There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about who can benefit from marriage counseling and how it can be helpful. Marriage counseling doesn’t have to be only for couples with serious problems. Instead, most couples can benefit from counseling at various points throughout their marriage to help ensure their relationship is staying strong.
Breaking Down the Stigma
When you hear of a couple who is going to marriage counseling, what do you think? Do you tend to think, “That’s great. Good for them! Their marriage is really doing well.” More than likely, if you are like most people, you are probably thinking something more like, “Oh, no they must have some serious marital problems.”
Unfortunately, marriage counseling is often viewed only as a sort of “last ditch” effort for couples on the brink of divorce. Somehow, seeking help for your marriage seems to be synonymous with “we’re about to get divorced unless something drastic happens.”
Pre-marital counseling doesn’t seem to hold the same stigma. Instead, many clergy members make pre-marital counseling mandatory before they will agree to marry a couple. However, this is different from real marriage counseling. Marriage counseling is much in-depth and addresses specific problem areas.
Couples should not wait until they are about to divorce before they seek the help of marriage counseling. Instead, it would be wonderful if couples sought marital counseling at various times throughout their relationship to ensure the health of their relationship.
Marital Health Check Up
Just like most people go to see their doctor for an annual physical, it would be wonderful if couples could consider a marital health check-up. Meeting with a professional once a year just to discuss the status of your relationship could do wonders for many marriages. This could help people see any problem areas, identify strategies to overcome and prevent problems, and find help when they need it.
There are of course some barriers to the marriage check-up philosophy. Although some counselors in private practice are beginning to be open to this idea, many agencies do not have the means to offer this. Instead, people sometimes have to go through a lengthy intake process and need to attend several sessions before even being able to establish treatment goals.
However, short-term marital counseling can be very beneficial. You certainly don’t have to think of counseling as something that is going to last for years. Instead, sometimes even a few sessions can be extremely beneficial.
Sometimes people will say something such as, “We’ve only been married three years. That would be sad if we had to go to marriage counseling already.” Actually, that’s a great time to get marriage counseling!
The earlier a couple seeks treatment, the better. During the first few years of marriage, many couples develop some bad habits. They make mistakes with their communication. They behave in ways that irritate their spouse and cause them to grow distant.
It’s important to remember that marriage counseling can target preventing problems. Seeking help before you have any serious problems can be extremely beneficial in making sure that you continue to build on your strengths.
It would be great if marriage counseling were just built into a couple’s regular schedule in life. For example, a once a year check-up combined with counseling at each major life change would likely do wonders to reduce the divorce rate. For example, seeing a counselor when you have a child, change jobs, move, or deal with a major stressor such as the death of a parent.
Marriage counseling can also be very helpful for couples who just need a little fine tuning as opposed to a complete overhaul. Even healthy, happy couples often could use an “occasional tune up” in their relationship.
Marriage counseling can help couples with minor communication issues, disagreements over sexual problems, financial stress, parenting discord, and a variety of other problems that may seem to be more like minor inconveniences rather than major problems. A trained professional can assist couples in learning how to build on their strengths and work through various issues.
A marriage counselor can help couples when they may not feel all that connected any more. It can help them learn how to reconnect throughout the various phases in their marriage. It can also help couples communicate about specific and difficult topics and deal with life’s problems in a way that will help them remain connected rather than risk growing apart.
It would be great if at some point couples could be open with others that they are attending counseling and they could receive support for their decision to ensure their marriage remains healthy. Working on your marriage to ensure it stays healthy, shouldn’t have to be a secret and it shouldn’t be something people need to be ashamed about. Instead, it would be great if more people could view it as a positive step that many couples take to help ensure the health of their marriage.