Have you ever considered (or are you in) marriage counseling? If your marriage is in trouble, the answer is probably YES.
Most therapists who work with couples are trained to do INDIVIDUAL counseling. They view their marriage work as an extension of individual therapy. This is ridiculous. It’s like asking a private tutor to take over a classroom. Let me explain.
Individual counseling is a laid-back experience. The counselor asks questions and empathizes patiently as the client tells their story. Wherever the story goes the counselor follows and makes sure the client feels heard. Together, the client and the counselor discuss available options.
Reconciling a marriage requires STRUCTURE, DIRECTION, and GUIDELINES. And the role of the professional in session is to be assertive and provide LEADERSHIP. Otherwise, a couple will simply move the battle ground from their house to their therapist’s office. The therapist may feel that a lot has been clarified, but that’s because it’s the first time the therapist heard the fight. For the couple, nothing was accomplished. In fact, the couple leaves the session feeling hopeless.
Helping a couple heal a relationship is a completely different process than helping an individual “find themselves.” If you want help with your marriage, you don’t just want a professional to listen; you want someone with the confidence and the ability to provide a clear path to healing and who isn’t shy about holding you and your spouse accountable to it. In short, you want LEADERSHIP. You want direction. You want someone to tell you what to do…what’s worked for other couples. Marriage counseling usually fails in this regard. Marriage Fitness, on the other hand, provides a clear and proven step-by-step system for renewing your marriage.
Picture this: one day Brian gets a wake-up call from his wife and realizes that he better shape up or he’s going to lose his family, Brian agrees to see a marriage counselor. Early in the first session the counselor asks Brian, “How do you FEEL about being here?”
Brian says, “I just want to save my marriage.”
“No Brian, that’s not a feeling,” says the counselor, “that’s a thought. How do you FEEL?”
“I don’t know,” says Brian, “I thought we could talk about solutions to…”
“Brian, you need to work on yourself first before you can work on your marriage.”
But Brian is NOT interested in individual counseling. He’s not looking for insight into himself; he wants to fix his marriage. He doesn’t care about his psyche right now; he cares about his wife. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
Unfortunately, marriage counselors sometimes advise spouses to separate into individual sessions when they really want to work on their marriage. But individual counseling is NOT a prerequisite for marital work!
Let me be clear about this point. I’m NOT saying that there’s anything wrong with self-discovery. In fact, understanding yourself can only be positive AND it will certainly help you succeed with your marriage. However, it’s not necessary. You CAN transform your marriage without entering individual therapy.
Many marriage counselors would describe themselves as “neutral” therapists; meaning that they aren’t in favor of marriage or divorce. Instead, their job is to guide you through a cost-benefit analysis. In other words, would you gain more by staying married or getting divorced?
If you should happen to meet a therapist with this approach, while you’re at it, ask them if you should buy or rent. (Ha Ha!)
Our society has become very consumer oriented. Unfortunately, this consumer mentality has seeped into marital counseling. But deciding about your marriage is NOT akin to a purchasing decision. Relationships and family values do NOT lend themselves to charts listing pros and cons. That would be like trying to grasp an idea with your hand; it’s the wrong approach. And it won’t work.
The other thing worth noting about this cost-benefit approach which is typical amongst “neutral” therapists (by now you can see that they’re not really neutral) is that it “favors” the more self-oriented spouse. But in a troubled marriage, it’s that selfishness that needs to be tamed not freed.
I want you to know that I am NOT neutral. Except where there is physical abuse or danger, my job is to support the POSSIBILITY that you can restore your marriage. I’m pro-marriage. I’m not on your side or your spouse’s side. And I’m on the side of your marriage. And I think that’s what most people need when they’re having marital problems; someone to show them hope and offer them a clear path to restoring their relationship.
She went through the Lone Ranger Track of the Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot Camp and I had a number of private sessions with her and eventually with her husband too. She said something to me after she felt safe in her marriage that I’m really proud of. Julie said, “You know Mort, when we went to marriage counseling, the counselor just kept asking us questions. But I got sick of being asked questions. I wanted answers. You gave me answers. And for that I’m thankful.”
One last important point. I want to be clear that I’m not against counseling. There are some very good counselors who truly understand how to help a couple succeed with their marriage. My comments above are generalizations. Generalizations, by definition, are generally true. Of course, there are exceptions.
It was the darkest time of my life. You always hear “it takes two” and my husband was not interested. Ultimately, I changed so much…our marriage is better than it was…because of Mort’s help.