer the question in paragraphs, uninterrupted.
No cross talk, please. This is not a conversation in the ordinary sense of the word.
It’s what we call a Generative Conversation. The goal is to reach absolute clarity on your marital issues. We’re not playing “find the bad guy.” If you’re triggered by something your spouse says, make a note of it…you will have your turn. After about 20 minutes or so, switch places, as the listener/note-taker now becomes the speaker.
Have we Stopped Communicating With Each Other? This is one of the most essential marriage counseling questions.
A good marriage requires a continuous flow of intimate dialogue.
Communication of deep feelings is an essential part of a healthy marriage. If your marriage has started to collapse into mundane superficial pleasantries, have a serious conversation about what you need, and be prepared to listen to your partner’s needs as well.
1. Do You Feel Respected by Me? If Not, Why Not? a felt sense of respect in marriage sometimes gets buried under long-term resentments.
As we lower our marital expectations, we may complain less when we feel disrespected. Isolation and distance can kill a marriage slowly over time.
While contempt may be a visible sign of a lack of respect, a tendency to not complain often precedes stronger emotions. Marriages that reach the level of contemptuous disengagement are in deep trouble when all your conversations consist of either defending or attacking.
2. Do You Feel Criticized by Me Regularly? This is a good question because it shows curiosity about how your partner sees you.
The attack/defend cycle in marriage can gradually exhaust all your positive regard for each other and push you into negative sentiment override.
3. Do You Sometimes Wish You Were Single? When Does That Happen Most Often For You? This is a great question to uncover triggers that activate your partner’s most desperate moments.
Wouldn’t you like a roadmap to when you are driving the conversation into a ditch, and you have zero influence with your spouse? I thought so. So take a deep breath and listen carefully to their answer.
4. D0 You Sometimes Think that I’m Too Defensive? If So, When Do I Tend to Do So? This is another excellent road map question. In couples therapy, we will give you a bunch of ways to stop defensive behavior, but you also need to have a better awareness of when you are feeling most vulnerable.
Defensiveness is annoying to deal with because the other partner doesn’t feel heard. But it’s also a natural part of being a human being. This question invites you both to be curious about when and how it shows up.
5. Do You Think That I’m a Responsible Partner? What Kinds of Things Would You Like Me to Take More Responsibility For? Partners can use words like “responsibility” and get into repeated fights because the word means different things to each spouse. Wouldn’t you like to clean up these definitional misunderstandings? I thought so.
We all drop the ball sometimes, and our partners react with hurt feelings. Sometimes we need help understanding how we can be more emotionally available to our partner. This marriage counseling question invites you to take a deep dive into what we feel are the “responsibilities” in your marriage.
6. Do You Think I Argue With You Too Much? How Do You Feel When I Do, and What Does it Mean to You? Most couples fight sometimes, but it’s hard to have a happy marriage when you’re fighting nonstop over everything. If every conversation you have with your partner seems to end in an escalation, you’ll need to acquire skills in couples therapy to turn that around. But for now, tell each other about how you feel about the frequency and severity of your fights.
7. Do You Think I Dodge Conflict With You? Do You Think That I Just Go Along and Harbor Resentments? Some couples have the opposite problem; they are conflict avoidant. As a result, resentments build up like lava under a volcano, and then they seem to blow up over what their partner imagines is a minor issue — their sense of unfairness fuels escalation.
8. Do You think I Listen to You When You Need Me to Hear You? If You Think I’m Not Listening, What Am I Doing instead? This is a great “report card” kind of marriage counseling question. What kind of impact do you have when your partner needs you? Do you problem solve too often? Do you change the subject? Do you Interrupt them? How do you show in essential conversations? Don’t worry too much about any deficits here. These are among the most teachable skills in couples therapy.
What Kind of Marriage Do You Both Want to Create Together? Be as specific as possible. What kind of change do you want to see in what area? Think carefully about this question and be as accurate and detailed as possible.
How Do You Want to be as a Spouse? Are you falling short of being the kind of partner you want to be? What will it take for you to close that gap?
Don’t get into an emotional gridlock here by making your answer depend on your partner’s willingness to change.
What do you want to tell your couples therapist in your counseling sessions about the kind of changes that you want to make on your own?
What Do You Want to Stop Doing? You’ve probably been married for a while. And you probably have a pretty good idea of what you want to stop doing. Be specific, but also consider what behavior you could do instead that is most congruent with your best self?
It will take you a few hours to complete it. We ask that you don’t discuss the answers or questions. You both will see things differently, and that’s ok. The Big Big Book is designed to have you deeply ponder where are, and where you want to go in your relationship.
The above questions serve a different purpose than the questions we ask in the BIG BIG Book. Your marriage counselor will appreciate your careful exploration beforehand. Just try to understand, don’t try to prevail over your partner.
The whole idea is to ask “If we are going to go into couples therapy, what are the marriage counseling questions that we are most invested in grappling with?” Motivation and preparation are an unbeatable combination.
Science-based couples therapy has never been easier to obtain. I’m sure you’re concerned about the cost. Fortunately for you, we live in a Golden Age of Effective Science-based Couples Therapy, and there is a range of marriage counseling options at various price points.
You can even get online couples therapy from the privacy of your living room. You won’t have to leave home, fight traffic, or be seen in a waiting room. You’ll complete a briefer assessment tool designed by the Gottman Institute called The Relationship Checkup.
Some marriage counseling is free to the public in the form of free blogs such as this one, and many low-cost group experiences are perfect for low-distress couples who are merely looking to make a good marriage even better. And if you should happen to choose us, we won’t let you down. We look forward to coaching you online until we can meet in person once more.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.