Is Couples Counseling Only A Last Resort?

When Adam and I got engaged one of the first things we did was sign up for couples counseling. I know, for most people this hardly sounds like the start to a happy marriage—but it actually is!

Adam & Kara 004Sure, Adam and I eagerly booked the church, found a reception hall, and secured a photographer, but the pre-marriage prep we looked forward to the most was the couples counseling. I know a lot of people cringe when they hear the word “counseling,” they think, What?! What’s wrong? It must be something terrible if they can’t figure it out on their own! Counseling is often viewed as a last-ditch effort, when backs are up against the wall and no other option remains.

But, Adam and I looked forward to our counseling sessions and viewed them as an opportunity to learn how to love each other better and to grow as a couple. We were able to talk about where we struggled and get advice about how to work on it. We also tackled questions that we had never thought of before, like when is the best time of the day for us to have “big” discussions? Or how do our different family backgrounds affect our view of marriage?

The truth is, all the couples in our church are required to go through counseling before the big day. The mandatory counseling meant Adam and I, separately, took “inventory” of our relationship (this means filling in a lot of those little multiple choice circles!) and then came together to meet with our priest to go over the results. While the counseling sessions did touch on areas where we could improve, it wasn’t all about what we were doing wrong. Talking things through in these sessions also confirmed that we were doing many things right!

The best and most important part of our pre-marriage counseling was that the priest made sure we knew what we were getting into—a lifelong commitment. That is, he reminded us that divorce isn’t an option. I wasn’t promising Adam that I’d stay married to him as long as he kept me happy. No, I was promising that I would love him in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

We were reminded that there will be those “bad” and “poor” and “sick” times, but that those are the times we can choose to love more intensely, more beautifully. It’s easy to love when there are butterflies fluttering and you are filled with the anticipation of your upcoming marriage, but what about when the rubber meets the road and the going gets tough (because all relationships have their moments)? Will we commit to loving then?

Thankfully those sessions reaffirmed that we indeed wanted to marry each other. They also gave us life skills and tools to make our marriage the best it can be. Plus, with all of the wedding day decisions that needed to be made, the counseling sessions gave us the opportunity to slow down and focus on our marriage, which was the whole reason we were having a wedding in the first place!

What about you? Have you ever received any relationship counseling? Would you be open or hesitant to it in the future?

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