Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The benefits of marriage counseling

Today was Day 4 of my Couples Counseling class. It was more practical than the other days. The professor took us through some basic things to keep in mind as we counsel people.

It made me think, Why don't more married couples get counseling? I have yet to meet a husband and wife that could not use a bit of counseling every now and then. It could come from a pastor, a trusted older friend, a mentor, or a professional. It doesn't matter; we all need counseling because we all need help. Plus, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure - who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) The Bible is replete with verses that speak of the benefit of counsel...and the foolishness of neglecting to get it. One example will suffice:

"For waging war you need guidance,
and for victory many advisers."
(Proverbs 24:6)

I guess couples that don't get counseling think they are not fighting a war. Well, they are. We all are. Marriage is like the streets of Baghdad; there are IEDs everywhere - things like stress, disappointment, hurt, grief, resentment, self-contempt, poor communication, memories from the past, kid problems, money problems, and many others.

During our almost-30 years of marriage, my wife and I have been through periods when we turned to the support and perspective of a counselor. These people were gifts of God to us. I'm thinking of a therapist in St. Louis who helped us navigate the swirling waters of seminary life and childrearing. Then there was the deacon/counselor in our church in South Carolina whose wise counsel helped us through the stresses of a growing church and teenagers. Then there was the fellow pastor in Gainesville, Florida, who helped us persevere through several years of difficult ministry. We have found that we are constantly waging wars too dangerous to try to handle on our own.

When I think of the benefits of marriage counseling, the following come to mind:

1) A counselor can help you understand what is really going on under the surface of arguments and conflict, so you're not focusing on the wrong things.

2) A counselor can help you say things to your spouse that need to be said, in a safe environment.

3) A counselor can hold you accountable to promises you have made to each other.

4) A counselor can remind you that God is with you and will not let you go.

5) A counselor can listen to your ranting and raving if need be, without condemning you for it.

6) A counselor can help you rely on God rather than on yourself or each other.

7) A counselor can help you understand why you do and say the things you do, clearing the path for gospel transformation.

8) A counselor can help you and your spouse repent of sinful patterns of relating that are eating the heart out of your relationship.

Now, if you are a couple who doesn't need such things, fine - don't get counseling. But if you do (and I kinda think you do), don't put it off any longer. And don't say you can't afford it, because you can't afford not to.


Anonymous said...

I wish I lived near Orlando. I think counseling would help my marriage. But,I don't think my husband would be a willing participant anyway.

I had never heard of an "emotional affair" but think thats where I am now. I depend on friends much more than I should. When I read "hide the realationship" it struck close to home, as I have always hidden my friendships from my husband. He thinks he should be the only friend in my life.

God bless you and the work you are doing. You will be able to help many couples. They should consider themselves extremely lucky!


Anonymous said...

The person that signs their name as :( is clearly reaching out for help,too bad no one does help.

Mike said...

For anyone reading this who needs help in their marriage, here are some of my suggestions:

1) For almost anyone, there is a qualified pastor, therapist, or marriage counselor within driving distance. Email me (mosborne@upc-orlando.com) and I will reply with some names for you to call.

2) There are good resources in print and on the web. I suggest Family Life (www.familylife.com) and Focus on the Family (www.family.org) as good ones to start with. A very good book to read is "Intimate Allies" by Dan Allender.

3) Try to see your struggle as an invitation from God to draw near to Him. It could be that your marriage problem is His way of calling out to you. If you will email me (mosborne@upc-orlando.com) I would be happy to answer your questions about God or help you know what to do next.

4) If you cannot find a pastor or counselor to interact with in person, I would be glad to do what I can via email (mosborne@upc-orlando.com).

Nora Moore said...

That would be nice to be able to focus on the root of a problem under an argument. Sometimes there's more undercurrents than you'd think. It's all about communication, really. Sometimes you need a listening ear and sometimes you need someone to help you work through what's going on. I like that idea of being held accountable to promises made to each other. http://www.sojo.ca/marriage_and_couples_counselling.html