Every year I see many couples that come for counseling only when they’ve reached the breaking point.
Many have been struggling for months, even years – and they’re making what they feel is a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. It fills me with sadness to see this, because even though I know there is always hope, I definitely wish they’d come to me sooner.
Marriage counseling should not be thought of as a last resort. It shouldn’t be seen as an amputation, which you do after every other possible option has been exhausted.
In fact, counseling is much less expensive and difficult than you may think. I would encourage you to see it in the same light as physical therapy: it’s something you do when you are feeling pain and you need healing.
If your body (or your relationship) is perfectly healthy, you might not need counseling. But if there has been some wound — or perhaps a slow, gradual decline in the health of your marriage — therapy is a vital tool for getting you both back on track.
COUPLES COUNSELING WITHOUT GUILT, BLAME OR SHAME
When people go for physical therapy, we don’t view them as weak. In fact, we recognize that they are doing what they need to do to get stronger. We also recognize that the physical therapist has special exercises and techniques that will help us get better.
Marriage counseling is the same. Why would we expect ourselves to know how to handle all the problems that come up in a relationship? Close as they may be, neither spouse can understand exactly what the other is thinking or feeling. Each grew up in a different environment with a different family, maybe even a different culture. This means that both of you have different expectations, behaviors, and perspectives.
Even if you are very confident and self-aware, you may struggle to see the dynamics that drive your relationship. That’s why an expert is needed — a marriage therapist.
CAN’T WE WORK THIS OUT ON OUR OWN?
Many couples that come to me explain that they were hoping they could solve their problems without professional help. This is a little like saying, “I broke my foot and I’m hoping it will heal by itself – without x-rays, a brace, cast or pain medications.”
Certainly, there are people who do heal from their wounds without a doctor’s care. Maybe they don’t want to appear weak, or they don’t want to spend money on medical visits. But after weeks of walking on an injured foot, they find things aren’t any better. And the same is true of our closest relationships – the ones that form the foundation of our lives.
Trying to survive in a broken marriage creates even more pain for both of you. As you fight, or retreat from one another, the damage widens. You grow farther and farther away from the place where you can look at one another and say, “I love you and I respect you – I believe we can work things out.”
People resist marriage counseling because they hate to admit they’re at a loss for answers. They don’t want to appear weak. They’re fearful they may be part of “the problem,” and therefore, worried they will be blamed by the therapist or their spouse for everything wrong in the relationship.
Above all, they do not want to acknowledge that they’re terrified by the prospect of divorce.
GIVING YOURSELVES PERMISSION TO GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
Rest assured that your fears and misgivings are natural. The same way we don’t look forward to having the doctor look at our fractured foot, we don’t really want to dive into the issues that may be tearing our relationship apart.
But walking forward without mutual love and trust can only lead to deeper hurt.
All of us need a doctor when we’re sick, a guide when we’re lost, or a friend when we’re lonely. And we need a therapist when our emotional lives and relationships are not what they should be.
Marriage counseling can help you in ways you may not be able to imagine yet. So do yourself and your partner a loving, caring favor. Reach out now, not later. As a long-time counselor for hundreds of couples near Las Vegas, I can assure you that it’s the healthiest move you can possibly make.