Marriage is hard. At the least, marriage has seasons where it is hard. This isn’t surprising. If you take two sinners and put them in a pressure cooker together, there will be blood.
Most couples arrive at struggles in their marriage where they are officially out of ideas on how to move forward together on a specific issue – money, parenting, sex, reliability. The same conflicts play over and over on a loop.
Whether through fight or flight, this loop of conflict pumps the poison of resentment straight into our veins. Usually, one of the spouses – often the wife – recognizes the danger of what is happening and calls a time out.
“Maybe we need to see a counselor.”
This is a crucial moment and one that I have seen many men – myself included – handle foolishly. Our response is often troubling and dangerous.
Many men resist going to counseling.
We view needing counseling as a sign of weakness. We believe counseling is for people with serious problems. Other people. Not us. We resent our wives for suggesting it. We think our problems are being exaggerated. Our self-awareness plummets and we lose honest perspective.
I know of one man who made his fiance promise him that she would never make him go to counseling. Years later, this barrier to finding help during hard times has done catastrophic harm to his marriage.
Of course, some of us will go to counseling but we still view our wives as the weak ones. We’re there primarily because our wives are emotional and silly and they need someone else to straighten them out. We agree to counseling as a way to appease our wives. We have no real intention of ever evaluating ourselves or changing the way we live. This view of counseling is as stupid as not going at all.
I have spent a fair amount of time with a counselor in my adult life. Sometimes twice a week. Sometimes once a month. Sometimes, it had to do with issues directly related to my marriage. Other times, life was just hard – my mom died, my ministry was about to go bankrupt, parenting was confusing – and I needed someone older to give me a new perspective. I can tell you this: the money I have spent on counseling is the best money I’ve ever spent. A well-rounded counselor who has the ability to speak the love of God into your life has a profoundly shaping presence.
Let’s make this simple:
Men, as long as we are breathing oxygen we will have blind spots and struggles that require seeking wisdom from other people.
Men, your resistance to going to counseling is one more sign of your weakness, not your strength.
Not even God is stupid enough to go it alone. (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always been in counsel and communion with one another.) What makes us think we’re stronger and more healthy than God?
Many of us feel that our friends should be able to cover these grounds for us. But the truth is that sometimes we need to have many conversations about the same topic over large chunks of time. We need a place to talk about sensitive issues. Sometimes, we need someone who doesn’t have skin in the game to shoot straight with us. We need someone who can think about the truth of scripture and the stories we’ve lived and help us understand the specific ways it affects the way we live now. This is what a good counselor can provide.
So, next time your wife suggests that you may need to see a counselor, show her you love her by doing it. Don’t resist. She’s not suggesting to see a counselor because she hates you. She’s suggesting it because she wants a better life for you both.
Look her in the eye, take a deep breath and offer to make the phone call yourself.
Jesse Eubanks is the Founder & Executive Director of Love Thy Neighborhood – a nonprofit that moves young adults into at-risk neighborhoods to do social justice internships and experience Christian community.