Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Necessity of Marriage Counseling

I read this article today, and I wanted to give Kristen Bell and her husband a high five. It's a great article. To summarize (in case you don't want to read the whole thing), they go to couple's therapy. And they're proud of it.

I've debated writing this post for a while.

But, I am going to say this next part loud and proud.

Brian and I are getting marriage counseling. We are seeing a marriage counselor. And we have been since December.

Why is that so hard to say, when it has been one of the best decisions we have made for our marriage?

Because there is a stigma attached to counseling in Christian circles. People assume that if you are seeing a counselor, your marriage must be on the rocks. You're one step away from divorce.

But, let me tell you something, the time to get counseling is not when it is the absolute last resort. The time to get counseling is before it is really needed. If you've waited until you are discussing divorce, you may have waited too long.

There are so many reason why meeting regularly with a counselor is a good idea.

In the multitude of counselors there is safety. That's from Proverbs.

The counselor is an objective 3rd party. They can look from the sidelines and have the distance to see the big picture. A counselor is on the side of your marriage and you as a couple. Not on the side of the husband or the wife because they are your child/sibling/friend/etc.

A counselor is a safe place. To air your junk, and to know that it has to stay with them. There will be no gossip. Nothing's going to come back and bite you in the butt.

A counselor gives perspective. They can see things that we can't. They give us permission to change. And some things are just too big to deal with on our own. A counselor has been trained and has insight into circumstances that are humongous to us, but that they've usually dealt with before.

A counselor gives counsel. Our counselor is a Christian (which I think is imperative), and he counsels based on the Bible. He opens up the Word of God, and shows verses that explain concepts, and give outlines for behavior.

A counselor can remind you of (or teach you) relationship basics. In one session, our counselor pointed out the difference between saying you are sorry, and asking for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness means you really have to acknowledge where you were wrong. It is humbling. It is healing.

We have got to stop promoting the thought that counseling is optional or that it is a last ditch effort. There is nothing to be ashamed of in going to marriage counseling. As a matter of fact, I think you should be proud of it. Be proud of the fact that you are working on your marriage. Marriage is the most important human relationship you are in. Marriages are a picture of Christ and the church. Marriages need all the help they can get.

Including counseling.

I remember reading a post of a fringe acquaintance last summer. She mentioned that she and her husband were getting counseling. I remember thinking that I wished we were brave enough to go to counseling. To admit that we need help. To admit that we don't have everything all together, even if our lives aren't crumbling down around our ears.

Her bravery in sharing that they were going to a counselor was a seed planted in my heart. Their bravery helped me be brave. The bravery of vulnerably sharing. The bravery of admitting their need.

Counseling has not magically removed all the issues and problems of our marriage. If anything, I think sometimes it has magnified them. We can't ignore them anymore. We are still two humans intrinsically woven together. Fallible. Sinners. But, counseling has given us tools to work on our issues.

We did have a rough year between our 12th and 13th anniversaries. There was a point when things were so broken that I wondered if we'd even make it to our 13th anniversary. That's the truth. But, God did work, and heal, and restore.

And it was well after that marriage rough patch that we decided it was time to meet with a counselor. We needed to have some light shed on some problems in our lives that were directly effecting out marriage. It has morphed to something much more than that.

We meet with our counselor every couple of weeks, generally at 6:30 in the morning, after a swim. And it is so good. I can't say that enough.

Also, counseling costs money. Quite a lot of money. Maybe you don't feel you can afford it. Some counseling centers have a suggested fee. Regardless, the question isn't whether you can afford to go to counseling, but whether you can afford NOT to go. It may be worthwhile to see what expenses you can trim in order to be able to go.

So, there you have it. IMHO, counseling is not optional. It is imperative.

Have you had counseling?