At some point in the first couples therapy session I will ask the couple why they chose to marry one another in the first place. The answer given to this question will say a lot about what the future of therapy holds for the couple.
Marriage is one of the oldest institutions in history. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 96% of the population will marry within their lifetime. This is not only true in Western culture. You will find marriage in most cultures around the world. With marriage being so prevalent the must be some reasons why so many people get married.
In couples therapy we discuss every aspect of the marriage we can. Here are 3 of those reasons.
Perhaps the most significant draw to marry is companionship. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “We are a social species.” Well, it’s true. One of the most common complaints I hear in couples therapy is the feeling of loneliness. The connection that true companionship brings seems to be sought after by everyone I work with.
Companionship is not only a preference, it is a need. Many research studies have shown that lonely people struggle with physical and mental illnesses at a higher rate and severity than do people who experience companionship and connection. This is especially true for men.
The desire for happiness drives almost every aspect of our lives: jobs, education, leisure, food, relationships, and on the list goes. With happiness being so important in everything we do, of course we link happiness to the idea of marriage.
Research actually supports this idea. Multiple studies over the last 30 years have shown that married couples report an overall higher level of happiness than singles. Even career satisfaction fails to outrank marital happiness in overall life satisfaction for most people. You wouldn’t think this hearing how most couples in therapy report their division of time, energy, and finances in couples therapy.
Finally, the real reason anyone gets married, right? Well, sort of. Research has shown married couples experience a higher frequency and satisfaction in their sex life as compared to singles. Part of these findings are attributed to cultural and religious beliefs. Even within our current hook-up culture sex within marriage is more socially accepted, provides a higher piece of mind, less personal shame, less anxiety, and more security. With sex remaining one of our greatest needs as an individual and species it is no wonder marriage is so sought after.
Many couples in therapy are, in fact, married. However, over the years I have noticed a trend of more and more couples in therapy being in long-term committed relationships. Though I have found limited research on this trend, I think it merits further investigation.
If you are in a long-term relationship don’t think you must be married to have couples therapy. Couples therapy is available to all couples regardless of the current phase of their relationship. In fact, couples therapy used for prevention has been demonstrated to be far more effective than couples therapy used for intervention. Don’t wait until you are exhausted and overwhelmed to reach out for help.