When Sharol and I were marriage pastors at a large church in California, we lived next door to a pair of lawyers… divorce lawyers! We became pretty good friends with Pat and Sandy and in one of our conversations about marriage and divorce, we asked them if there was a common denominator in all the couples they worked with.

They said, “Sure. They all got on their issues way too late.”

That was 12 years ago, but we have never forgotten that conversation, and to this day we continue to encourage couples to seek third-party help. Here’s the why, when and how of reaching out in order to grow a stronger, lasting marriage.

Why a counsellor? Because we all need some help from time to time:

  • We call a trades-person when we have something we don’t know how to fix;
  • We call a medical person when we are in pain or distress of some kind;
  • We call an expert when are trying to get better at something but feel stuck.

These are the same reasons we can and should connect with a counsellor:

  • When we are stuck at a certain stage of our relationship — dealing with the same issues over and over.
  • When we are experiencing pain and distress caused by a breach of trust, grief, mental illness, stress or any one of a host of issues, a counsellor can provide short-term support and longer-term strategies for good health.
  • And a counsellor can be helpful even when we are doing well but just want to stay healthy and keep growing.

When? The short answer is “now.”

Perhaps you’re feeling a little friction in your relationship and you’ve been trying to address it, but the friction just won’t go away. It’s time to seek some help before the friction turns into a fracture. Many couples delay seeking help by downplaying the issue, telling themselves it isn’t that bad or that it will soon go away.

Some couples delay due to pride — a sense that only weak people need help — or due to shame — the belief that it’s a personal failure to need help from others. These are unhealthy and unbiblical positions. 1 Peter 5:5 says “God resists you when you are proud but multiplies grace and favour when you are humble.” Don’t wait for your spouse to go first and don’t concern yourself with what others might think. Lay down your pride, be humble and admit that something is going on and you need assistance. And do it now.

If the friction has already created a fracture in the relationship, it’s even more important to seek assistance immediately. The sooner the intervention, the smaller the damage and the quicker the recovery. And remember this — no matter how late in the game you think it is, never give up hope. The common denominator in divorce is that one or both spouses lose hope. People often tell us their marriage ended because of this or that but the interesting thing is that we have seen other couples overcome the very same issues.

The difference is this — the couples who ultimately reconciled never lost hope, they kept pushing forward and they didn’t do it alone. They reached out and found
the help they needed.

This is a good thing, it is a God thing and it is a necessary thing.

NEIL JOSEPHSON is the National Director with FamilyLife Canada. Neil, together with his wife Sharol, lead FamilyLife Canada. Neil loves to learn, teach and write about anything related to marriage, family and Christian discipleship. Married since 1982, Neil and Sharol have two great sons, two awesome daugther-in-laws and three of the sweetest grandchildren ever.
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