There is often a negative stigma attached to seeking counseling services, especially marital counseling that requires full participation from each spouse. Unfortunately, our culture has deemed “getting help” as a weakness that must be swept under the rug, causing married couples young and old to ignore painful patterns in their marriage because the world tells us we have to have it all together.
However, marriage and relationship experts and certified counselors strive to lure hurting individuals out of their marital shells, letting them know it’s okay to seek professional counseling – in fact – it should be celebrated.
Even when the brave ones among us decide to step out into the unknowns of marriage counseling, the pressures and anxiety piles up at the thought of being in such a vulnerable state. Seeking counseling is potentially intimidating for both husbands and wives, and unfortunately, most couples can get so caught up in the intimidation factor that they don’t effectively prepare for the session, limiting their experience and ultimately, their healing.
Preparing for a session of marriage counseling requires vulnerability, receptiveness and an open environment for confession and forgiveness. No matter what overt or underlying issues couples experience on a day to day basis, preparation is key to discovering a road to healing and positive life changes. Without adequate preparation, couples are holding themselves back and prolonging the pain. It’s like eating chocolate cake before joining an extreme weight loss exercise program instead of drinking water – you’re only hurting yourself more.
So how should couples prepare for marriage counseling?
- Spend some time alone in self-reflection: It may sound counter-intuitive, but spending some time alone before the big day or upcoming weeks could prepare you mentally and spiritually. As long as you are intentional with your alone time, this practice can help you clear your mind and step outside of yourself and your irritations, fears, pressing concerns and so forth. It’s like fueling up for a marathon. Focus on nourishing your own needs and addressing personal obstacles and hardships.
- Pray together and alone: Spending time alone in prayer is just as important as praying with your spouse prior to the counseling session. Use this time to be shockingly honest with yourself. Is there something you need to acknowledge in your own heart before discussing an issue with your spouse? Christian counselors often remind individuals that there is nothing we can do to shock God. He knows the depths of our hearts better than we know ourselves, so don’t be afraid to lay it all out and remove any masks we show the world or even ourselves.
- Write it all down: Consider keeping individual journals leading up to the counseling session. Write down your fears, concerns, anxiety, and anything else that may surface – no matter how ugly, challenging or confusing it may sound. It is common for couples seeking counseling to struggle in simply identifying the issues, so don’t worry if your thoughts do not piece together. The point is to get your emotions on paper to potentially refer to during the session, and to inspire a receptive presence for both husband and wife.
- If you have trouble expressing yourself with words and you don’t enjoy writing, at least keep a list with key words to jog your memory during the session. Talking candidly with a counselor can cause you to forget what you’re really feeling, so keeping a journal will hold you accountable to your true feelings. Write a list of everything you want to change in yourself or areas of your life that you think needs transformation or healing. In marriage, it is often easy to identify how a partner needs to “step it up,” but difficult to see what changes need to occur in ourselves. Acknowledging these areas of improvement will show your spouse that you are willing to work hard to see positive changes.
- Celebrate little victories: Remember – agreeing to seek counseling is half the battle. Celebrate your bravery and your willingness to make small but impactful changes! When you recognize that you cannot do it on your own, you have the opportunity to put yourself in a position of denial or a position of acceptance. In the Christian faith, we believe Christ works through our weaknesses, so take joy in the decision you have made to seek professional help.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 [English Standard Version]
Safe Harbor Christian Counseling is committed to offering child and adolescent counseling services, adult counseling services and couples counseling. Couples can seek marriage counseling and a pre-marital counseling program, as well as couples intensives that are customized for each couple. Safe Harbor Christian Counseling is passionate about inspiring life and heart changes among married couples, opening the doors to communication and a more enriched marriage.
For more information on Safe Harbor’s counseling, coaching and therapy services, visit visit http://www.safeharbor1.com. Interested individuals are welcome to join in on the faith-based dialogue found on our Facebook page and following Safe Harbor Christian Counseling on Twitter.