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Go to Marriage Counseling But Don’t Use a Pastor | East Texas Moms Blog

As our allowed 45 minutes of therapy came to a close, the therapist looked at us and cheerfully said, “Well, you’re not in crisis. This is good. I’ll see you next week!” 

My husband and I looked at each other… not in crisis? It almost came across as if we were getting an award… 

Things had been simmering (and not in that way) for weeks. While we were still speaking to each other cordially –  that is where the not in crisis ended as far as we were concerned.

The above situation was just the tip of the iceberg. The REAL fight was how to remedy the situation… and did we even want to? We weren’t sure. Finding help for a strained marriage isn’t quite as clear cut as running to the local Emergency Room for an x-ray.

While disagreeing exponentially about all the particulars of the actual offending occurrence, the one thing we did agree on was this: a pastor wasn’t the guy for the job.

Let’s be honest — pastors are our go-to for evvvvvvverything. Even if you don’t attend church regularly, you probably claim one and attend on the token holidays of Christmas, Easter and Mothers Day.

But…*in my opinion* it’s a little….eh, relationally rude… to only give them a call when you’re getting married/knocked up/headed towards divorce/the cemetary. Also, in my personal experience… pastors are emotionally invested in some way or another {which isn’t all together bad}. Typically, most of us live in small enough towns and cities to be just connected enough to know things. Pastors know enough about your history to have preconceived notions. Are pastors equipped? Sure. Do they want to help? Absolutely! …but just because someone is equipped and able to help you doesn’t mean they should.

Lastly – in my opinion –  if you are a regular church go-er… chances are… having your pastor as a marriage counselor will not enrich your pastoral relationship. So what did we do?

We signed ourselves up for professional therapy.

Warning: This is where buyers remorse sets in. All of the sudden, we were fine! I like you! I forgive you! No more lies, I promise! Transparency! I’ll say what I mean! Neither one of us wanted to keep the appointment. Folks.

KEEP THE APPOINTMENT

This is the HARDEST part. Well, other than placing the phone call for help. It’s awful. Things will get worse before they get better because you are dreading this airing of the laundry. This is why hiring a professional counselor is important. If you view it as business transaction and not a favor from a pastor – you’re more likely to value the time and money spend on getting help.

I was talking with an acquaintance just yesterday about marriage therapy/counseling. She’s the best kind of acquaintance – relationally real enough to speak frankly but not so connected to my life that she doesn’t know the specifics of my marriage struggles. She was quick to tell me that too many people wait until they’re apathetic to seek counseling. When they walk in, she can tell that they are simply there to “check the square” so they can say they “tried everything before throwing in the towel”. 

Interview the Therapist

I went to the first appointment alone. I had a list of questions and really felt bad because I was SO not my typical self. In fact, I was a little… rude? Or so it felt for this Southern-be-nice-to-a-fault gal. I asked our therapist (who was a lady) what she thought about working moms {she is one}. What she thought about separate checking accounts {yours, mine and ours}. Did she think anxiety/depression could be “prayed away” or was there a legitimacy to chemical based struggles {yes and yes}? Did she sign couples up for counseling plans (6 sessions for $, 12 for less $)? {hell no}. 

Asking these questions of my pastor would have been fine, actually – but I would’ve most likely held back a little because, hello! talking to a pastor! but out of respect for my church leadership – I don’t ever want to put them in a position where they feel like they can’t be 100% honest because they’re afraid of losing a church member or worse… a church member’s tithe.

 

Discuss “talking points” with your partner the night before your appointment

 Now, I will say … this has the potential to be disastrous. But awesome too. We took an “us versus therapist” stance here and not to her demise, but we struggled to know how we felt. This helped.

 

Go to your “last” appointment

We also almost just cancelled. It was that time of year when school parties and sports and Christmas and birthdays and growing-children-who-need-shoes-and-socks come together so that all of the money dissipates into thin air. We didn’t want to spend that money but in the end we didn’t regret it. It was such a satisfying moment for both us to *high five* and say, “we did it!”.

Things are still a mess.

No happy ending here other than we’re still married. We attend church (most of the time) without any weird feelings. The shining light in this is that church is a place of respite for us. We can sit together in a quiet room and really make a concerted effort to think about others before ourselves. So, maybe there’s a happy ending after all! 🙂

 

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