Can Marriage Counseling Help?

Every marriage faces difficult challenges.  We are all flawed individuals.  When you bring two flawed individuals into marriage there are bound to be problems.  Despite the inevitable problems, marriage can be an absolute joy as well.  Some marriages may be facing so many issues that they no longer feel this joy.  These couples might start looking into getting marriage counseling to receive assistance.  

Marriage Counseling

Couples often ask “can marriage counseling really help? You might have heard of couples that received counseling yet still ended up getting a divorce. As a Licensed Professional Counselor  (LPC) I have seen couple’s myself that have ended up in divorce as well.  While disheartening, some of this is skewed due to the fact that many couples only receive marriage counseling (sometimes referred to as couple counseling) after things are really bad off and there is not much effort to improve the relationship.  Marriage counseling is nothing magical.  Don’t expect to schedule an appointment with me (or any other counselor) and expect all the problems to magically go away.  No, it takes work from both spouses to see improvement. 

Ready to do some work?  Good!  I can’t do all the work for you! With that in mind let me line out 3 ways marriage counseling can strengthen your marriage. 

Marriage Counseling

1. Communication

This is the big one. Communication is absolutely essential for a healthy, thriving marriage.  Stop me if you’ve ever said one of these phrases before during an argument “But that’s not what I meant!”  “You’re misunderstanding what I said!”  “Are you even listening to me?” “I thought you were picking up the kids!”  

All of these phrases are uttered due to a lack of effective communication. Again, we are human and are not going to ever be perfect at communication.  As a Christian I believe this is due to our sin.  Even being saved by God’s grace doesn’t give us perfection in this life.  That being said, we must not use this as an excuse to continue on in negative communication styles. 

I’m reminded by this passage from Romans 6:1-2

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

By no means should we live in sin without repentance.  Some examples of sin impacting your communication style are not giving our spouse proper attention and respect, displacing anger onto your  spouse, becoming embarrassed/shameful about sin in your life and avoiding topics related to it.  It’s one thing to recognize this sin, seek forgiveness, repent and improve.  It’s another to let it fester and impact your relationship with your spouse as well as your whole family. 

However, communication issues aren’t always due to explicit individual sin.  Now, as Christians we believe sin is ultimately the issue of corrupting the world around us.  In the garden, life was literally perfect before Adam and Eve stained the world with sin.  Some examples of this broader sin impact on the world is women having pain in childbirth and men having struggles with working the ground. (Genesis 3:16-19)

Sometimes couples aren’t doing anything explicitly wrong or sinful, but communication is just not working quite right.  This is where marriage counseling can be very helpful.  We can discuss some specific ways to improve communication.  Some possible ideas include, having a dedicated time of day to process through issues, setting better boundaries to have more time together as a couple (even boundaries on your own children), learning how the other spouse receives love (Think 5 Love Languages) and make sure you are giving that to your spouse, using the Speaker Listener technique to better understand each other, etc.  

Having effective communication is absolutely vital to having a healthy marriage. If you seem to have consistent problems with communication with your spouse then you may want to explore getting marriage counseling. 

Marriage Counseling

2. Intimacy

Uh oh.  We are getting into the awkward part. For some Christians sex is almost seen as a bad word.  I believe this is a mistake. Sex is obviously a very difficult topic to speak about. However, sex is a gift given to us by God.  It is obviously a means for procreation but it is also an act of love meant to be enjoyed by your spouse. 

Sex is impacted by sin as well though.  For some married couples they no longer have any sex life at all.  This is not something to be laughed off.  It’s actually quite serious. 1 Cor 7:2-3 states 

 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

What are some reasons a married couple no longer has sex?  There might be a physical issue that provides anxiety/embarrassment for one or both spouses.  This can be even worsened if pornography usage is happening.  Pornography has many negative effects but one is that natural sex no longer has the same effect.

Another reason might be because of conflict in other areas of life.  If a married couple spends all of its time arguing it is not very easy to become passionate physically with each other.  “I’m not in the mood” becomes the rule instead of the exception.  This can cause even bigger rifts in the relationship.  

Another possible reason is a lack of non sexual touch.  Remember the first time you held hands with your spouse?  That was probably very exciting!  For married couples it naturally doesn’t have the same effect.  However, physical touch such as holding hands, cuddling, kissing etc. are still important to have in a sexual married relationship.  Just because your relationship is sexual in nature does not mean that needs to be the only type of physical touch you should give your spouse. 

Communication about sex is not easy to have with your partner but it is incredibly important to have.  If you are having issues in this part of your relationship you do not need to keep it quiet just because it is a little awkward to talk about.  Again, this is a God given gift for married couples so let us not lose the significance of this fact. 

If you and your spouse are experiencing large issues in your intimate life it might be a good idea to speak to a marriage counselor about this.  

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Marriage Counseling

3. Premarital Counseling

So you’re engaged and are anxiously waiting for the big day!  Congratulations!  I’m sure you have received a ton of unsolicited advice from (mostly) well meaning friends and family.  This can become quite overwhelming!

It can be helpful to meet with a pastor of your church for premarital counseling.  They can provide wonderful biblical advice to get your marriage started well.  

However, if your pastor does not offer this or if you think it’s too awkward to talk about with your pastor (although I would still recommend it) it might be helpful to talk to a marriage counselor before being married.  

If you are hopelessly in love and think you will absolutely never have problems with your spouse, you are incorrect. You absolutely will have arguments.  You will have differences in parenting your children, you will have moments of frustration at one another.  Though feelings of love are important, your marriage cannot stand on emotion alone.  

Pre Marriage counseling can explore ways to improve your communication and prepare for rocky moments in your marriage.  It can also be a time to explore expectations you have for each other and ways to discuss this appropriately.  There can also be some gushy lovey times about telling each other why you love one another and ways to continue to ignite that flame of love throughout the decades of your marriage. 

Maybe you grew up in a split family.  Your parents divorced when you were growing up.  You still feel the scars from this and don’t quite know how to handle it.  You understandably don’t want to experience divorce nor do you want your future children to experience it either.  Exploring ways to set a solid foundation for your marriage can be a great reason to do premarital counseling.

Marriage is an absolutely beautiful gift.  It’s important to weigh the potential issues you may run into in marriage.  However, it is also important to consider all of the beautiful aspects of marriage.  There is no other relationship like having a spouse.  Much advice about marriage is surrounded on the negative aspects of marriage.  I want you to keep in mind that despite this it is absolutely worth getting married to experience life with your partner well. 

These are not the only reasons why you might consider marriage counseling. If your reason for looking at marriage counseling isn’t listed I would love to know what it is.  If you are interested in marriage counseling from a conservative Christian worldview please feel free to schedule your free evaluation to get started.