Eugene Marriage Counseling, What a Marriage Counselor Does, and What Actually IS Marriage Counseling or Couples Counseling?
What Happens in Good Eugene Marriage Counseling?
A lot of people are at least skeptical and frequently downright cynical about marriage counseling… and honestly I can’t say I blame them.
Counseling (or therapy) is portrayed in movies and television typically as a moronic activity practiced by half-witted morons… or characters that end up sleeping with their clients, selling drugs for them, or just being so naive about people that they do all kinds of dumb activities that “regular people” would never dream of doing.
Of course it’s not unusual for the media to portray the worst in all of us: craziness, perversion, crime, sexual exploitation, dysfunctional or truly pathological families.
Here are a few of the statements, objections and questions I’ve heard – from people of many ages and walks of life.
- “Does that stuff even work?”
- “Marriage counseling is the fastest way to get divorced.”
- “It’s ok for the women.”
- “If we can’t make it on our own, it’s not worth saving.”
- “Marriage counseling is endless.”
- “Marriage shouldn’t be so hard if it’s meant to be (implying that marital therapy is some kind of admission things are hard… which is held to be bad).”
- “Why would I share what I’m feeling or thinking with a stranger?”
- “Counseling is just too expensive.”
- “I already talk to my friends, why do I need someone who doesn’t even know me and my partner?”
And I’ll mention one more highly sensitive position held by some pastors and Believers I’ve talked to, which is that psychology and Christianity are in some kind of absolute contradiction to each other and that a true Believer should steer clear of psychologists at all costs. I will say a few words about this a bit later in this article, but it deserves a whole article of its own, which I will include at this site soon.
Needless to say there are many objections to entering into marriage counseling, and I’d like to address those here, at least in a brief way. You’re certainly welcome to ask me questions about any of these or write me at the email address listed here on the site at any time. I welcome your questions or comments.
First let me reiterate that I don’t blame you if you have doubts. It can be scary to enter into counseling as a couple, especially when the very relationship is under pressure and scrutiny… and you may even be considering ending it. It’s huge.
The fastest way to reduce anxiety about something is to understand it and feel comfortable with it. So allow me to address some of those objections I mentioned before, and then tell you my version of what good Eugene Marriage Counseling is or should be.
“Does that stuff even work?”
A physician I spoke with asked me that question. The answer is yes, if the skills of the marriage counselor are up to the task, if the couple can specify what “works” means (such as identifying their goals for marital counseling), an if the couple is sincere about attaining those goals.
I mention that last part about sincerity because in my experience sometimes people come to couples counseling for all kinds of reasons that have little to do with actually getting couples therapy. Some come in to just say “we tried everything.” Some come in to just try to prove their partner wrong. Some come in because they were dragged kicking and screaming or because someone extorted them into couples counseling. No bueno, but it happens.
Look, if you believe that sincere people of any kind who share common goals can mediate differences between them to restore harmony, love, warmth and understanding, then you can believe that marriage counseling can achieve those things in the hands of a good counselor, right?
A marriage counselor cannot turn hate, scorn or CONTEMPT between a couple into warmth, love and openness by waving a magic wand or staring into someone’s eyes and telling them to abandon all prior negative feelings… but a process of good marriage counseling can definitely help open the door to such a transformation
- I’ve seen such results many many times over the years I’ve been practicing marriage counseling, and I’ll see such results many more times.
“Marriage counseling is the fastest way to get divorced.”
This is of course a very cynical perspective, mostly held by people who really want to get divorced, or people who are afraid to commit to a marriage fully and deeply
It can lead to a really fast divorce sometimes, that’s true. If handled the wrong way, opening people up to expressing their feelings or thoughts without guidance or limits or care can really open up negative things in powerful and too sudden ways. Over-believing that “expressing your feelings” is the core of marriage counseling is a distortion and mistake often committed by newbie couples therapists.
- It all depends on the skills of the marriage counselor, the clarity of the goals of the couple, and the desire of the couple to achieve those goals.
“It’s ok for the women.”
Historically, counseling has typically been said to be more comfortable and familiar for women. There are several reasons given for this, incuding the amount of practice (notice I didn’t say HELPFUL practice) at talking about relationships, and expressing feelings.
- None of this means women are better at relationships or better at being in counseling… and
- None of this means that men are worse at relationships or counseling is not suited for them.
I’ve found men to be be very good at relationships and very effective at being in couples counseling, at least as much as women.
I’m not sure where the prejudice against men came from, but I will say this: if you’re in a relationship that involves men, and get with a marriage counselor who is prejudiced against men or believes that women are superior at relationships than men, I highly recommend you run like heck to get away from this counselor, because that person will do you and your relationship harm.
“Marriage counseling is endless.”
Well, bad marriage counseling is endless. Good marriage counseling should BEGIN with the end in mind and a very concrete way of measuring progress toward goals.
- Good marriage counseling should never leave you feeling you don’t know what’s going on, where you’re headed or what your progress is toward the goals you’ve set with your marriage counselor.
“If we can’t make it on our own, it’s not worth saving.”
It’s weird that people would think this way about counseling when they don’t think this way about other things. No one thinks “If I can’t repair my own car, it’s not worth saving.”
People seem to think that relationships should be wired in to people in such a way that it shouldn’t require any help, when they don’t feel that way about so many other things in their lives.
Long term relationships are NOT wired into our DNA. Until the turn of the 20th century, most people didn’t live nearly as long as we do today.
From the 1500s onward, till around the year 1800, life expectancy throughout Europe hovered between 30 and 40 years of age, and as of 1900, it was still only about 50. A person born today can reasonably expect to live to 100, and as of this writing in 2016, a person in his or her 60’s isn’t automatically considered “old,” but may be fully engaged in a profession, skiing, long-distance bicycle riding, and a host of other physically demanding activities.
Things that get a lot of mileage wear out and need maintenance. Relationships are no different. If you’ve been in a committed relationship for 10, 20, 30, 40 years or more, the likelihood you’ve never hit a roadblock that seemed impassible, grew bored with each other, or never thought it was time to move on to another relationship are near zero.
- AND, just because something needs maintenance or repair doesn’t mean it should be thrown away, right? Marriages which require some help aren’t suddenly worthless.
It’s OK to get some help.
“Why would I share what I’m feeling or thinking with a stranger?”
Sharing with a stranger who is a skilled marriage counselor may be the very best thing you could do!
Because your friends and family are more likely than not to tell you what you want to hear, and not what you need to hear.
You shouldn’t talk to your family or friends about your marriage.
One reason is your spouse might feel it is a betrayal or serious disloyalty!
Your friends and family want to “keep the peace” with you, and will usually side with you to do that. So if you’re having conflicts with your partner, your friends and family are likely to side with you, thus squeezing your partner out and not giving him or her a chance to work things out with you.
The people who love you most might be poisoning your marriage.
A marriage counselor doesn’t have that history or role with you as your friend or family member, and if the counselor is skilled he or she will know better than to be leveraged by you to take your side just “to keep the peace” with you.
- A skilled “stranger” could be the very best friend your marriage ever had.
“Counseling is just too expensive.”
Good marriage counseling generally isn’t cheap. But compared to things like divorces, affairs, or living in misery for the next 40 years, it’s quite inexpensive.
If you can’t see the benefits of good Eugene Marriage Counseling at this point in this article, you may not be ready for it. I’ll be here when you are.
If there are any lingering questions or objections to couples counseling at this point, please email me or call me and I’ll be glad to answer those for you. There are also other articles here on the EugeneMarriageCounseling.com site to consult.