Domestic Violence – Can Marriage Counseling Really Help?

By | July 6, 2016

It seemed a bad marriage. When I look back to those days, all I feel is pain and frustration. The pain of being hurt, both physically and emotionally and the frustration of being powerless and playing the victim always. It was unbearable; the helplessness, being powerless in front of someone who simply humiliates your “being” and I was almost at the verge of giving up.

There was no hope for me or so I thought. He was getting more violent each day and there was no escape as he would not let me go. Deep inside I knew he wasn’t a bad person; it was just that he could not handle the challenges life threw at us and alcohol became his escape. But where was my escape?  So many times I thought death was the only escape for me; it was the darkest period of my life. And then a common friend suggested us couple counseling. Little did I knew back then that it will truly change my life – our life!

At first he wasn’t ready so I went for the counseling session alone. I was nervous but the lady – our counselor helped me calm down. She told me I wasn’t alone, that there are many other like me. My counselor told me that around 20 people in the U.S. are physically abused per minute by their respective intimate partners, finds data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that’s not the worst part of it. There are several other domestic violence statistics that are bound to shock you.

A woman is physically assaulted in the country in every 9 seconds.

1 out of every 3 women and 1 out of every 4 men have been subjected to physical violence by their intimate partners in their lifetime. In case of severe physical violence, the rate is 1 out of every 5 women and 1 out of every 7 men.

The domestic violence hotlines receives over 20,000 phone calls nationwide on a typical day.

15 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. are traced back to intimate partner violence.

The risk of homicide in a domestic violence situation increases by 500 percent if a gun is present.

Just 34 percent of domestic violence victims receive medical care.

Domestic violence victims are more prone to depression and suicidal behavior.

1 in every 15 children witness intimate partner/domestic violence in the country each year and almost 90 percent of them are eyewitnesses to such situations.

The situation is almost epidemic. And it is even worse for women who are 34 percent more likely to get killed by their intimate partners, compared to men. In fact, domestic violence occur in form of various kind of abuses ranging from physical and emotional abuse to financial abuse and sometimes, a combination of all three.

Horrific Stories about Domestic Violence

From commoners to celebrities and athletes, we are all so often inundated with horrific domestic violence stories. Remember the awful video released by TMZ back in 2014 where professional NFL player Ray Rice was caught on camera knocking out cold his then fiancée Janay Palmer with a single punch in a public elevator! Well, he wasn’t the only celebrity involved in an intimate partner/domestic violence situation.

Adult film actress Christy Mack was also attacked at her home by former porn actor and mixed martial arts fighter War Machine, who she was dating a few months back.  Even the popular American singer Chris Brown was arrested in 2009 for assaulting the gorgeous Barbadian singer and his then-girlfriend Rihanna.

These are only a few stories when famous people got involved in domestic violence situation. Things often get worse with common people and many such incidents are not even brought into notice as most victims try to keep things hidden just for the sake of their relationships.

I don’t know why but these stories and stats gave me some new-found energy to fight back and my counselor seemed like an angel.

Does Marriage Counseling Help?

In general, marriage or couple counseling is hardly a practical therapeutic tool for violent family relationships. Domestic violence is defined as a repetitive pattern of coercive behavior that an intimate partner use to control and subordinate the other partner. Such coercive behavior usually include, but not limited to, physical, psychological, sexual, and economic abuse.

Many people argue that couple or marriage counseling isn’t the right solution for dealing with domestic violence. Let’s take a look at what makes them think so:

Usually, marriage counseling is ideal for couple who are working together through difficult relationship issues. Such therapy usually assumes that each partner contributes to the relationship issues they are facing. But when it comes to abusive behavior, it is usually one partner (the perpetrator) who is solely responsible for his/her abusive and violent behavior. Besides, marriage counseling will typically focus on various relationship issues that the couple is facing rather than solely addressing the abusive behavior. As a result, the perpetrator is more likely to continue his/her abusive behavior.

It is also important to understand that the abusive partner use coercive behavior to control the other partner in a relationship. This means he/she won’t be comfortable with the counselor’s involvement and interference and this may further increase the controlling behavior. This, in turn, may also increase the victim’s danger.

Besides, many victims are afraid to speak about the abuse honestly even to the counselor because they fear further abuse and end up giving a false impression of things being better than the reality. Worst still, victims often blame themselves for their partners’ abusive behavior during the counseling sessions, which the perpetrator is more likely to use latter on to justify his/her abusive behavior.

Most importantly, abuse or coercive behavior isn’t a “relationship problem.” It is a problem that one partner brings into the relationship and the other person just play the victim. That said, marriage counseling can be a viable solution for high conflict in certain cases.

When Marriage Counseling Can Actually Help

When asked a few Freehold & Metuchen domestic violence attorneys, they all shared the same opinion. Couple or marriage counseling can indeed help some cases of domestic violence, provided a few precautions are taken. For example, it is best to schedule separate interviews for both the clients instead of having a joined session. During the first interview both the clients must express their desires to express their concerns honestly and participate in couple therapy.

Besides, the counselor should try to eliminate the abuse for all of the family members at the very beginning of the therapy. Each partner (especially the abusive one) must be taught to take responsibility for one’s own behavior. They must recognize when anger is escalating and learn how to negotiate time outs to de-escalate the anger.

A marriage counseling works even better for domestic violence if it is combined with therapeutic programs that are specifically designed for addressing abusive behaviors. These programs focus on teaching couples the importance of accountability in a relationship and also how to respond to a situation in a non-violent way.

However, these programs are effective only when the abusive partner is truly committed to change for better. At least that’s why it worked for us. My husband was going through a bad phase of life; upwardly he was violent and abusive but deep down it was he who needed the help most and he was committed to change for better.


Although walking out of the relationship usually seems the right choice for a victim of domestic violence, there are still many obstacles for him/her to leaving the abusive relationship. Such victims often want to stay desperately hoping that their partner will change one day. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. For such situations, it is better to get legal aid and move out of the relationship to save yourself and your family from further damage.

But if your partner genuinely want to change, marriage counseling and therapeutic programs can help them control their anger issues and abusive behaviors. That said, it is important to understand that no change can occur overnight; marriage counseling, after all, is an ongoing process and it takes patience and willingness of both the partners to work together through the difficult time.

Back to our story – life couldn’t be better for us today. We are now married for 10 years and have two beautiful kids. It’s a perfect family today, much that I hold most precious, I owe to my friend, my marriage counselor and my husband, who really worked hard for our better future.

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