At the outset of marriage counseling, some couples often ask how effective will marriage counseling be, and will it be able to fix or save their marriage. The answer often depends on an array of factors, but, always is influenced by the couple’s perspective. While counselors should be able to demonstrate that they can work effectively with their clients, what is it about this client perspective that may decrease the chances of success.
Forgiving an individual who has hurt you grants them the freedom to give new meaning and definition to their actions; it frees them from the past. When you stop the ‘re-membering’ process you no longer respond from a place of hurt and disappointment, you respond from a place of hope and optimism.
What does your marriage say about you? Are you trustworthy, honest, loving, patient, understanding, and do you display the fruit of the spirit?
There are many reasons why marriages dissolve; however, it is never because God desires this. There is no scenario -go ahead think of them- where God would rather you divorce your spouse.
When you are looking at the counseling process as a tool that will fix your marriage you have now given ownership and responsibility to the counseling process. It is now the counseling process that is responsible for marital repair. This way of thinking shifts ownership away from the couple when outcomes are not desirable. It diminishes the power of the individual and their ability to self-determine. It also relies solely on the counseling process without demonstrating client initiative.
Looking for counseling to fix your marital issues also takes on a problem-focused attitude. Problems should be looked at as external elements to the marriage. For example, if there is infidelity the problem is not the participating spouse -the problem is the infidelity. Conceptualizing it this way is a good thing, as you are not the problem -the problem is the problem.
If you are to change this perspective, you must first look to Christ as the chief counselor. Looking toward Christ places the responsibility of fixing the marriage and alleviating the marital distress on Christ. Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Christ wants you to trust and have faith, in him. Trust that Christ has given you everything you need to get through this difficult time in your marriage. Trust that the Holy Spirit will work in you, changing the most difficult parts of your character and marriage.
If you are in marriage counseling, consider how many hours a week you are there. Perhaps one hour a week? That’s 1 hour out of 168 hours in a week that you are in counseling, the rest of the time you are on your own. You are on your own with your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions. Who has control over you the 167 hours a week that you are not in counseling? You have control, and if you allow the Holy Spirit in you’ll also have a helper (John 14:26).
Marriage counseling serves as a guide, a tool that reveals blind spots and encourages you to explore them. 1 Peter 1:3-9 tells us that God has created in us everything we need to live effective lives. Counseling helps draw out what God has already placed in you. It is you who will be in control of fixing your marriage; you will either choose to forgive or resent, be emotionally reactive or display self-control, be available or shutdown. Counselors cannot make you do any of these things, certainly not within a 1-hour session. You are not a puppet –you are in control –marriage counseling will not work if you don’t work.
The Change Begins With You
Other Factors that Impact Marriage Counseling
1. Seeking counseling too late. Couples often seek counseling only once the threat of divorce is mentioned. By this time a harden heart has set in and neither spouse is willing to forgive.
2. No Commitment. Client’s often are not willing to put the amount of time or money that it takes to work through marital problems. They may not be willing to prioritize their marriage, giving more time and money to other areas of their life.
3. No Challenge. Couples may not be up for the challenge of change. Success in marriage counseling requires honesty, taking responsibility, being vulnerable, self-confrontation, and being made uncomfortable. If challenge is not given or avoided, counseling may fail.