DOES MARRIAGE COUNSELLING HELP OR HINDER?
Almost everyone experiences marital challenges at some time or other. Marriage is, after all, one of the most complex and intense relationships that we will ever experience.
Different people have different ways of handling their marital issues. Some folks experience their stress and distress alone, keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves. Some may open up to friends or even to professionals, but they do not openly communicate with their spouse. Some try to work things out by trying to communicate with their partner but then find that things go from bad to worse and what was intended to be helpful actually produces even deeper wounds.
The struggle to create peace, love and intimacy can go on for years and sometimes even decades. Eventually, some decide to solve the problem by divorcing. Others resolve to live unhappily together, salvaging whatever they can of the benefits of the relationship. And some - maybe you - turn to professional counselling in an attempt to create the happiness they long for. But does marriage counselling actually work?
There's good news and bad news when it comes to couple's counselling. The good news is that many relationships are saved by the process - families remain intact and the couple enjoys a much higher quality of connection, mutual respect and joy.
The bad news is that couple's counselling is hard work. It can be slow and frustrating, often painful. This makes sense, really, when we think about the tender hearts that are involved, the level of exposure and vulnerability required for complete disclosure.
Moreover, one partner may have more tolerance for the process than the other. Many times couples go from one marital counsellor to another, each partner looking for someone to "take their side." But professional counsellors are on the side of the marriage. They aren't judges trying to determine who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad. They are on the side of love.
In my work as a couple's counsellor, I try to help people clear away the obstacles to love. Most people want to feel safe with and cherished by their partners. We are all imperfect human beings living with other imperfect human beings; compassion and tolerance are required in order to deal with the failings, mistakes and missteps of ourselves and our partners. But when we are hurt, angry, disappointed, and particularly when we feel violated, betrayed or damaged, the road "home" is steep and rocky. That's the truth.
And yet, those who come to marital counselling are very likely to succeed. Choosing a counsellor to help rather than a lawyer, is a statement of intent. Does it always work? No. Can therapy make things worse? Sometimes - just like some medical procedures intended to cure can create even greater disabilities than those being treated. Does that happen often? No. In fact, doing nothing to improve the relationship generally presents a far greater risk than that posed by doing therapy.
So shall we give love a try? I'm ready when you are.