Seeking marriage or couples counseling is a big decision. It’s not uncommon for a couple to try counseling as a “last ditch effort” before divorce. There are couples that by the time I meet with them for our first session, divorce is already on the table. This “one foot out the door” approach isn’t impossible and doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the couple to reconcile and heal; however, it does make it harder. So many times I’ve had couples tell me they wish they’d sought counseling sooner. I feel similarly, as I see how entrenched a couple is in their cycle and feel the depth of their pain. Therapists don’t have magic wands, and as much as we want to help in every situation, a couple seeking counseling at the right time is important to increasing the chance of the relationship healing. So how do you know when you should seek marriage counseling?
1 - We’ve been fighting more. If there are more days that you’re fighting or not talking than enjoying being with one another, you might consider counseling.
2 - I have resentment towards my spouse that won’t go away. If you’ve noticed that resentment is growing and despite other efforts to work though it, it isn’t going away, you might consider counseling.
3 - We feel like roommates. When intimacy and connection has faded and you don’t know how to get it back, you might consider counseling.
4 - We have a history of separating and getting back together. If your relationship has a pattern of “on again, off again”, you might consider counseling.
5 - We’ve always talked about counseling, but have never done it. If it’s come up more than once, it’s probably safe to assume that deep issues aren’t being resolved and you might consider counseling.
6 - I don’t feel safe or comfortable sharing with my partner. If it’s difficult to bring up certain topics or to share how you’re feeling in general with your partner, you might consider counseling.
I’m certainly not saying that counseling has to be the very first thing you try at the onset of problems. There are other helpful tools like simply trying to talk to your partner about how you’re feeling and what you’re needing, reading a book together like “Created for Connection”, and using prayer both individually and as a couple. However, when the things that have worked in the past stop working or maybe you just feel like you need a little more help, couples counseling early on can be incredibly helpful.
Please don’t wait until it’s too late. Marriage counseling shouldn’t be the thing you do at the very end in order to say “we tried everything”. Seek counseling earlier and see the amazing ways your relationship can be transformed.