Whether through media, jokes, friends, or entertainment, I’d be willing to bet that you have heard claims that marriage counseling is a fraud and it hurts couples more than it helps. Being a marriage counselor myself, I began to wonder where this myth came from. My personal opinion is that marriage counseling has gotten this bad reputation is because couples wait too long to come to counseling.
Taking an honest look at yourself can be quite frightening and difficult. Whether you realize it or not, chances are good that you are scared of what you might find and of what your partner or other people will discover about you. When I have a new couple that comes in to see me, I always like to explain right up front that I do not believe in placing blame on either partner and that I will help them work on not blaming each other as well. The reason for this is because it is not helpful and even if it was, it is too difficult to nail down a starting point to a problem when we are constantly reacting to what our partner does. Most people have their own beliefs of what counseling is all about and all too often they are not flattering. Although it is true that one of the focuses of counseling is self-exploration, many people do not realize that old views of lying on a couch talking about everything that comes to mind are outdated for counseling today. In fact, many counselor including myself, focus more on finding solutions to problems than on trying to get you to find a childhood memory that explains what you are experiencing today. By learning more about the counseling process this obstacle to counseling may be removed.
This may have some impact on the reason couples wait so long to come to counseling. No matter the reason, though, the fact is the longer you wait to get help or to even fix problems on your own, the more damage is done in the process. Many people may realize that their relationship is not what they want it to be, they see problems that could easily be fixed but they just don’t know where to start to fix them. Instead of coming in to counseling at this point, however, they wait a few months or even years until they are at a breaking point because they just can’t handle it any longer. At this point, there are already so many hurts, so much blame, and defenses are so built up, that it would be difficult for anyone to get through to this couple in order for them to see the reasoning on why they need to change their behaviors. This would be like someone knowing it is very likely that they are having a heart attack and choosing to put off getting help. The longer they wait, the greater the chance of lasting damage and even death. If couples would come in earlier on in their relationship, when they are beginning to see the first red flags instead of an entire land mine, they would have much better outcomes with therapy. Other times, couples just come in to be able to say that they have tried everything before getting divorced and really have no desire to actually try to work things out, and therefore do no work to repair and revitalize their relationship or may even sabotage it.
So what is the take home lesson here? Don’t wait to get help! Find a marriage counselor as soon as you feel like there may be a lasting problem in your marriage. You chose to marry your spouse for a reason, choose to get help to ensure the health of your relationship. If you are in the Brevard County area and are looking for a marriage counselor, please feel free to contact me (contact info located in the About Me link).