Marriage is a wonderful blessing from God. Sharing life with your spouse can bring incredible joy and fulfillment. But anyone who is married will tell you that it is not always easy. Communication breakdown, resentment, or even infidelity – all too often, marriages can go very wrong.
One of the most effective ways of dealing with problems in your marriage is to see a marriage counselor. This is, of course, easier said than done. Indeed, those who are going through a difficult period in their marriage may be reluctant to start opening up to a stranger about it! Plus, many believe that “it just won’t work.”
Does Christian Marriage Counseling Work?
In most cases, Christian marriage counseling has proven to be extremely effective. It provides the opportunity for both parties to communicate their particular feelings and concerns and is all facilitated within a neutral and safe environment. With that being said, there are arguments for and against marriage counseling, so let’s take a look at a few.
Arguments for Christian Marriage Counseling
1. A Mediator is Helpful
Often, by the time you decide to seek out help for your marriage, communication has completely broken down. You may find that any discussion on the serious issues in your marriage ends up turning into an argument.
In these instances, a mediator may be extremely helpful, as they can act as a referee and a sounding board. A mediator will keep the conversation on the right path and will ensure that the discussion remains constructive. When working on a marriage in crisis, it is of the highest importance that the two people are able to hold a good and fair discussion on the issues that have divided them.
2. You’ll Gain Fresh Perspective
When a marriage hits a rough patch, it is often a result of a breakdown in communication. You may find yourself stuck in a pattern of unhealthy behavior toward your spouse, with no idea of how to change it for the good.
Seeing a Christian marriage counselor can help you both gain a fresh perspective and can assist you in dismantling some of the emotional walls that have been erected as a result of the poor health of the marriage.
3. It Encourages Hope
When you find yourselves stuck in a difficult marital situation, it can become very disheartening. After years of struggle, emotional turmoil and pain, it is easy to begin to feel hopeless about the situation. Making a marriage counseling appointment is an important step for you to take as a couple. You are, in effect, declaring that there is hope and a future for your marriage, and you are taking the joint decision to work on things together.
4. Overcoming Hardship Together Often Improves Bonding
When you make a conscious choice to seek help as a married couple, it signals a pivotal moment in your relationship. Though counseling will never be easy, it is the commitment to a better marriage that is the most crucial aspect of seeking additional assistance.
Plus, as you start to sort through the issues that have been holding you both back, you will develop a stronger bond. As you begin to see your marriage improve, you will be thankful for each other’s devotion to the process.
5. The Harder Path is Often the Better One
Of course, we all want to take the easy route sometimes. Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage, it is often the hardest path that yields the most fruitful results. The same applies to marriage counseling. It is not easy, but it can help you transform your marriage into a loving and stable relationship.
It can be tempting to keep going through the motions of marriage even though you are in a terrible place, but this is dangerous. Get honest, own the issues, and get plugged in to some counseling.
6. There’s A Lot at Stake
Marriage is a God-given gift. It is a sacred commitment between two people and the most stable environment in which to raise a family, so when a marriage fails, the fallout can be huge. It goes without saying that the emotional damage to kids can be enormous when their parents split up. Extended family bonds may also become strained.
It is critical to keep your marriage at the top of your list of life’s priorities and to seek out help when it is required. If you choose to go your own way, you will regret the immense damage it causes to your spouse, your family and those closest to you.
Arguments Against Christian Marriage Counseling
While engaging in Christian marriage counseling is very rarely a poor choice for a struggling marriage, it can sometimes be the wrong choice for a couple. The right emotional state, the willingness of both parties and a large dose of patience is required. If these are not present, it might not be the right time to embark on a counseling journey.
Here are a few things that might give you cause to reconsider whether or not it is the right time for you to engage in Christian marriage counseling.
1. Both Spouses Have to Be (or Become) Committed
In the beginning, it is not uncommon for one or both spouses to feel reluctant to engage. Like ripping off a band-aid to expose the state of what lies beneath, it can be difficult and painful! This usually improves once the couple starts to see and experience the benefits that counseling is having on their marriage.
However, if one spouse has pressured the other into attending, and if they have absolutely no desire to be there, it can do more harm than good.
If a spouse is completely resistant to making any changes, Christian marriage counseling can become ineffective and incredibly frustrating for the willing party. Both individuals need to be keen for it to work.
2. Sometimes it’s Too Late
Unfortunately, sometimes things are just too far gone for counseling to have any positive effect on the relationship. When communication has deteriorated to the point of insults and bitterness, it may be impossible to recover through counseling, unless the two spouses desire change.
If neither person can recognize any potential good in the relationship, and if they have zero vision for the future, it might not be helpful to hash it out any further in counseling. Having said this, we believe (and have seen!) that God can do mighty and miraculous works, even beyond what we could have imagined. Better to give it a try than to doubt what God is capable of doing.
3. Spouses Must be Willing to Change
If one spouse is involved an extramarital affair and wants to come to counseling, but is reluctant to give up the illicit relationship, no progress will be made. The same applies to any sort of addictive behavior that is having an adverse effect on the marriage.
Of course, we are all fallible human beings who mess up on a daily basis, but the individual must be willing to change – that is the most important thing. If they have no intention of changing their ways, counseling is likely to be a waste of time.
4. Individual Issues Must Sometimes Take Precedence
If one of the individuals involved in the marriage is dealing with serious emotional trauma from before or during the marriage, their well-being must be prioritized. They may be going through something that requires individual therapeutic work.
In this case, jumping into couples counseling could be detrimental to the marriage. The couple may decide to attend joint therapy once the person is in an appropriate emotional state to do so.
5. Know Your Own Limitations
There may be certain personal struggles that are preventing you from attending counseling. Perhaps you suffer from crippling anxiety at the thought of sitting down with a stranger and revealing your deepest secrets. But in the right setting and with the right therapist, a comfortable environment can be created. Some people are simply averse to receiving help and advice – but that always comes down to personal choice.
6. Find the Right Marriage Counselor
It is incredibly important to find the right “fit” when it comes to your counselor. You must be wise when seeking out someone to help you deal with the deepest issues in your marriage. It must be someone who you feel comfortable with, who has the required experience, and who you can be completely honest with.
Chrisitan marriage counseling can be an incredibly effective form of therapy for couples who are on the brink of splitting up. With the right attitude, and with the help of a well-matched therapist, marriages can be restored and renewed. If both individuals are committed to the healing of their marriage, we believe it can be done!