Why I Go to Marriage Counseling

By August 6, 201110 Comments

For Ike and me, this weekend is all about celebrating marriage. Today we’ll attend the wedding of some friends in Memphis, and on Monday we’ll celebrate two years of marriage back in Chicago. This year I’m in charge of planning our anniversary and it’s a surprise, so more details later!

I love that our anniversary falls on the same weekend as a wedding this year, because weddings always remind me of my own vows and why I chose to marry Ike. On the drive down to Memphis yesterday, we spent some time reflecting on what we’ve learned over the last 2 years and how we’ve changed. We’ve had some truly remarkable adventures together all over the world, and the longer I’m married to him the more I am humbled by God’s sovereignty in bringing us together. We complement one another in ways I never could have anticipated. Two years later, I still thank God every day for Ike.

These two years have been a blast and a blessing, so you’re probably wondering about the title of this post. I know it’s a strange topic on the weekend of my anniversary, but I also believe there is a real connection between marriage counseling and the quality of our marriage.

Before Ike and I got married, we made the decision to see a marriage counselor as a form of “regular maintenance” on our marriage. One reason for this decision was Ike’s own experience as a child from a broken home. He knew very well the pain of divorce. Plus, we thought it foolish to assume ourselves immune to the high divorce rate in our culture. When one in two marriages fails today, how could we possibly play the odds by being passive?

So rather than wait for trouble to come, we decided to take a preventative approach to marriage. We care for our marriage in much the same way we care for our car–taking it in for occasional tune-ups so that we don’t find ourselves stranded on the side of the road one day with a blown transmission. It’s a lot easier to prevent a disaster than to fix it after the damage has been done

Ike and I also realized that if we waited until something was truly wrong in our marriage, we might be less likely to seek out a counselor. When you are hurt or angry with someone, you sometimes have less motivation to reach out and mend the relationship. You develop a destructive momentum that can be difficult to stop, and we wanted to intervene before that ball even got rolling.

So when we moved to Chicago we started seeing a marriage counselor once a month, and it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made for our marriage. The timing of our appointments has always been perfect–right when we needed an objective outsider for perspective, our counselor was there. And because we dealt with issues before they became ISSUES, we had not built up any significant walls to take down, which makes forgiveness and reconciliation significantly easier.

I won’t pretend to be a marriage expert with my all of two years of marriage and no children. I have no doubt Ike and I will face many difficult seasons ahead. However, I am convinced that our first two years have been as smooth as they have because we worked hard at our marriage. Good marriage is not something that happens as a result of mere chemistry but of discipline and personal investment.

So to those readers who are not yet married but would like to be one day, start having those conversations early. Not first date early, but before you get married early. If your boyfriend or fiancé is already resistant to the idea of seeking wisdom from a counselor or Christian community, then that is a concern to weigh carefully.

To close, the following verse from Proverbs 11:14 is a great nugget of wisdom for us married folks:

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.

Although the context of this verse is different from marriage, the underlying principle is an important one. A successful marriage is not built in a vacuum. Whether or not you go to a marriage counselor, surround yourself with people who know what is going on in your marriage and can speak wisdom into it. Pray together. From the beginning, put preventative measures into place that will help center your marriage and hold you accountable.

And since this is only my second anniversary and that’s all the advice I can give, I would consider it an anniversary gift if some of you could share your own ideas for guarding your marriage and keeping it on the straight path. In the interest of listening to many advisers, I would love to hear from you!

How do you keep your marriage centered?


  • EnnisP says:

    Great post and good idea!

    I actually came across your post while doing a bit of research on an article I want to write, something about planning for marriage. Generally I don’t like to repeat only what others are saying. I’m not so naive to think my ideas are new but I do think of them as old ones revisited or with a new angle.

    And I must admit you really beat me to this one. Well done and keep up the good marriage.

