A human tendency is to "not deal" when things get tough, hoping our problems somehow subside or improve. There are always exceptions, but this pushing things off in marriage is one of the biggest mistakes I have seen couples make. I know, the decision to come for couples counseling can be a very difficult one, and typically comes at a scary and draining time in your relationship, and your life.
I say this from experience and with confidence as a marriage counselor and married woman: It is worth the effort—and you are worth the effort.
What makes a healthy marriage? First it's important to understand that a healthy marriage should have challenges, even ones that may seem irreconcilable. These differences often contain the secret to achieving our purpose and can be precisely what we need to unlock old patterns and beliefs that are begging to be transformed. Haven't you noticed how those closest to you are the best at pushing your buttons? Rest assured, these same intimate and committed bonds—and the hot spots they touch--can inspire the most growth and provide the greatest aid in reaching the inner peace we so long to enjoy.
This is why our partners, and the mirror they hold up to us, are such a gift.
The divorce rate in America is approximately 50% for first time marriages, climbing significantly higher for 2nd and 3rd. How can we protect ourselves from this scary statistic and the gravity pulling us apart—and better yet, how can we create a lasting bond that can meet our souls' longing for love, freedom, excitement and deep unity?
The first step is to realize that whatever we are facing in this relationship, it is most likely what we would be facing in any future ones. Many people struggle with doubts in their lives, especially in their marriages. These doubts are often misunderstood. For most of us, the partner we have is ours for a reason, including their most difficult qualities and behaviors—the ones we sometimes think we just can’t live with.
So here's the good news and the secret! We can receive the blessings of joy and love, within ourselves and our marriage, when we learn what ancient wisdom teaches us about lasting love and do the work to become responsible for our own happiness.
What Brings Most Couples to Seek Marriage Counseling?
Typically at least one of the partners is feeling (or has felt for years) the following:
- Angry because their needs are not being met
- Frustrated because no matter how they try, their partner won't listen or change
- Hurt from a revealed or suspected affair, or other dishonesty or neglect
- Isolated, missing the intimacy and communication once or maybe never shared.
- Stuck and not sure how to move forward with differences in personalities, values or goals
- Bored and lacking fun--intellectually, spiritually and sexually
- Not good enough—struggling with feeling criticized or unable to fulfill their mate
- Afraid they will lose the relationship or settle and live unfulfilled
- Lost without a map or tools to get on track
Common Questions Couples Ask Me As A Marriage Counselor:
Can a Marriage Survive an Affair? Absolutely. You may or may not be surprised, but affairs are quite common and often show up in relationships you would never suspect. Seeking to fill up outside of a marriage is only a symptom, a hurtful one indeed, for everyone involved. And whether a marriage grows stronger after the affair or weakens is entirely up to the couple and each partner's commitment and willingness to uncover and transform the root of their problems--individually and as a pair. But know that it is possible to survive and thrive, with time and, as always, patience and hard work.
Can marriage counseling mend all marriages; are some relationships better off ending? This is never my decision as the counselor. However, in my experience, sometimes it is best. I have seen circumstances, for example, where both have been stuck for such a long time and cannot fulfill the major purpose of marriage, which is to help each other grow. I always recommend that each partner do everything they possibly can, particularly in the area of changing oneself. It's also best to avoid making any decisions from an emotional reactive place.
Ever since I began working as a marriage counselor in St. Louis, I have found that a large majority of couples grow more loving and closer through the process, and at the very least, more accepting and peaceful -- once the veil of misdirected blame is lifted and they take responsibility for their own change, and learn the truth about lasting love. I believe that more couples would survive, and thrive, if they only had the proper information and tools.