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When to Get Marriage Counseling


June 19, 2013

Question: How does one know when a marriage has reached the point that it could benefit from counseling?

In all honesty, most marriages could benefit from counseling, and it’s not necessary to hit bottom before you go for help. In fact, even if your insurance doesn’t cover the counseling, in most cases it would be a good investment. It’s always interesting that when I hold marriage seminars, the individual arranging the seminar will report that the one’s that needed the seminar the most didn’t show up. That’s probably the reason they needed it the most—they didn’t make their marriage a priority.

Getting back to the question, “How do you know when your marriage has reached a point that you need counseling?” If any the following apply, you may want to consider marriage counseling:

1. Communication is poor, or it has broken down. When you try to broach a subject and it is met with defensiveness, or you are afraid to address troubling subjects, these may be symptoms that a marriage needs work. Often, in these cases, defensiveness or fear gets in the way of solving the problem on your own. It is at this point that a marriage counselor can help move communication forward.

2. Your sex life has changed enough that one or the other has commented on it. You may find that you have lost interest, or you are in a tug of war with one chasing and the other running away. Since this is probably the most private of all subjects, many people don’t discuss the problem with anyone for fear of a breach of confidentiality. Mental health professionals are bound by ethics codes and laws requiring the maintenance of confidentiality. If you are struggling with this aspect of your married I strongly encourage getting professional help.

3. One or the other is not willing to let go of the past. It may seem as if you or your spouse, or both are keeping score. One may have built a wall to protect from further injury. The past may be brought up for no real good reason. It may be used like a club. When this occurs, you may find you have reached an impasse, and you need professional help to get off of high center.

4. Finances may also cause heated debates. When you find that you cannot resolve it on your own, you may need professional help. A professional counselor/therapist may be able to assist in providing tools that will assist the couple in working out a financial plan.

5. Another challenging issue can be disciplining the children. One may believe in corporal punishment and the other doesn’t. One may be more permissive than the other. A worst-case scenario is when one spouse sabotages discipline attempts by the other. Each may blame the other for being too soft or too hard, depending on their individual stance. Another common child-related problem today is in the case of a remarried couple with step-children. Difficulties are increased when the family is made up of his kids, her kids, and our kids. The biological parent may have a tendency to side with his or her own children, setting up serious conflict. At that point, marriage counseling is in order.

6. A good reason to get marriage counseling is to tune up your marriage. Let’s suppose that your relationship is progressing relatively well, but there are a few minor chronic issues, you might want to enter marriage counseling just to make the relationship better.

I hope this helps, and if I can be of assistance, please call.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to

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