There have been several times in our marriage that Mark and I have sought help. It’s not easy to ask for help, but it’s sometimes necessary for the health and longevity of your relationship.
Today we’ll take a look at how to ask for help, how to find a marriage mentor, and how to select a counselor.
The first time I sat in a counselors office, it was without Jill. Because of a neighbor who shared his own journey of healing and cared enough to challenge me to do the same, I was introduced to the concept of personal counseling. I was carrying alot of baggage from the past that was keeping me from being the husband and father I wanted to be.
My parents divorced when I was two, I grew up without a healthy father figure, I dealt with conflict with passivity which, when stuffed long enough, would eventually turn into rage. I had tried to manage all of this on my own and I got to the end of myself and realized that I needed help.
That’s not easy for a man to do and most certainly had not been modeled for me. However, in time I’ve come to realize that seeking help is a sign of strength and not weakness.
When Mark decided to go to a counselor, it was a new concept to me. But I felt it was a good idea and I respected him for taking a step toward emotional health.
Eventually we chose to pursue marriage counseling for our hurting relationship. Over our 27 years of marriage, we’ve seen five different counselors in five different seasons. Sometimes we’ve needed to deal with deep issues we’ve not been able to resolve on our own and other times we’ve just needed a tune up to keep us healthy. There have also been a couple of seasons where we have asked an older, wiser couple to mentor us through specific situations.
Once our marriage got on the right track, we began sharing the transforming principles we had learned and applied in our marriage. That’s how we began doing marriage mentoring ourselves and how we created our ABC’s of a Healthy Marriage church seminars.
How to find a good counselor is one of the things we get asked about the most.
Here are some questions we’re frequently asked.
How do you find a good counselor?
You can start by asking your pastor if there’s someone he or she recommends. If you are aware of another couple who has sought help, you can also ask them for recommendations. If either of those aren’t possible, Focus on the Family offers a counselor referral program you can find on their website HERE.
Once we have some options, how to we find the right counselor?
It’s ok to interview a counselor over the phone to get a feel for their personality and style of counseling. It’s also ok to meet with a counselor for a few weeks to determine if he/she is a good match for both of you. Do you feel heard? Does the counselor talk more than you or does he/she draw you out to do the talking? You want to find a counselor who draws you and your spouse out and encourages you to talk. If you’re not comfortable with a specific counselor, it’s ok to meet with someone else to see if it’s a better fit. Tip: Don’t confuse being uncomfortable with counseling in general with being uncomfortable with a specific counselor. If you’ve never done counseling, it sometimes takes a few sessions to become comfortable with it.
What if I feel we need counseling, but my spouse won’t go?
If this is the case, we recommend going by yourself. It can only help for you to explore your own heart issues and what you are contributing to the difficult season of marriage you are in.
What about the money? I hear counselors are expensive.
Yes, counseling costs money. However, we found it was the best money we’ve ever spent. Many counselors have a sliding scale according to income levels. Some health insurance companies cover a set number of counseling appointments a year. Many counselors will let you pay over time with a pre-determined payment plan. It took us three years to pay off our first year of counseling. It was financially challenging, but worth every penny.
Is it important to go to a Christian counselor?
Our first choice is a always a Christian counselor who uses the Bible to support their wisdom and guidance. Two of our counselors carried the title of pastoral counselors, but very little Bible was used in the counseling. The counseling was still helpful, but lacked the Biblical direction that is so important. Some insurance companies require you to see a counselor that is in a specific healthcare network. In this case, if there’s no Christian counselor in network, a solid, secular counselor can still be very helpful. Interview the counselor over the phone or in your first session to see if you feel it’s a good fit.
How can we find a couple to mentor us?
If you belong to a church, take a look at the marriage relationships around you. What couples have been married longer than you and deeply respect and show love to one another? Is there a couple who’s been open and honest about their struggles and how they’ve overcome them? Once you identify another couple, ask them if they’d be willing to meet once a month for dinner so you can ask them questions about marriage and learn from their experience.
I have trouble asking for help. I’m a self-made man/woman and I don’t like to admit that I need help. What do I do?
