Last summer my husband and I attended several marital counseling sessions. We weren’t on the brink of divorce. We were committed to each other — we both knew that. But we were having some relational struggles that we couldn’t seem to push past. No matter how much we talked or argued, the problems still loomed.
Like many people who experience rough patches in their relationships, at first I wondered if counseling was truly necessary. I thought my husband and I could work through our issues on our own or simply read more books to find the answers. I wasn’t sure how talking to someone could really improve anything.
It wasn’t until we spoke with a counselor that I realized we needed an unbiased third party to help us discover where our problem was rooted. We both thought we knew why we were struggling, but we didn’t. We needed a safe place to express our hurts and fears and to understand each other’s perspective. We needed direction — and when we found it, our relationship took a turn for the better.
If your marriage isn’t going as well as you had hoped, here are a few reasons that marital counseling may be a good idea — even if you’re not thinking of calling it quits.
There’s freedom in other perspectives
When we hide our pain and problems, when we stuff them deep inside and pretend we have everything under control, we can allow the Enemy to gain power over us. We inadvertently give Satan the power to lie to us about our problem and twist our perspective of it. We start to see our issue only from our own frame of reference and allow a bitterness to grow that slowly eats us alive. We spend all of our energy pretending we’re OK, or we deny that the issue exists and, instead of dealing with it, live with a false sense of reality.
If I deal with a problem this way, I’m acting like I did as a little kid scared of the shadows in my bedroom. Those shadows seemed to be giant monsters that were going to kill me. I told myself I could fight them off on my own, or I hid under the blanket to avoid seeing them. But eventually the fear became so strong that I was unable to sleep or think of anything else. When my parents came into my room and turned on the light, they explained that the scary shadow in the closet was actually my winter coat. Their perspective helped me understand the reality of what I was facing.
Ephesians 5:13 says, “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” When couples invite a competent Christian counselor into their struggle, they can bring the painful areas of their marriage to the light. If they do that, they’ll see the situation more clearly. And once the husband and wife can finally see the truth, they can deal with it and move on — even if the monster in the closet really does exist.
Counselors have great tools
Early this spring, I tried planting strawberries in my backyard. I needed to clear away rocks and dirt before I could add fertilized soil and plants, but it was taking forever. That’s because the only tool I had was my toddler’s Hot Wheels-themed hand shovel. I thought the job would be easy. I was wrong. Then my neighbor asked if I’d like to borrow some better tools for turning up the hard soil. As soon as I had access to those, the planting process became quicker and easier.
Marital counseling is like that. Sometimes we attack a marriage problem with the only tools we have when we actually need different equipment. We think we can turn up the hard soil in our marriage on our own. If we just try harder, we tell ourselves, we can create the fertile ground for new growth and change. But what we really need to do is work smarter, not harder.
Counseling helped us work smarter. Our counselor knew of books, retreats, support groups and other specialized therapists in our area that we hadn’t heard about. This counselor had insight about issues we’d never considered — the weeds and rocks that we didn’t know were in our garden. And then she offered us access to tools we needed to address those issues. Marriage can be like my strawberry patch: Sometimes growth requires someone else’s tool belt.
Change can happen
When your relationship is in a low place, it can be hard to imagine it ever changing. You might find yourself thinking:
- My hurt will never go away.
- My spouse will always continue the patterns that have brought us to this point.
- I will never be able to change my anger problem (or addiction problem, control issues, etc.)
But these are lies.
The truth is that, as Christians, we have power over sin and darkness. The hurts, addictions, lust, pride, anger — none of these can chain you forever unless you let them. Jesus came to set us free, to offer redemption and hope that life can be different. He came to give life abundantly— not only in a future life, but also in this present one.
Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Taking a step toward hope by seeing a counselor is a great way to give God an opportunity to redeem your broken situation. He can and He will! He certainly did for my marriage, and He has for millions of others. Think of the countless times in the Bible when God brought victory out of situations that seemed hopeless — parting the Red Sea, withholding destruction of the people of Nineveh, tearing down the walls of Jericho, raising Jesus from the dead. God is in the business of making a way from dead end situations.
What if you’ve tried it before?
Not all marital counseling is good counseling. Look for a Christian counselor who will approach your problem from a strong biblical worldview. A great place to find one is Focus on the Family’s Christian counseling referral network. If you don’t think the first counselor you choose is helping or a good fit, don’t give up on counseling altogether. Find a counselor who can better guide you.
Focus on the Family offers a free counseling consultation by phone. Their counselors can help you decide next steps to take and what to look for in a good therapist. Call 1-855-771-4357 to request a consultation.
If your spouse is not willing to try marital counseling, it could still be helpful to go alone and see what changes you can make to improve your relationship. And who knows? Maybe once you see a counselor, your spouse will feel more open to the idea. Your marriage doesn’t have to be in trouble before you seek help. Sometimes just talking to a counselor can improve your relationship and keep you and your spouse far away from a marriage crisis. It’s definitely worth the effort!