Marriages have ups and downs. That seems trite but the reason it seems so is that it is true. Every relationship finds itself weathering storms, enjoying sunlit oases, and wading through dull, listless days. When two imperfect people are doing life together, it’s a lot like swimming against the tide.In relationships many opportunities arise for personalities to rub against each other the wrong way, for miscommunication to cause frustration to both parties, for unresolved anger and unforgiven insults to ossify into resentment, and for unmet expectations to disappoint, taking the sheen off the relationship.
When marriages hit a rough patch, the people in that relationship have particularly important decisions to make. They must decide if they want to work on their relationship, to salvage the life they’ve built together.
They also have to figure out how they’ll go about resolving the issues that are plaguing the relationship, mustering the strength to go through the process and work of self-introspection and change needed to revive the marriage. Giving a marriage a new lease of life is thus an exercise in loving effort and wisdom.
Why go for counseling for marital problems?
One of the tools at the couple’s disposal is marital counseling. This takes several forms, but fundamentally it’s about letting an objective, trained professional to help the couple understand the dynamics of their relationship and provide them the tools to handle obstacles as a team and in a life-giving way. Some couples have a good handle on what their issues are.
They simply don’t know how to break cycles or patterns of behavior that erode the marriage’s foundations. Other couples can’t quite frame the issues their facing, and as they don’t know what the root issue is, they struggle to find a way out of it. In some situations, the problems are complex and long-standing, while in others the situation that has rocked the marriage may be fairly recent and simple to unravel.
Whichever situation one finds themselves in, marriage and family therapists are special trained to help a couple find a way out of the rut they are in and into the marriage they hoped for. While not every marriage finds its way back, marriage counseling is effective in most cases.
The stigma around going for counseling is often a barrier for couples seeking help. In some people’s minds, seeing someone to help your marriage get back on track feels like an admission of weakness and defeat. Inviting a stranger into your marriage may also seem like an intrusion into private matters.
Some of these fears can be dispelled by exposing yourself to the counseling process to understand how counselors work, the professionalism they bring to bear on their work, and how effective counseling also rests on the rapport and trust between the counselor and the couple. Doing what it takes to restore your marriage is not a sign of weakness – it’s a courageous and wise step to do everything possible to protect something precious.
People sometimes underestimate how complex relationship dynamics are. People are complex beings and mapping out how they relate to one another to discern patterns, complexes, disorders, and the appropriate solutions to them are no mean feat.
Underestimating that complexity is what can sometimes make people feel they can go it alone without professional help. A Christian counselor is not only trained in the best therapeutic techniques and theories regarding human behavior and relationships, but they also have the invaluable resources of Scripture and prayer to address every dimension of the relationship and its dynamics.
What kinds of issues are addressed in counseling?
If you decide to go for counseling for marital problems, what types of issues do marriage and family therapists typically address? There is a wide variety of concerns and marital problems that can afflict a marriage, and therapists address issues such as:
- alcohol and substance abuse by one or both spouses
- sexual intimacy (or the lack of it)
- better communication
- a spouse with a mental or other disorder
- forging emotional intimacy
- setting goals and expectations
- handling the poor health of one spouse
- managing the household, including the children
- anger issues
These and many other issues and marital problems can be addressed during counseling.
Different types of counseling for marital problems
While counseling can address different issues that challenge a given marriage, there are several different ways to experience counseling. Each couple will have to explore the options and decide for themselves what works best for them.
Of the different platforms or types of counseling, the most common one that comes to mind when we speak of marriage counseling is couples counseling. This is when the couple meets with the therapist in their office for an hour or so each week over weeks, months, or years depending on what the couple is working through.
Typically, counseling extends over a few weeks to a few months. The couple meets to talk with the therapist, and they work at their marital problems through a variety of exercises and processes they decide upon as part of the treatment plan.
Sometimes, due to time or other constraints, a couple can’t make it to the therapist’s office for sessions. In the short term or throughout their counseling, the couple can choose to meet with their counselor online. This can be especially effective if the counselor that the couple connects with and chooses to work with is a fair distance away and travel to and from the sessions is prohibitive.
If a couple doesn’t want to physically be in a therapist’s office for whatever reason, being able to meet virtually is a viable option. Additionally, in situations where one spouse is away from home, the couple can still connect with their therapist online and continue working on their marriage.
Another way counseling takes place is for the couple to participate in group therapy. This is when there are 3 to 5 other couples that meet together under the guidance of the therapist to work through their marital problems in the group.The group members share their stories and perspectives and guided by the therapist, they suggest solutions to the issues raised and help to keep one another accountable. One of the downsides of this approach is that it’s not just the couple and their therapist, but other people are present as well. This can mean limited focused time on the couple’s specific issue.
However, the major benefit of this group counseling approach is that it allows one to normalize the issues they’re facing when you see other couples with the same struggles. Also, the value of group therapy is that people can share their collective wisdom to help one another.
One couple may have had an issue similar to that of another couple, and they can share how they overcame that problem. The camaraderie and accountability that can emerge from group therapy are some of its greatest advantages. Group counseling also tends to be a little cheaper than couple’s counseling, and that’s a vital consideration when financial resources are tight.
In addition to considering how to do their counseling, the therapist along with the couple will work out a treatment plan to address the issue facing the couple. This treatment plan will set out the possible number of sessions required, the techniques the therapist will use to help address the issues, and if required the types of medication needed in cases such as anxiety disorders where medication can help alleviate symptoms. This helps the couple understand the process that lies ahead for them to take ownership of their relationship and its recovery.
As marriages face many difficulties, seeking out a professional Christian counselor to help address marital problems is one of the best decisions you can make for your marriage. Regardless of the complexity and duration of your struggles, a skilled marriage therapist can help you begin the journey toward the marriage God intended and that you hoped for.
While the process of going for counseling requires vulnerability, setting aside financial resources and time, it is certainly worth it for the gains of understanding the dynamics of your marriage and getting conflict under control.
“Lonely Road”, Courtesy of Zach Vessels, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Flower”, Courtesy of Zane Lee, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Joyful Couple”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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