The Bible talks about God being the potter and we are the clay. Clay can only be molded if it is soft and pliable. If it is hard, it can’t change and be molded into whatever beautiful piece of artwork the potter wants to make. So we would ask, is your heart soft or hard?
- A hard heart thinks he knows it all. A soft heart is open to learn more about himself/herself and more about marriage.
- A hard heart is prideful. A soft heart is humble.
- A hard heart lives in denial and works hard to believe that things are just fine the way they are. A soft heart pushes past the uncomfortable to create a new normal.
- A hard heart pray, “God, change him” or “God, change her.” A soft heart prays, “Lord, change me.”
What about you? Have you ever sought marriage counseling? If so, do you have any additional recommendations on the subject?
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I am dealing with very difficult issues in my marriage…my husband's addictions through the years (pornography, alcohol, pot) and his anger issues that have manifested themselves in domestic violence. We have three teenaged girls, and have been through counseling, both alone and together, many times in the past 20 years. The last counselor told me I need to leave him, but that only I will know when it's time to do that. I have reached the end of my rope, and am praying for God's will in my life. When do you know the situation is beyond counseling?
My heart hurts for you. I am so sorry that you have lived in such an unsafe environment.
Domestic violence is a completely different category than basic relationship dysfunction.
It sounds like you have done many of the right things, but if the relationship is not safe for you and your girls, your emotional and physical safety moves to the top of the priority list.
Focus on the Family has some applicable resources for you online that can answer your questions better than we can. Take a look at their resources here: http://family.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/family.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=25519&p_created=1265056900&p_sid=Mu*ry17k&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MzUsMzUmcF9wcm9kcz0mcF9jYXRzPTAmcF9wdj0mcF9jdj0mcF9wYWdlPTEmcF9zZWFyY2hfdGV4dD1kb21lc3RpYyB2aW9sZW5jZQ!!&p_li=&p_topview=1
Peggy, Mark and I are putting you on our prayer list. We care and will commit to lifting you up to God for protection and wisdom.
Peggy, the online link in my reply didn't post as a link. Just copy and past that long web address into your browser and you should find the page on domestic violence.
Thank you, Jill! Peggy 🙂
Continuing in the same destructive pattern is like chasing your tail. It's exhausting, but you have nothing to show for it. I think counseling a very good idea; I have embraced it recently. I am going alone at this time, but already I can tell a big difference. I have hope now.
After almost 18 years of marriage…we hit a MAJOR bump in the road and have begun seeing a counselor. This was very hard for me, as I was raised to believe that such things made you "weird" or unstable. I had to get past that stigma, and just go. It has been helpful for us…although I think neither of us knew what to expect. We found it strange the first few times that he really did no talking! We did ALL the talking! I think I have begun to realize that this is good?!?!? He is forcing us to talk and get all of our emotions out there. I guess I just thought that we would go and answer his questions and listen. It still feels a little strange, but we are getting used to it. Hopefully, this will help us work out all of our issues and get back to that warm fuzzy place in our marriage that we want to be at. Its amazing to me how much work I have to do on MYSELF, instead of pointing the finger at my husband to do all of the changing!
Thank you for sharing. It does take a while to get used to the counseling environment, but a good counselor gets the two of you to talk and helps you identify and sort out your feelings. It sounds like that's what is going on for you. Yay!
And you're right, there's alot we need to individually learn and work on. When we do that, our marriage can't help but change!
so needed this today! Hubby and I have been married for 18 years and have had a tumultuous relationship for about 6 years. Mine deals with my anger issues that I've had since a child (sexually abused) and I'm beginnng to realize that it stems from that abuse. I'm beginning counseling; hopefully my husband will join me or at least find help himself. He has separated from the family (2 children and myself); but I'm hopeful that God can heal and restore this marriage to be a testimony for Him and bring Him glory.
I have been a married man for 4 months now =) I haven't been in a counselor's office before my marriage. But I have friends from church that has given me WISE counsels. some of which are "to keep our courtship alive" and "be quick to say I'm sorry" But I found a great article in Ezinearticles that i think worth sharing it's Christian Marriage Counseling
I want to add something. Jill and I also met with other couples while in counseling and would process our appointment's discussions and insights. This helped us keep our issues in the open and also created accountability.
Rambo, thanks for the link!