Couple’s Coaching vs. Couple’s Therapy

Everyone can use a little help to handle life’s challenges – but should you see a marriage therapist or marriage coach for your marriage?

Both couple’s coaching and couples therapy deal with recognizing underlying relationship issues and resolving conflicts. However, each is different in how they seek to accomplish this.

Here are some differences that will help you decide which one is the best fit for your relationship.

Couple’s Coaching…

  • Coaching focuses primarily on the present issues and causes, then helps the couple move forward.
  • A coach builds a partnership with the couple and offers support.
  • A coach serves as a mediator helping couples resolve serious conflict, including; recovering from affairs and negotiating separations when needed.
  • A coach provides accountability and honest feedback.
  • Coaching offers tools and understanding to create a new path and future.
  • Coaches are experts on the process; couples are experts on their relationship.
  • Coaching is limited. More serious, deeper issues may need therapy.
  • A coach should be successful in their own marriage. A therapist should be experienced in dealing with your issues and challenges.

Couples Therapy

  • Therapists are licensed professionals who are able to touch on mental health issues affecting the relationship.
  • Therapy is specialized help that addresses past hurts, mental health issues, or other behaviors that are beyond coaching.
  • Therapists work to uncover emotional issues to solve past and present problems and conflict.
  • Therapists work with people needing help and by identifying dysfunctions or trauma to heal and resolve pain from past experiences.
  • Therapy can deal with individual, and personal issues within the relationship. For instance, addressing behaviors, addiction and other serious concerns of one person in the relationship and how to handle them.
  • Therapists can be coaches but coaches are not therapists. Make sure you ask the therapist about their style.

EXPECTATIONS (Who Did You Think You Married – Yourself?)

We all have expectations and we have them in almost every area of life. Expectations are our beliefs about the way things should be, could be and what we “expect” them to be.Rarely do we question on own expectations because we see them as appropriate and right. After all isn’t this what everyone should expect? (Short answer – no.) But conversely we see other’s differing expectations as unreasonable and even flat out wrong.

As a kid I thought I was using chocolate mix in my milk when in reality it was root beer mix. Because it was a bit of a shock to my taste buds I immediately spit it out. But actually it wasn’t bad. My expectation fueled my initial actions, not a fair judgement of its taste. This is often true of interaction in intimate relationships. Unmet expectation often fuels an inappropriate (assertive) response or (passive) thought which produces nothing good in you or your relationship.


Are you reacting to the expectations of your spouse with fair judgement or simply reacting because it’s not what you believe is right? Check your response to unmet expectation. How you respond may be reflecting what you value.

RESPONSE: I’m not worth it or it’s not worth it VALUE: Peace at all cost.

When we over value peace and under value the relationship we say…

  • “I guess I expect too much.”
  • It really wasn’t that important anyway.
  • I know what we’ll happen if I bring that up again.
  • We think that denying ourselves is the way to handle our disappointment. Expect less.
  • We go underground which creates the breeding ground in our hearts and soul for unhealthy attitudes and self-talk.

Q’s: Is it realistic? Then work through it.

 RESPONSE: I’m worth just as much you – VALUE: Selfishness

This is when we make this about whose lives (or expectations) are more important.

  • Offensive/Defensive stance that create an onramp to a fight.
  • You told me you’d have the kitchen clean when I got home
  • We haven’t had sex for _________.
  • I know I said I’d be home but I got caught up in something
  • I’m really not in the mood the (kids, work, etc.) I’ve got a lot on mind.
  • I know you asked me to but I didn’t get that done because… (This is often just an excuse because we undervalue their expectation)

Q’s: Why is this so important to me/them? Am I expecting too much?

RESPONSE: They are worth it – VALUE: Selflessness
  • Don’t throw out your expectation.
  • Put effort into understanding what the other person believes and expects.
  • Help the other person understand what you believe and expect.
  • Consider how to meet that expectation
  • Consider how to adjust your expectation
  • All of these actions reflect an attitude of understanding.

Here’s the good news “You didn’t marry yourself” although your expectations may be saying otherwise.