Choosing Your Counselor
Moderate Problems: If your problems are poor communication and problem-solving, but neither is considering divorce, marital counseling can help. However, it is important that you find the right therapist. Sadly there are therapists who give up on marriage too quickly and who will suggest that you get a divorce.
You want a therapist who believes in marriage and who, like God, “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). You must find a therapist who knows that any marriage can be saved if both partners are willing to accept responsibility for themselves and devote themselves to actually fulfilling their vows to “love, honor and cherish…for better or worse.” In addition your therapist should subscribe to clinically effective principles regarding marriage counseling. It is perfectly OK to ask for an introductory session with a therapist and ask if he or she subscribes to the following principles regarding marital therapy:
∙ Each partner must be encouraged to candidly express his/her personal opinions about the marriage.
∙ Each partner must respect the other’s right to have opinions and feelings that are different from his/her own. This principle of mutual respect is the basis for the next point.
∙ The therapist does not allow arguments in the therapy session about who is right regarding differences of opinion. (Arguments are competitive verbal bouts, which are destructive of intimacy.)
∙ The therapist invites both partners to each session and does not allow any secrets between the therapist and either partner.
∙ The therapist emphasizes that the only way to improve the relationship is for each partner to accept personal responsibility for his/her behavior in the marriage.
∙ The therapist’s primary role in counseling is to help each partner decide how he or she wants to behave in the marriage based upon God’s will and the vows they have taken and then focus the therapy upon helping that partner achieve his/her personal goals regarding his/her behavior.
Severe Problems: Problems such as alcoholism, an affair or abuse make it impossible for a marriage to fulfill its purpose of mutual support and intimacy. In these cases marriage counseling must be preceded by a solution to or cessation of the problem behavior. The alcoholic must stop drinking and get into recovery. The unfaithful spouse must stop all contact (personal, social contact, email, telephone, texting, etc) with the lover. The abusive spouse must stop all abuse and provide concrete assurance that he has learned to respect his wife.
If the offending behavior is not stopped, marriage counseling is a complete waste of time. If there have been severe problems in the marriage and if the offending spouse has stopped his offending behavior, then the couple should begin conjoint marital therapy. Substance abuse, infidelity and abuse all signal deep problems in the relationship that need to be addressed in counseling.
Separation: If there has been a separation or you are considering a separation, you should do it with a specific plan regarding length of the separation, division of responsibilities for finances and children and an agreement to do separation counseling to determine if the marriage can be saved. (There is a Structured Separation Plan in My Marriage Manual, which you can order on the home page.)
Ready To Throw in the Towel: If you believe that divorce is the only option, I encourage you to consider a last ditch effort to save your marriage. I recommend Retrouvaille, a French word for Rediscovery, pronounced Ret-roo-vie. It is run like Marriage Encounter except that the leaders are couples whose own marriages nearly failed. These “back-from-the-brink” couples tell their own stories of recovery from adultery, alcoholism, etc. They then assign a topic for the couples to write on, and to discuss in private. Retrouvaille has saved the majority of the marriages when couples sign up for their program. To learn more, call (800) 470-2230.