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Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Marriage Counseling

We Go to Counseling

Marriage counseling.

I spent 10 years in the dating world searching for and imagining my perfect husband. My husband spent three years married to someone else before he married me. And he’s never casually dated. Ever. (The journey of each of our healing, redemption and love for one another is whole other story for another day.)

We are both pushing nearly a decade in occupational ministry, are new parents with baby two on the way, and are navigating life’s changing seasons almost daily.

Needless to say, we each bring our own history, weak spots and relational dynamics to our marriage.

I used to be surprised by people’s reaction when I told them my husband and I go to counseling. We’ve been leaders in our church and community for many years and perhaps “counseling” doesn’t fit people’s mold for us.

“Really? Why? What’s wrong?” they’d say, with concerned intonations.

The truth is, nothing. Nothing is wrong.

We Don’t Go to Counseling Because We Have a Weak Marriage. We Go to Counseling to Build a Strong One.

So there we are in a counseling session. We sit awkwardly holding hands on faded floral couches with our McDonald’s drive-through coffees. The vertical blinds in the room are tilted just enough to let the daylight in, but not enough to expose our identity. Like counseling is something to be secret or shameful. The room is quiet.

Side note here…counseling should not be shameful! It should be celebrated and cheered for. Appropriately, of course. But it’s not shameful.

When someone is engaged in counseling, it means they’re engaged in their life and that they want to make progress toward wise, meaningful life-decision.Toward health.

Why are we embarrassed to need counsel or coaching? Are we ashamed to be seeking support? Ashamed that we want healthier relationships?

We’ve gone as often as monthly, to as spread out as every 6-12 months. To a professional. With a PhD.

What does that look like? We sit down and talk with someone much wiser than us when it comes to marriage relationships about how to have a strong, healthy relationship.

Through Counseling We Get To:

  • understand how our past impacts our present.
  • learn the other’s needs in ways we don’t normally have tools to talk about.
  • get an outside perspective to help us see beyond ourselves.
  • dream about our future and what we hope our marriage and family will look like two, five or 10 years down the road.
  • explore what emotional intelligence looks like in our relationship. (It’s worth more than money, let me assure you.)

Do you know what the best part of counseling has been?

Someone leading us through how to have those important, meaningful conversations on our own, day-to-day.

What we have learned in counseling hasn’t stayed there. It’s given us tangible tools to build a strong marriage.

I’ll be the first to admit…not all counselors are the same and they’re not one-size-fits-all. Each one brings a unique approach, education and skill set to the table. There are even life coaches that support you in achieving future goals and ambitions.

One counselor might not be very helpful…but that doesn’t mean all counselors are not helpful. The next one could lead to a major breakthrough.

I have also been to a counselor when everything was not OK. And there’s no shame in that either.

Because there are just times when we need more help and guidance than coffee with a good friend can offer.

Good Counseling Costs Less Than Stress-Leave, Sick-Leave or Divorce.

Frankly, life’s too short to live in pain when help is out there.

In North America, why does it seem more acceptable to pay for physical health with a gym membership but not for mental and emotional health with a counseling session?

Either way, the responsibility is still on you and I.

Showing up at the gym without exercising doesn’t make us any healthier than buying an apple and watching it rot. And it’s the same with counseling; we have to show up and engage. 

You know, at the end of the day, I actually think we all need counseling. Because we’re all human. We’ve all been hurt or broken or confused by someone or something. And there is hope.

I just wish it was more socially acceptable.

So, let’s let go of the shame of counseling and celebrate the pursuit of healthy, meaningful relationships and lives.

What about you? What do you think about counseling?

This article originally appeared here.