Reasons not to see a marriage counselor? I know it sounds crazy by our modern understanding of marriage. If marriage is a partnership of equals and in any partnership there will be disagreements why would counseling ever not be a good idea?
In an article from GotQuestions.com (http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-marriage-counseling.html) they list these 10 reasons that Christian couples should seek marriage counseling:
1. Inability to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
2. One partner dominating the relationship so that the needs of the other are not met.
3. Inability to compromise.
4. Either partner stepping outside the marriage to “fix” the problems.
5. Breakdown in communication.
6. Confusion about the roles of each spouse in the marriage.
9. Disagreement about parenting styles.
These are actually NOT reasons for a Christian couple to seek marriage counseling. But to understand why these are not reasons to seek couples counseling we first need to understand four principles regarding Biblical marriage.
Four Biblical principles that should be considered before marriage counseling is pursued
The first principle of Biblical Marriage
The wife is to submit to her husband as her head in everything(Ephesians 5:23-24)
The second principle of Biblical Marriage
The wife is to reverence her husband as her master (Ephesians 5:33 & I Peter 3:5-6)
The third principle of Biblical Marriage
A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves his Church and as he loves his own body (Ephesians 5:25-31 & 33)
The fourth principle of Biblical Marriage
A husband is to know and honor his wife (I Peter 3:7)
So as we can clearly see from the Scriptures – marriage as God designed it is not a partnership of equals but it is instead a patriarchy (male lead hierarchy).
Some people might ask – why are the first two principles referring to women submitting to and reverencing their husbands?
I address a woman’s obligation to submit to and reverence her husband first because in the Bible God always addresses those under authority to obey and respect their authority first. Then God addresses those in authority and their treatment of those under their authority. So these principles are actually in the Biblical order that God addresses husbands and wives.
Biblical Principles regarding counseling
In my guide “When should a Christian couple seek a marriage counselor?” I discuss from a Biblical perspective the pros and cons of modern marriage counseling.
In that guide I discuss that while the Bible exhorts us to seek wise counsel, it also tells us that it unwise to allow ourselves to either hear counsel that undermines God’s law and his design of marriage or even if that counsel is wise if it is given in the wrong venue then it can still be wrong.
We need make sure that both WHAT counsel we receive and HOW we receive are right.
For instance there are things that a man needs to learn from another man in private about how to properly treat his wife and children. But it would be inappropriate in most cases for a man to be being corrected by another man in front of his wife and children. It undermines his Biblical authority over them, even if the advice is Biblically based. One of the few cases where it would be ok for a man to be corrected and stopped in front his wife and children is if he were physically abusing them.
See my post “When should a Christian couple seek a marriage counselor?” for more guidelines on when Christian couples should actually seek counseling and how they should seek it in various scenarios.
Now we will apply these Biblical principles about marriage and counsel to GotQuestions.com’s list.
Application of Biblical principles regarding marriage and counseling to GotQuestions.com’s 10 reasons for marriage counseling
“1. Inability to resolve conflict in a healthy way.”
Ok if this has to do with physical abuse by either spouse then I would agree the counseling needs to be sought and in some cases the civil authorities may need to be involved. But often this issue of resolving conflict in a “healthy way” refers to couples yelling at one another.
A husband should not be yelling at his wife all the time, while there may be some cause for husband to raise his voice to his wife if she acting in a rebellious way. But even if a husband does yell at his wife more than he should – this is not something for a marriage counselor to solve. This is not something where a wife gets to run to a counselor and say “he yells at me too much”. He is her authority, she is to reverence him, obey him and serve him as his wife despite his flaws. This does not mean she cannot bring her concerns to him gently – but there is no cause for a third party in the form of a marriage counselor to come in and undermine his spiritual authority.
“2. One partner dominating the relationship so that the needs of the other are not met.”
Ok let’s be honest – they are prettying much targeting men with this “dominating the relationship” comment.
But first what does “dominate” mean?
These are some definitions of “dominate” as given by Webster’s online dictionary:
“rule or control”
“to exert the supreme determining or guiding influence on”
“to have or exert mastery, control, or preeminence”
“to occupy a more elevated or superior position”
Did we not just see in the Scriptures that the husband is the wife’s head and she is to regard him as her master in all things? Is the husband not to occupy the superior position in marriage if he is to follow God’s design and model for marriage?
