Getting Back to Center: On Marriage Counseling, Bible Verses, and the Power of Asking Good Questions
There is a stigma in society that needs to be addressed and reconsidered. When one hears about a husband and wife attending regular marriage counseling sessions, what comes to mind? In other words, if someone says to you that “so and so” have been in marriage counseling for months—and “so and so” happen to be good friends of yours—how would you feel about the health of their marriage? This is where the “stigma” comes in. And note that I wouldn’t blame anybody for holding onto this commonly held notion: to attend marriage counseling means any two people’s marriage is on the rocks. But there are so many reasons that just isn’t the case, and Lauren and I are living proof. Before we address our marriage, we’d like to examine why marriage counseling is viewed in such a light, how asking good questions can help overcome various humps in marriage, and some bible verses that might serve as encouragement if you or someone you know is experiencing such a season.
What is that “season” exactly? Every married couple approaches conflict in a different way. There’s not enough time or room on this blog to break down the nuances of marital relations and conflict across the board. So let’s just call out a few to begin:
Some marriage partners engage in conflict where one partner dominates conversation and the other shuts down. Some marriage partners engage in conflict in such a way that the “conversation” escalates each time into a pseudo yelling-match. Some marriage partners completely ignore any semblance of conflict, and go about their merry days until one day (or set of days, months, years) those merry days become clouded in a past full of hurt and unexpressed longing(s) for desire.
No matter where a marriage is on the spectrum, there are so many reasons why a third-party, at some point in the journey, should enter the mix for the growth and flourishing of husband and wife.
The Beginning, Middle, and End of Marriage Counseling
The lifecycle of marriage counseling is not linear. Unfortunately, in many marriages, marriage counseling is treated as such. In what form or fashion?
Premarital counseling is widely accepted and encouraged among most evangelical Christians. In addition, American society places at least some importance, across the board, for seeking older and wiser counsel before getting married. Perhaps it’s a mentor or older couple you’ve known since childhood—engaging a counselor or wiser married couple before marriage is seen as an appropriate next step before tying the knot. After a few months of said wise-counsel, and then what? Well, marriage of course. But in the days and months and years after those initial vows are spoken—who is there to guide and counsel from that day on?
There are seasons of marriage where we feel full. When things are easy and communication is consistent. These “seasons” may come in waves of weeks, months, or even years. But even if things are “good” should we continue waiting for the “bad” before seeking counsel? Think again about premarital counseling. Things may never be better in a marriage than that sweet engagement season and early honeymoon phase. Two individuals starting life together and experiencing union for the first time. But give marriage a number of months and/or years and that feeling will wane—yet even that waning isn’t a bad thing.
Unless we leave it unaddressed for too long.
To view marriage counseling as a linear process is to view it with a beginning, middle and end. But what if there was no such thing? What if marriage counseling was as natural and commonplace as not just premarital counseling, but as the honeymoon itself. What if we celebrated marriage counseling in the same way we celebrated anniversaries? What if we engaged in more conversations with our friends and family about marriage counseling, as opposed to leaving things unspoken and under the rug? Where they’ve “traditionally” belonged.
On Asking Good Questions
Real quick: let’s back up and address why marriage counseling might resolve seasons of conflict OR add to seasons of joy.
Surprisingly, marriage counseling does not have a super long history. To my knowledge, marriage counseling—aside from general wisdom among elders—isn’t something that held common in American or global society prior to the 19th century.
But the goal of this post isn’t to provide a history lesson on marriage counseling. The goal of this post is to encourage comfort, support, and the non biases a professional counselor can bring to the table. In regard to “good questions” couples might consider—again, in any season—before engaging professional counseling services:
- Have either of us spent time in counseling before?
- If so, when?
- Is counseling a desire for one or both of us?
- What has been our experience with conflict thus far in marriage?
- How do you think we handle conflict as a married couple? (And how do I?)
- Is there a history in either of our families with seeking marital counseling?
- On a scale of 1-10, how do we feel about where our marriage is—1 as “stale” and 10 as “joy”?
- If stale, how might a counselor help us address issues in our present or past selves?
- If joyful, how might a counselor help us identify areas of strength, and prepare well for when tougher seasons come?
- Where would we even begin our search for a professional counselor? Church? Google? Friends or family?
The list inevitably goes on. But consider some of those questions today! Like we stated in the beginning surrounding marriage counseling’s “stigma,” there are some serious reasons you should feel confident and validated in seeking clarity alongside a third party in marriage.
Bible Verses on Self and Security
To address the “stigma” once and for all, marriage counseling in present day carries an unfortunate amount of shame in the process.
If marriage counseling is perceived as some sort of proverbial panic button, why not just stay as far away from the button as possible? Why talk about the button or encourage others to go press the button?
But what if instead of panic we instead viewed marriage counseling as assurance.
Galatians 2:20 states “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” How does that sound for assurance? That we were bought with the price of Christ’s blood means we are His. We don’t have to fret over our own shame and failure (perceived as death) because we are alive in Christ! In the same vein, God knows your innermost being—He loves you because He loves you! There are multiple bible verses that prove that as much.
God loves the Church as well—he loves his people and wants us to dwell in unity with one another. And husbands are called to love our wives as Christ loved the Church.
The final call-to-action here is centered around an approach to love that might mean pit-stop neither party is used to making. But if marriage is a Nascar race, no car was meant to start and finish the race (hundreds of laps later) on one tank of gas. That proverbial pit stop might happen around lap 24 (2 years into marriage) or lap 100 (7 years into marriage) but please ensure you seize the pit-stop when you have a chance.
There is a stigma on the line. And only we are responsible for reversing the trend. A trend rooted in shameful negligence, but might have dire implications in the end.
As a couple, please realize you are a lot more normal than you might think. A professional counselor wants to ask good questions and help you get at the root of whatever conflict or joy you might be experiencing. Because life is fragile, we never know when a trying season might creep up on us. When it does, ensure you and your partner are on the same page.
There’s too much on your generational line to sweep anything else under the rug.