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Do We Really Need Couples Counseling?

4 Signs It Might be Time

I come from a long line of “we’ll figure it out” kind of people. From my grandfather who built the first radio in his small hometown village in Greece, to my dad who won’t let me hire anyone to do repairs at my house. In many ways I value those traits of self- reliance, and not just because it saves me money. However, the question remains: when do we run the risk of doing more damage than good by trying to ‘figure it out’ ourselves?

In the days of YouTube and Google it’s possible to research almost any problem. However, when it comes to changing your marriage, YouTube and Google can only take you so far (That being said, Google is really good at showing you how to ALWAYS LISTEN) Maybe YouTube and Google are old news to you, so you ask ChatGPT the secrets of a great marriage (and probably get a better answer than I can give) YET in many cases even the most advanced AI can only help you identify the problem, not solve it.

I know, counseling can be a scary step. It is common in the counseling center for us to hear a statement to the effect of: “I don’t think we need counseling, but she does, that’s why we’re here. All couples struggle I’m not sure we’re worse off than anyone else.”

I get it. All couples do struggle and not all couples need counseling all the time, but the question remains, how do we know when it’s the right time to get help?

Here are 4 signs that it might be time:

1) Your Marriage Causes You Persistent and Significant Pain

This is sort of a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that pain is the body’s attempt to help you heal. Pain tells you where and what needs addressing, and to treat the hurt with care until the problem is addressed. Now if you’re healthy and pain free that’s great, but if your marriage is unhealthy and pain free this often is a symptom of resignation. Resignation in marriage is much harder to address than pain. So, relatively speaking pain is good. That’s the good news. The “bad” news is that couples therapy often will heighten the pain in a marriage AT FIRST. When you begin to address the underlying problems (think kids and splinters situation) the pain may feel worse. To this point it’s important to remember the old adage “it often gets worse before it gets better.” It makes sense then why good people avoid counseling. The pain of staying the same seems less than the pain of change, but this idea sadly keeps many people from long term healing that could be theirs.

2) You Can’t Stop Having the ‘Same Old Fight’

The second sign that you may need outside help is that you can’t seem to stop having the same…old…fight. Not surprisingly, the most common repeat offenders are fights about sex and money. However, for your marriage it may be household roles, parenting, a move decision, schooling preferences, in-laws/family dynamics, or a host of other topics. In counseling we can begin to unpack the deeper motivations and desires or hurts that often get missed in these repeat fights.

3) You’ve Just Gone Through a Major Life Change and Haven’t Been Able to Connect Since

There are lot of changes that do not necessitate counseling. However, when a major life change causes a rupture in your relationship, and you are finding it nearly impossible to regain your footing, this is a great time to get extra help. Examples may be a job transition, empty nest syndrome, a new medical diagnosis, retirement, or a new baby. Many of these kinds of changes have the potential to knock us off course, and in those times, a counselor can be of great help in plotting a new path forward.

4) You Can’t Let Go Of A Previous Wound

Just like physical wounds, some injuries cause long term damage. In these cases, we often hear clients say they have two minds about the marriage. Part of them wants to heal and forgive, and the other part says you are stupid for trusting them again. Affairs, addictions, and previous abuses are a common example of these kinds of wounds. However, it may also be a wound created by being absent during a time of an acute emotional need or a comment once made in jest that for some reason you can’t forgive. If you’re stuck on a previous pain, counseling is often an essential part of the healing process. We often cannot fully grieve or forgive what we have not fully accounted for, and it may take time to understand the reason and full effects someone’s decision may have had on your heart.

In conclusion, perhaps you are realizing that you check a box or two (or more) on this list, and maybe you’re thinking it might be time to take a next step. If that’s you, please talk to your spouse, pray for wisdom and God to bring the right person to come alongside you and your marriage. Feel free to visit our website or email to learn more about couples counseling at Bayside Counseling Center. I genuinely hope and pray that your marriage has all the support it needs to both survive and thrive.

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Gina Mertz
Gina Mertz
Aug 17, 2023

Great article Jeremy! It really helps us understand the difference between typical couples issues vs. troubling dynamics that need professional help.


Good, Kevin. So glad you wrote this! We ALL need some counseling sometimes. The enemy wants us to feel shame around admitting our struggles and asking for help. But Jesus is a no-shame guy, and solid Christian counseling needs to be a no-shame zone. Anybody who claims they have it all together and never needs counseling has a lot more issues than they're willing to admit, perhaps including pride. I'm so grateful for the competent counselors that have helped me through tough times. I wouldn't be nearly as healthy as I am today without them. And, I'm sure I will need more counseling in the future. Transformation (renewing our minds) is a lifelong process. We never "arrive" until we "shuffle…

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