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Does Your Relationship Need Couple Counseling?
Why is couple counseling needed? It goes back to the beginning. Genesis 2:15 records the first words in the Bible about marriage: "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone...'" Of every other aspect of creation, God said, "It is good." But of man being alone, God said, "It is not good." It was only after the man and woman came together in marriage that God said, not just, "It is good," but "It is very good." To make this “very good” marriage relationship possible, God continued: “…I will make him a helper suitable for him.” “Helper” is ‘ezer in Hebrew, which means, “one who supplies strength in an area that is lacking.” A helper is not an inferior, by any means. God is called “The Lord Our Helper." We need His help and we need the help of a spouse. God not only created a helper, but one that is “suitable,” literally “a perfect match or complement.” A woman and a man are designed to perfectly fit one another’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in a loving mutually satisfying partnership.
But like everything in our world, when sin entered the picture, marriage was damaged. In Genesis 3 the man, now a sinner, threw his wife under the bus and blamed her for his own sinful choice. Ever since, marriage has been a blessing and a battlefield, the source of both healing and wounding, joy and sorrow. No doubt, your marriage has moments of both bliss and blisters.
Since the entrance of sin into the world back in the Garden of Eden, no one has had a perfect marriage. All marriages require constant maintenance and repair. But maybe yours needs more than repair; it needs reconnection. Rather than partners, you become sparring partners. Little disagreements turn into major battles and you get stuck in a cycle of conflict that you can’t break out of. It’s not that you don’t love one another. You do. But you have become more and more disconnected and you long to be close again.
The average couple waits an average of 6.5 years after they first notice cracks in their relationship to seek couple counseling. By then, negative patterns of behavior, belief, and emotional reactivity have had a chance to become entrenched. These negative patterns are the real enemy. Before you know what happened, you get caught up in a pattern of strident pursuing and avoidant withdrawing, attacking, defending, and counter-attacking until someone leaves. Both of you are left feeling confused and hurt.
Marriage And Unicorns
A perfect marriage where there is no conflict is like a unicorn. It exists only in the imagination. There is no such thing as a marriage with no conflicts. To expect otherwise is just unrealistic. The most common conflicts concern:
Money and financial issues
Children - the number one stressor in marriage
Sex - frequency, quantity, quality
Lack of quality time together
Household responsibilities - who does what and how they do it
Family – in-laws, siblings, children and step-children
You and your spouse get into conflict because, basically, every marriage is set up for conflict. Dr. John Gottman, world-renowned marriage and family therapist and founder of the Gottman Institute, points out that, at best, both partners in a relationship are emotionally available to one another about 9% of the time. This means that 91% of the time, your relationship is vulnerable to failure. Misunderstandings and conflicts find their way in during that time when you’re not attentive and connecting. Conflict in marriage is inevitable. So, if you’re grading the health of your marriage on whether or not you fight, you’re going to give yourself with an F. But that grade isn’t fair. The difference between a healthy and unhealthy marriage is not that healthy couples don’t get into conflicts. All couples do. What makes the difference is what the couple does with the conflict after it has occurred.
Even in healthy marriages, couples say mean things, criticize and complain, defend and withdraw, attack and counter-attack. They do the same things unhealthy couples do, but the difference is that afterward they are able to talk about what happened, repair, reconnect, and recover. They each admit their part in the conflict, forgive, and heal their bond. When a couple is able to do that, they have a healthy marriage that will endure. Couples who can’t or won’t do that usually end up in divorce.
You Can Have A Happy And Strong Marriage
No matter what your current problems are, if you are willing to work and change, you can have a healthy, happy marriage. You can become best friends. Someone said, “You might leave your lover, but you’ll never leave your best friend.” You become best friends by showing caring, fondness, and admiration. You can become partners, or “suitable helpers,” to use the language of Genesis, that give and receive support from one another. You can learn to fill your relationship with positivity instead of negativity. Marriages filled with negativity usually end in divorce; marriages filled with positivity never do. You can learn to manage stresses and conflict, and enjoy spending time together. You can grow closer and closer so that you see the world with nearly the same eyes. This is all possible with couple counseling.
How Couple Counseling Can Help
Couple counseling strengthens marriages on three levels.
Couple Counseling Level #1: Marriage Preparation
The first level is marriage preparation. If you're engaged, we offer premarital counseling with a state-of-the-art assessment called Prepare-Enrich, which will give you an in-depth look at nine major categories of your relationship along with plenty of time available for your questions about what to expect, how to build a deep commitment, and what works and does not work in marriage.
Couple Counseling Level #2: Marriage Restoration
The second level is marriage restoration. In couple counseling, we’ll walk you and your spouse through effective processes that reshape the marriage strategy and “change the game.” We’ll help you learn communication skills, conflict resolution, and how to be empathic. We’ll identify concerns that you may not have realized you had or been able to share. You’ll learn patterns that you’re stuck in that aren’t working and are weighing down your relationship. And we’ll help you repair the hurts and bring back the love and connection you long for.
Couple Counseling Level #3: Marriage Strengthening
The third level is marriage strengthening. In our couple counseling sessions, we use tried and tested therapies that help you become your own therapist. This worthy, change-oriented goal of empowerment and believing in your own influence in shaping the relationship is powerful. Good couple counseling can relieve your irrational beliefs that plague you with inaccurate directional thinking. You’ll discover how real change is created, not just surface, or first order, change…but durable, lasting, second order change where belief systems change for both of you and behaviors and emotions follow along with better living and better, more peaceable, satisfying intimacy are achieved.
Common Objections To Couple Counseling
“How can a stranger help us solve our personal problems?”
Some people think that a friend who knows them can do a better job helping them with their marriage problems. But no matter how well-meaning a friend is, he or she can’t do that. Your friend doesn’t have the objectivity to find real solutions. Your friend will also probably side with you or with your spouse over you. And when it’s over, he or she won’t be your friend any more. Friends are great, but when your marriage is on the line, you need a trained couple counseling therapist who can spot the patterns in your relationship that are causing the problems in your relationship and then can explore ways those patterns can be changed.
“Marriage counseling is for people with real problems, not us.”
Actually, couple counseling is exactly for people like you. Someone said that the definition of major surgery is, “If it’s on you, it’s minor surgery; if on it’s me, it’s major surgery.” If you and your spouse are having problems, they’re major problems. If they’re keeping you from having a close connection and a healthy, strong marriage, it affects your family, your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your work. That’s major. But even if your problems are minor in comparison to other couples, we wish that everyone would come to us when there’s a small crack in the relationship instead of waiting until it’s the Grand Canyon. It’s much easier to repair a crack than it is to pull the Grand Canyon back together.
“Counseling costs too much.”
Divorce costs much more! A divorce lawyer will charge three to four times more than what a marriage therapist charges, and will take longer and it will be more painful than couple counseling. In fact, couple counseling, if you work with it, is actually energizing and life-giving. Many couples have remarked that they leave the counseling sessions feeling uplifted and hopeful. If you had to stop eating out for a while, wouldn’t it be worth it to find the happiness, security, and love in your relationship that is now in jeopardy?
Take The Next Step
If you’re ready to go to work on your marriage and build your relationship into the God-ordained blessing that it is meant to be, we’re ready to help you. For a free consultation for couple counseling with one of our Christian counselors, reach out to us here or call 972-422-8383 today.
No doubt, your marriage has moments of both bliss and blisters...
A perfect marriage is like a unicorn...
We strengthen marriages on three levels...
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