  • Tina says:

    We made a similar commitment to counseling before/during our first years of marriage and I ditto you on the way it has helped us work through things early that we could tell may have the potential after many years of shoving it under the rug to be very destructive. I think there is definitely something to catching things before they become an ingrained pattern for years. The car analogy is great. If we take our cars in for regular maintenance, how much more so should we give that kind of attention to our marriage? One Christian author talks about treating a marriage as sort of 3rd person…there is you, your spouse and your marriage. You have to feed it and nurture it, and address the broken parts. I’ll post the title later, it has slipped my mind at the moment. We have found that the most valuable thing about marriage counseling is the presence of an objective and knowledgeable voice who can validate each of our struggles and perspectives in front of us. For example, It keeps us from being able to hang on to our “way” being the only way or best way. The sad thing is that there is still a stigma about marriage counseling…that it means your marriage is going down the tubes. Another reason to go before you have problems so that you won’t have to deal with getting over the stigma as much when you do in fact have problems…

  • Emily Gidcumb says:

    Is going to that expensive?

  • Sharon says:

    Emily, the price can vary (ours is fairly affordable) but some insurance companies actually cover it. However, lots of universities also have free counseling services for students, which is even better!

  • Sharon says:

    Oh, and don’t forget about checking into your church’s counseling services!

  • Charlene says:

    As someone who has been married twice as many decades as you have years, I agree with you wholeheartedly in that the state of one’s marriage does take intention, prevention and attention. For a couple to agree to that is, I think, a key to a long and happy marriage. However, I don’t think a marriage counselor is the only way to achieve that goal. After our wedding, my husband’s grandfather told us to spend time talking every day. We laughed then, but his advice was invaluable. Intentionally paying attention to one another every single day by doing chores together, eating at least one meal a day together, and/or spending ten minutes focusing only on each other sometime during the day helped build a foundation for the hard times. Keeping that intention was hard sometimes because we were crazy busy. But doing so gave us a mutual respect for one another and the feeling that the other had our back at all times. That was what gave us the impetus and willingness to seek outside help during the hard times that every marriage inevitably faces — unemployment, illness and more. To stretch your car analogy — we’ve had cars that required weekly repairs and others that purred along for years with regular attention. I wouldn’t do unnecessary work on the purring cars just because they “might” need it someday.

    Have been a regular reader for only a short time, but love your thought provoking blog!

  • Ike says:

    Emily, I would add to Sharon’s response on the cost that there are times that I question whether it is worth the money (regardless of the cost, going consistently adds up), but as anyone who has been close to a divorce proceeding knows, divorce is just as, if not more expensive, and not just financially expensive but also emotionally. Therefore, we work to leverage our money toward affording this valuable asset in our marriage. I know that may sound harsh, but its much like eating healthy: you pay in the short term for healthier food, but gain in the long term with a healthier body (not to mention avoiding/postponing even more expensive healthcare procedures).

  • April says:

    I’ve come across this blog in the last couple of months and have throughly enjoyed your thoughts. My husband and I were married two years last week. I’ve always thought people go to marriage counseling when things became bad. I’ve never thought of marriage counseling as a preventive measure but I see the benefit. I think it’s very important for those who are married to be intentional in taking care and maintaining a healthy marriage. What would you suggest for the couple who simply can’t afford the extra cost spent toward marriage cousneling? My husband and I simply can’t afford the extra expense of marriage counseling right now. I believe if we could afford it we would do this. We spend a great deal of time talking things out and communicating. We are also parents which adds an extra component to the marriage. We are intentional in making sure our son is in bed and on a routine so we can spend the evenings together (that’s our time).

  • Sharon says:

    April, Happy Anniversary! Regarding the cost, another great option is your church. Depending on the size of your church, some have full-time counselors who can work with you. In smaller churches, you might consider seeking out a pastor you trust.

    Otherwise, I would find one or two girl friends who aren’t going to tell you what you want to hear but can truly hold you accountable in your marriage. The important thing is that you have people speaking truth and wisdom into your life. Counselors are great because they can equip you with skills for working through conflict, but godly friends will certainly call you on out when you need it.

Leave a Reply