“A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.” – Anne Lamott
It has been truly said that although marriage is a precious gift of God, it is, in the end, a union of two sinners. This sin – inherited from our First Parents and perpetuated by each one of us – brings trials and troubles into marriage that sometimes make it necessary to seek Christian marriage counseling in order to overcome.
In his book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Tim Keller writes, “While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears; humbling defeats and exhausting victories.”
5 Tips When Pursuing Christian Marriage Counseling
Consider these five steps to as you prepare to seek Christian marriage counseling.
1. Recognize that you can’t do it alone.
When you and your spouse experience marriage problems, the first thing to recognize is that you may not be able to fix it on your own. The help of the Holy Spirit, working through a professional counselor who is focused on the Word of God, will bring about change in your relationship.
Maybe you’ve already tried it solve your problems by yourselves and have gotten nowhere, or maybe you just find that the spark has gone out of your marriage and you want to rekindle the sense of closeness and intimacy that you used to enjoy.
Recognizing that your marriage is not what it should be and that you need God’s power to fix it is the first step toward healing. God’s vision for your marriage is higher and greater than you could ever imagine.
2. Recognize that marriage problems are normal.
Your marriage problems may seem huge. Perhaps you recognize the same issues rearing their ugly head time after time and nothing ever seems to change. Maybe it feels like the two of you are just incompatible, and you begin to suspect that you tied the knot with the wrong person.
This is common. Since we live in a fallen, sinful world, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Every marriage experiences stress or conflict of some kind for the simple reason that both spouses are sinners. Regardless of what you may be experiencing, you are not facing anything that has not been faced by married couples before.
Rather than end the marriage and begin looking elsewhere for love, however, this is an indicator that you need to turn to God in faith and let Him bring healing. In his book, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, Paul David Tripp writes, “One way God establishes beauty is by putting things that are different next to each other.”
Hiding your problems out of a sense of shame is a mistake. This is a fear-based reaction and is a common response of many Christians. They wrongly assume that church is only made up of couples who don’t wrestle with sin issues. Satan uses this assumption to keep couples in despair and isolation, preventing them from ever getting help.
Seeking help when you need it is always the best path. Of course, it will require humility and courage, and a conviction that there is something in your marriage that is worth saving.
Marriage is God’s invention, and because it is God’s intention that it be permanent, you should feel compelled to make the effort to save it. Many divorces occur because people didn’t seek help when they needed it but tried to do it solely on their own. As God’s Word says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
If you are willing to humble yourself and ask for help, you will find it. Professional marriage counselors are available to come alongside you and help you navigate the minefield of marital issues to find healing and hope for your marriage.
Once you have decided to get help, you need to face the challenge of finding the right counselor. Though it may be an intimidating task, you will want to find a trustworthy counselor that is a good fit for you. There are a number of counselors who offer Christian marriage counseling, and it may be a tough job to sort through all of your options.
This article will present some wisdom about how to find and contact a marriage counselor.
3. Recognize the value of personal recommendations.
Though it may seem simplistic, probably the best way to identify a trusted counselor is through word of mouth. Who have others used? Who do they recommend?
Though there are no guarantees in life, recommendations from those you love and trust can be a real help. The likelihood that you will actually find and meet with a good marriage counselor is dramatically increased when someone that you know and trust has had a good experience with them before.
In an article entitled, “How Do I Find a Good Marriage Counselor?” Dr. Robert Burbee writes, “Talk to someone you know who has gone for counseling or psychotherapy. In many cases, the best suggestions about who is good in your community are from trusted friends and family who have been in the same situation themselves of trying to find a good counselor or therapist. These individuals can give firsthand observation about a professional and what to expect. And, they are giving a client’s perspective which may be the most important.”
4. Recognize the importance of knowing both yourself and your counselor.
As you consider selecting a marriage counselor near you, a good first step is for you and your spouse to reflect on yourselves. Think about what the two of you want to accomplish through counseling and what your hopes are for your marriage. It is also good to evaluate what you want out of life and what you expect from each other.
You should also consider what type of counselor would be a good fit for both of you. Thinking about these things ahead of time will help you align your goals even before you start counseling. If you are not on the same page as your spouse regarding your goals and expectations for counseling, it can reduce the effectiveness of your Christian marriage counseling.
Of course, counselors come in many shapes and sizes and the sheer number of specializations and licenses that they may hold can be dizzying. So, secondly, it is helpful to spend time talking with any potential counselor about what they specialize in and how they are trained and licensed.
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy professional website, “Marriage and Family Therapists broaden the traditional emphasis on the individual to attend to the nature and role of individuals in primary relationship networks such as marriage and the family. MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families.”
It is a good idea to take advantage of any free consultations over the phone prior to meeting with a counselor in order to get to know them a little bit and get a feel for whether the counseling relationship is likely to work out. This gives you the liberty to ensure that you are comfortable with this counselor before you commit to anything long-term.
This is a good time to ask any questions both of and about the counselor. You can ask about their counseling approach, values, experience, training, etc. Make a list of things to ask, especially about subjects that will increase your comfort level. Find out if they are a Christian and ask what that means to them and how it affects their counseling methods.
This is critical since you are about to commit to a counseling relationship and whether or not it is successful will depend in large measure on the kind and strength of the relationship that you develop with the counselor you select.
5. Learn to trust your instincts.
Though we are often led to think that first impressions are unimportant, they are not always wrong. “Intuition” or “gut instinct” is an important part of who we are as human beings and though we should not rush to judge a person’s character when we don’t know them, our first impressions should not be ignored.
As you interact with any given counselor via phone, email, or in person, you should give thought to how they make you feel. Do you feel like they are really listening to you? Do they seem interested in you and your problems, or do they come across as disinterested or bored? Do they appear to be concerned enough to provide help right away? Do they seem confident and hopeful about your chances for positive change through counseling?
Marriage requires a lot of hard work and can be difficult. Anyone who says differently is selling something. Every married couple will experience issues at some point in their marriage and will need help. If this is you, contact a Christian counselor. They will provide the best care and counsel possible and will help you navigate the complexities of marriage problems and help you and your spouse get back on the right track.
AAMFT (2018). About Marriage and Family Therapists. Retrieved from: https://www.aamft.org/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists.aspx
Burbee, R. (2014). How do you find a good marriage counselor? Retrieved from: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/your-spouse-is-not-the-enemy/how-do-you-find-a-good-marriage-counselor
Keller, T., & Keller, K. (2011). The meaning of marriage: facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God. New York: Dutton.
Tripp, P.D. (2010). What did you expect? Redeeming the realities of marriage. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Weiner-Davis, M. (2009). How to choose a good marital therapist. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/divorce-busting/200910/how-choose-good-marital-therapist
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