Have you ever felt terribly alone when trying to heal your marriage? Perhaps it is because your mate has made clear they are not interested in working on your marriage, or perhaps you’ve even felt alone with your marriage counselor.
While marriage counselors don’t have a magic wand, you should have a positive experience. To have a positive experience I’ve found couples need at least four critical ingredients: Clarity, compassion, courage and course.
Debra called me recently complaining of her and her husband’s multiple experiences in marriage counseling, uncertain about trying it again. She complained that they had been to marriage counseling “three or four times over the past twenty years,” and was very wary of trying it again.
“My husband, James and I have been to counseling so many times,” she began. “I don’t know whether it is us or whether we’ve just had bad experiences. I know we need help, but I’m not sure what to look for to make this time be successful.”
“Tell me about your experiences,” I said.
“The first one we went to told us to divorce,” she said. “That’s not what I wanted to hear and it’s not what we wanted to do. The second one, a few years later, didn’t seem to know what to do with us. She gave us a few things to think about and then said she didn’t know how to help us any further. The last one just listened. We kind of gave up after that.”
“Yes, many couples are discouraged with what they get, or don’t get, from marriage counseling. I’ll share with you some of the basic ingredients of what I think everyone should get from marriage counseling.”
“Yes, that would help.”
Let’s explore each of these.
First, you should receive clarity. Scripture tells us that the truth will set us free—after it hurts, of course (John 8:32). Truth brings clarity and clarity helps us make critical decisions. You should work with someone who helps you understand your situation and the truth of it. They must be willing to say hard things to you, and you must invite them to do it.
Second, you should receive, and feel, compassion. We all need to feel cared for before we care what you want to say. You should work with someone who has a heart for helping you save your marriage and cares about you. You should feel and sense that they are willing to work hard for you and your marriage. You should feel their concern and compassion.
Third, you should receive courage. It is hard to make decisions that will radically improve our lives. We must have an inner conviction and courage to follow through with those convictions. We need cheerleaders, encouragers who will help us make those tough decisions. Your marriage counselor should care enough, and be wise enough, to encourage change.
Finally, you should receive a course of action. It is not that your marriage counselor will tell you what to do, but will help you discern a wise direction for your life. Couples need plans of action, a clear course, that will lead them out of their chaotic living and into a healthy, vibrant relationship.
I would like to hear from you about the issue of finding successful marriage counseling. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: March 22, 2016