Marriage Counseling

Try counseling before you throw in the matrimonial towel. You will give your marriage the chance it deserves and feel far less guilty because you took this step. If you are resisting change and don’t want to throw in the towel, counseling will expose the reality of the situation.

I am speaking of marital counseling, in which the two of you work together to identify and resolve problems. Later, you may use divorce counseling to help separate, re-establish your identity, deal with the impact of divorce on your children or handle the stresses of divorce.

Marital counseling is an effective way to confront marital problems. Acknowledge that problems exist, then define and deal with them. Often, one or both of you will be unable to acknowledge what the problem is, in which case it will have to be exposed. You create an environment with a single purpose: to fix whatever is wrong. You’ll find a solution, whether it is a change to be made by one or both of you, or the end of the relationship. Your valid concerns will be reinforced, giving you the confidence to do what is necessary to take care of yourself.

Louise was becoming more and more unhappy with her marriage to Arnold. He was successful; she loved staying home with their two children. However, something was lacking. Louise kept trying to fill the void. Counseling finally brought out the fact that Arnold wasn’t interested in her or the marriage anymore. He wasn’t doing anything about it; in fact, his nonparticipation was the problem. Louise is now married to someone who cares. Unfortunately, nothing seems to interest Arnold who simply doesn’t care to be personally involved.

You may feel that you’ve been stretched so thin, so taut, that you have got to do something dramatic about it. Right now! But don’t wait until pressure builds up to the point where only the major, life-changing decision to divorce can provide relief. Counseling is a safe, conservative first step. Don’t leap to the conclusion that your marriage must end. Take your relationship in to the shop to fix whatever is wrong with it. In the process, test and confirm your concerns about your discomfort.

June used counseling to validate her feeling something was wrong with the marriage. Mark, her domineering and persuasive husband, convinced her that she was imagining most of the things that bothered her. June believed she was responsible for all the problems. She thought she was going crazy. Counseling showed her Mark was tormenting her with abusive treatment. June might have been trapped forever if she hadn’t taken this first step.

Don’t sacrifice your future, needlessly doing penance. Perhaps the very thought of leaving overwhelms you with guilt. Maybe you have been held back by the "simple" inability to stand up and say unequivocally that something is wrong. Marriages can be repaired if the damage isn’t too great.

First, participate wholeheartedly in marital counseling. Work at addressing and dealing with your feelings. The knowledge that you’ve given it your best shot, alone, may release you to start taking care of the rest of your life.

Second, marital counseling may help you even if it doesn’t identify and resolve the problem. Giving it a try is like paying dues or going through a mandatory ritual. You’ll be permitted to shed your guilt, even though counseling couldn’t get to the heart of the problem. Your guilt may have been inappropriate in the first place. Is any real harm done if you say "Out damned guilt!" and use a common means for getting the job done? Free yourself of guilt society requires you to bear by using a means that society accepts.

Third, counseling may develop the dialogue missing in your marriage. You may finally be able to articulate complaints to your spouse, lifting the burden and guilt that comes from this inability to interact. If the suppression hasn’t gone on too long, you can remedy this failure to share in the relationship.

Marital counseling has a reasonable chance of saving a marriage that deserves to be saved. The odds are against saving a marriage in real trouble because the partners waited too long or the relationship is wrong. The way you can find out is to give it a try for a reasonable period. Monitor the progress: Watch how hard your spouse is trying, whether your optimism is fading and how much time is passing.