the shape of leadership

Four Bad Excuses for Avoiding Marriage Counseling

Don’t put off seeking the help you and your spouse need

Greg Ford on January 14, 2020

Marriage can be tough. It may start out as a bed of roses, but eventually the thorns can overtake the fragrant petals. What should you do when the wedding bells start causing migraines and “happily ever after” begins to feel more like a life sentence?

It’s easy to fall into passive-aggressive modes of communication or turn away in apathetic indifference. But such responses only breed anger and confusion and deepen the divide.

The best solution is to connect with someone who has the skills to help you get past not only this season, but other difficult seasons and situations as they come. Most pastors have heard about the benefits of marriage counseling, and many have advised others to seek such help. So why aren’t more of us following through?

In my experience, there are four common reasons ministry couples avoid marriage counseling. I’ll address each of these objections in turn.

It’s a Waste of Time

Every marriage could benefit from counseling. I know mine has — and many of my ministry friends would say the same. If you’re considering seeking help, you are in good company. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep from failing in your commitment.

If someone broke into your house and threatened your family, you would be willing to fight to protect them. So why would you knowingly turn a blind eye to an issue that threatens to tear apart your family? Investing in your marriage is never a waste of time. 

It’s Embarrassing

We’ve all done things we wish we could take back. Instead of letting concern about what others might think paralyze you, let it become the motivation you need to take that first step toward healing. Your example will inspire someone to seek help when they need it. Don’t let pride keep you from doing the right thing — and leading the way for those who are watching.

It’s Hopeless

No marriage is hopeless. It may feel hopeless, but it’s not. It will take two people who are willing to put in the effort to make it work. It will take humility, intentionality and determination. It will take patience, prayer and faith in a God with whom all things are possible.

Instead of letting concern about what others might think paralyze you, let it become the motivation you need to take that first step toward healing.

Start today. Don’t wait for your spouse to make the first move. You can be the catalyst for change. One person taking the first step is often the encouragement the other person needs to jump on board.

Don’t give up. It will be a journey, and you may experience more setbacks along the way. Keep persevering. On the other side is something beautiful. Your marriage can become better than it’s ever been.

It’s Too Expensive

The costliest course of action is not taking care of your marriage. A divorce is much more expensive than marriage counseling — and not just monetarily. Think of the potential cost to your children and ministry. Consider the toll on your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

You spend money on what you most value. I encourage you to look closely at your budget and do whatever it takes to free up the funds for counseling. Here are some ideas:

  • Downgrade your phone plan.
  • Cancel your cable.
  • Sell one of your cars.
  • Sell your house and move into something more affordable.
  • Don’t eat out for six months.
  • Take a less expensive vacation, or skip it altogether.
  • Don’t buy new clothes for six months.
  • Cancel your gym membership, and work out at home.

If you have kids who are old enough to feel the pinch of the adjustment, use it as a teaching moment about the value of marriage and the necessity of making it a priority. Sit down as a family and say, “We are going through a hard time in our marriage, but don’t worry. We are not going to quit. We need to move some money around so we can afford to get help.”

Don’t assume your kids won’t be receptive. They probably won’t be surprised your marriage is struggling. They will be thrilled to know you are committed to working it out. Your words and actions will provide a powerful lesson on how to handle marriage problems when they experience them someday.

Children won’t resent the budget cuts when they understand the reason behind them. Even if they do complain now, your kids will see it differently when they are adults. Either way, they will go to bed that night more secure than when they woke up that morning.

The stakes are high. The centerpiece of our country, culture and society is the family. The centerpiece of the family is the marriage. If you need help, get it. No excuses.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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