My wife and I meet with a counselor. We do so extensively. If you've been reading these previous blog entries of mine, you might be tempted to wonder how we are doing so well. The reality is that apart from outside help, we wouldn't be doing very well right now at all.
My wife and I are both broken people with broken pasts, and we still have our current sinful nature. We bear a mixture of dignity and depravity and that depravity is something we aren't able to deal with on our own.
We need help from the outside.
I've been meeting with an excellent counselor for the past year and a half and my wife has been meeting with her for the past year or so. We also attend a marriage class that is taught and facilitated by people who have worked through lots of issues in their marriages, many of whom have gone from very difficult marriages to marriages that are anywhere from improving to thriving. A good marriage class or small group counseling is also helpful.
A lot of you might be thinking, I don't need help from the outside. I don't need a counselor. My wife and I are doing fine. My husband and I are doing fine. The reality is that there aren't very many marriages that are doing well at all. This is a sad reality in a world ridden with sin and shame. Most marriage partners are living together but hiding from one another in various ways.
To find a good counselor, you need to look for someone who not only has good training, but also someone who has worked through their own stuff. A counselor isn't someone who has always had their stuff together, rather most good counselors have worked through the harm done to them and the pain they have caused themselves and others. Before submitting yourself to a counselor, ask them about their master's program. Did it require them to submit to their own therapy through the program or at least outside of the program during their duration of the program? Also, can the therapist share a little bit about how they have worked through their harm, pain, and dysfunctional patterns? They don't need to give you exclusive details, rather a general, overall picture. If they give you a deer-in-the-headlights look, then you probably aren't sitting in front of the right person.
All marriages, including relatively good ones, need someone from the outside who can help shed light on the relational dynamics within the marriage. An unhealthy marriage desperately needs help. A healthy, unhidden marriage needs fine tuning along the way in order to help from getting stagnate. A healthy couple knows they need this help. They get help from time to time even when they are doing well as a way to trouble shoot stuff before it gets out of control. Sort of like getting your oil changed to prevent blowing out an engine gasket. An unhealthy couple, on the other hand, often doesn't believe they really need very much help at all.
This is unfortunate.
This is unfortunate.
The thing is, when you invite your spouse to see a counselor, they will either get scared and resist, or they will get filled with gratitude. Either way, you are taking a risk, demonstrating a tremendous amount of courage. Your spouse will know whether or not you want a counselor to "get your spouse fixed" or the opposite, which is that you truly want some help from the outside, including yourself, to strengthen the relationship - that your heart is for them and not against them.
If your spouse isn't willing, the real question you'll have to grapple with is whether or not you'll do it on your own. My prayer for you is that it would be the two of you, but sometimes it has to start with one or the other who has found the courage to do so - to get help from the outside - to find someone who can help you with the parts of you that you can't see on your own.
Do you and/or your spouse have help from the outside?