So a man “dominating” this marriage in this regard is not only not wrong, but it commanded by God.
But if by dominating that means he is selfish and cares nothing about meeting his wife’s needs that God has commanded him to do then this is indeed a problem.
God defines what a wife’s needs are and how a husband must meet them. He must provide food, clothing, shelter and sex to his wife. He must know her (talk to her and spend time with her) and honor her position as his wife. But how he goes about these tasks is at HIS discretion. It is not the place of the wife to seek out a marriage counselor for her husband’s failures in these types of things.
“3. Inability to compromise.”
What compromise? The husband is to be the decider and the wife is to be the follower. A husband is to hear his wife’s concerns about various issues but ultimately the decisions are his to make whether it be in what church they attend, financial areas, what they teach their children regarding morality and the disciplining of the children and other areas of their marriage.
“4. Either partner stepping outside the marriage to “fix” the problems.”
If this is referring to a wife bad mouthing her husband or husband bad mouthing his wife to others then yes this is wrong – but again this is something that can and should be handled by the couple themselves.
“5. Breakdown in communication.”
Yes couples need to talk (I Peter 3:7 husbands need to know their wives, and Titus 2:4 wives are to show affection for their husbands).
Let’s first tackle the silent husband. If the husband is not talking to his wife this usually is for one of two reasons. The first has to do with her behavior regarding issues such as sexual neglect, neglect of her home, neglect of her children or disrespectful speech or behavior. The second reasons husbands may be silent is simply a selfish neglect toward their wife.
In either case a husband does not have the right to give his wife the silent treatment but neither does his wife have the right to seek out a marriage counselor in order to “tell on him” for his neglect. She needs to work within the marriage to find ways to encourage him to talk to her and to continue loving him, respecting him and submitting to him despite his neglect in this area.
But what about the silent wife? A wife giving her husband the silent treatment is more than just neglect to her duty to be affectionate toward him. It is an act of rebellion. It does not call for marriage counseling. It calls for Biblical discipline by her husband.
“6. Confusion about the roles of each spouse in the marriage.”
What confusion? The Bible is clear – the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to submit to her husband in everything. The husband is to lead, provide and protect and the wife is to be the keeper of his home and bear and care for his children. No confusion, no counseling needed. Only an acceptance of the four Biblical principles of marriage that I outlined is required.
Again let’s not kid ourselves – this targeted at men. Your husband looking at a picture of a naked woman may be offensive to you but again what Biblical right do you have to go and “tell” on your husband to a counselor (or anybody else for that matter)? Is he accountable to you or is he accountable to God?
If a wife hides things from her husband say in regard to spending or is secretly undermining his directions for the children this is a sin against his authority as she is accountable to him. But he should not take her to marriage counselor over this, but rather he should exercise Biblical discipline toward her (e.g. cut up her credit cards).
If a husband hides things from his wife we must really look at what he is hiding. If he is hiding an affair or the fact that he is a drug dealer then these extreme situations would warrant a wife seeking outside help from his authorities in the church or civil government depending on what it was. But other than these big ticket items if he is hiding spending or hiding other things from her – HE is not accountable to her. He is her authority, she is not his.
“9. Disagreement about parenting styles.”
Yes husband and wives are going to disagree about parenting styles. The husband should hear his wife and truly consider her position. But at the end of the discussion it is ultimately his decision as to what parenting style will be applied. The Bible does not allow for a wife to drag her husband to a marriage counselor to convince him that her style is the better one to use.
A drug addiction or alcohol addiction may be a reason for a wife to seek help from her husband’s authorities as these can directly affect the safety of her and her children. A gambling addiction may be a reason to seek outside help IF this addiction is causing the family not to have food or shelter which a husband is required to provide.
But other than these types of addictions if a husband is say “addicted” his job, to watching sports, watching regular movies, watching porn on his computer or playing video games it is not the place of a wife to seek outside help for these things for her husband. Remember she is not responsible for him and his behavior. Only those things which can cause a real danger to the family or are cause for Biblical divorce would allow a wife to seek outside help.
As we can see in most cases except for extreme conditions none of these 10 reasons for seeking couples counseling would be Biblically valid when we apply the four principles of Biblical marriage to these situations.