We’ve been married for three years, and we are attending marriage counselling… Yes I really did just type that out loud!
I did question whether to write about this when I first had the idea, but this blog is all about the real aspects of marriage that we don’t often see shared. I know that this is such an important topic to touch on and my husband agrees. Seeking help from a professional in your marriage is believed to pretty much be a sign that you’re about to file for a divorce, and there is still so much stigma surrounding the act of seeking help.
Liam and I have been in a relationship for 7 years now, and we both had premarital counselling before we got married with one of our church pastors. Since going through that process, we haven’t been able to recommend it enough to engaged couples, as it is so crucial to know exactly who you are marrying and exactly what you are committing to for the rest of your life!
If you have already begun premarital counselling sessions with someone, don’t feel like you are tied in and can’t seek guidance elsewhere if you would like more support. This is a life-changing decision you are making, so it most definitely isn’t one to be taken lightly!
Not long after we got married, we had a discussion about the idea of counselling. When we choose to marry someone, we bring the baggage from our past with us into our marriage also. That includes any addictions, childhood trauma, or the things we’d rather our spouse just didn’t know about us. Whether we like it or not, these things will show themselves at some point, and this is often the root of those seemingly repetitive issues that you can’t seem to shake on your own. Some of these problems are years if not decades in the making!
In my own marriage, we share the understanding that even though there is strength in the way we communicate, there are still underlying things from our past that subconsciously impact the way we think and act..
We may not have acted on that idea of visiting a counsellor then, but fast-forward to two and a half years in when we faced a situation that threw up a significant hurdle – the idea of counselling once again resurfaced. In all honesty, questions were raised such as “is it really that serious?” and “is counselling really something we should be doing at this stage in our marriage?”
After some consideration, we decided to take the step and ask for help. We haven’t looked back since! We sought out a qualified professional external to our church, but with a Christian background who could relate to the values that we hold of maintaining a God-centred marriage.
If you find yourself shifting uncomfortably at the very topic of this post, let me encourage you by saying that despite the stigma surrounding seeking a professional to help your marriage (which is far more of a taboo for our parent’s generation let alone their parents!) there is so much strength in admitting you need help as you don’t have all the answers – none of us do.
If you were walking along and encountered a wall on the way to your destination, would you just stand looking at it, or would you try and find a way around it? Way too many of us stand looking at the wall for years, and even collapse in despair right next to the wall, when if we would only walk a few metres to the right then we’d probably find the door…
I said to myself, if I can look back on my marriage in 20 or 30 years and say that I did all I could and used all the resources available to protect and build something that I genuinely believe is such a precious gift from God, then I can rest easy knowing I went above and beyond for the man that I love, and vice versa. But if I was to look back and instead wonder “what if we had sought help sooner?”, then I personally don’t believe that I would have done my marriage justice.
Why is it that when we see unusual signs relating to our health, that we are encouraged to see a doctor even if just for precaution before the problem escalates and becomes an issue that is potentially untreatable, yet we leave our marriage until it is literally hanging on by a thread before deciding that we should seek professional help?! Sadly by then, often so much damage has been done that our very marriage seems untreatable as there is a great weight of issues to work through. Is it any wonder that there is still so much stigma relating to marriage counselling when so many couples receiving help are at this critical stage?
Thankfully, there is so much more awareness now relating to mental health, and with that comes more of a willingness to practice self-care and actually ask for help when we need it. Many of us still have a long way to go though, especially when it comes to the condition of our marriages.
Both Liam and I continue to attend counselling as I type this, and we have chosen to be transparent about such a personal decision for our marriage in the hope that other young or newly married couples can face any fears or myths that are currently stopping them from seeking the help that could save their marriage from further destruction years down the line.
Anyone can get married, but not everyone stays married… focus on what it takes to go the distance, rather than draining yourself from all that it takes to keep up appearances. We won’t always get it right, but with the right help and support we are more likely to return to a place where we can build something worth keeping for the rest of our lives!
Do you feel like you’ve hit a wall in your marriage? Consider sitting down with a professional to help you work through your issues before further damage is caused. Sit down with your spouse, and spend some time together to list 3 ways that you would like your marriage to improve. Pray over this and take these points with you to your first counselling session. Remember you can’t force your spouse to do anything, so don’t rule out attending counselling by yourself initially to guide your own decisions and overall wellbeing.