By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
There are some things in life that require a great amount of patience and waiting. The stock market, for example, which is known for its tumultuous ups and downs, often requires investors to patiently ride out the waves of growth and decline.
Marital issues, however, sometimes require a sooner-rather-than-later approach, as persistent problems start to spiral out of control and cause a serious decline in the marital relationship.
Sadly, many couples hesitate to seek out counseling until things are really bad. They often think things will work themselves out, and they’d rather limp along rather than get the help needed to thrive.
The big question is, how does a couple know when it’s time for marriage counseling? If you’ve been hesitant to reach out for help, but know that something needs to change in your marriage, consider these 5 things.
Hopefully, these points will give you clear direction and help you determine when and how it’s time for you to seek wise counsel.
1. Not All Marriage Counselors Are Alike
You may not know this, but there are different types of marriage counselors available to Christian couples. Some are lay counselors who volunteer through their church counseling program, while others are certified counselors who hold various degrees in the specific field of marriage and counseling.
Depending on your specific issues, it would be wise to carefully consider the type of marriage counseling you need. Here are some questions to ask potential counselors when looking for the right fit for your marital issues:
- Are you a licensed counselor?
- From where did you receive your credentials?
- How long have you counseled married couples?
- Do you adhere to Biblical principles in your counseling methods?
- Do you incorporate prayer into the counseling sessions?
- Do you have a statement of faith?
These, and other questions can help you avoid wasting time and money on marriage counselors that aren’t a right fit for you. Don’t be hesitant to interview potential counselors and diligently seek the exact ones God has in mind. If money is an issue, reach out to a trusted church in your area who has a comprehensive lay counseling team and pray for the Lord to match you with the right couple. There are many wise lay counselors who can lead you Biblically and be a solid support system for your marriage.
2. Marriage Counseling Ought to Be Led by an Older Couple
It’s important for couples to be counseled by other couples—preferably older couples who have been married for a lengthy amount of time. After all, first-hand experience goes a long way in being a source of help and guidance. Not only that, it’s comforting to know that other couples have been through similar hardships and have made it through.
The importance of "couples counseling couples" cannot be overstated. Wives need other wives to validate their feelings, and husbands need other husbands to help keep things in perspective. If either husband or wife feels left out of the conversation, marriage counseling is not likely to continue. Seeking wise counsel from a balanced, impartial couple will most likely lead to the most beneficial outcome. After all, there might be sensitive issues that need to be discussed woman to woman and man to man.
Trained couples counselors will have the insight to determine what type of counseling needs to happen and how to best implement it.
Here are a few questions to ask when seeking counsel from an older Christian couple:
- How long have you been married?
- Are you able to remain impartial to both of us?
- What issues have you faced in your own marriage that might help us with our issues?
- Will you be available to us should we find ourselves in a crisis?
- Are you willing to counsel us individually if needed?
Keep in mind that while younger couples can contribute wisdom and direction for your marriage, there’s a deeper sense of security in meeting with older couples who’ve been through tough seasons themselves and can wisely counsel you through both major and minor problems.
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3. Marriage Counseling Must Align with God’s Word
Great caution should be exercised when receiving Biblical counsel. As the Scriptures say in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “test everything and hold fast what is good.” If something doesn’t seem right, don’t take it at face value. Ask questions, contact trusted advisors, and hold everything up to the light of God’s word.
Here are some things to look for to make sure your marriage counselors are aligning with the Bible:
- They should have a strong Biblical world view.
- They should use the Scriptures of a basis for counsel.
- They should incorporate prayer into every session.
- They should invite the Holy Spirit to be present.
- They should offer practical tools that remain in alignment with the Bible.
Keep in mind that solid Biblical marriage counselors will encourage you to do everything you can to fight for your marriage. As long as there isn’t abuse involved, Biblical counselors will do their best to help you succeed and view divorce as an absolute last resort.
Most importantly, pray for wisdom. Remember, God promises to give wisdom to those who ask and believe! (James 1:5-6)
4. It’s Okay to Switch Counselors If It’s Not the Right Fit
When couples find that their marriage counselors aren’t the right fit for them, many give up and stop going altogether. However, it’s perfectly fine to switch counselors if needed. There is nothing wrong with admitting when there isn’t a connection and looking elsewhere for help. Don’t feel stuck in something that isn’t working. Be honest and move forward in finding the exact help you need.
Here are a few conversation starters that may help when switching marriage counselors:
“Perhaps you’ve noticed, but this doesn’t seem like the right fit for us. We hope you understand and can point us in the right direction.”
“We don’t feel like there’s a strong connection here, therefore we are planning to look for a different counselor. Do you have any suggestions?”
“We are thinking of looking for a different counselor who can specifically help us with x, y, z. Would you happen to have any recommendations for us?”
Counselors who are trained to work with different personalities will handle this situation professionally. Mature marriage counselors will do everything they can to point you in the right direction and help you find the right fit for your marriage.
5. Meeting with Marriage Counselors Is Just the Beginning
Many couples mistakenly believe that once they’ve done their due diligence and gone to several weeks of counseling, the hard work is over. However, marriage counseling is only the beginning of a life-long marathon of hard work and endurance.
Marriage is no easy race, and there might be several seasons along the way when marriage counseling is needed. Try to be aware of the warning signs that your marriage is in trouble. Acknowledge when things feel “off” and be proactive in addressing it. Most of all, don’t take a waiting approach when it comes to problems in your marriage. Take the sooner-rather-than-later approach and seek wise counseling before it’s too late.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 ESV
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
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Jennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.