I believe in marriage counseling. Unequivocally.
It can breathe life into a dying marriage, heal one that's been hurt, and keep a healthy marriage in good shape, growing tall.
The best time to find a marriage counselor is before you have a serious problem. Think of it as preventative medicine. You go to a doctor for a checkup, right?
You tell the doc if you've got a funny ache, or a cough that won't go away, or some weird bleeding, right? Stuff that doesn't really affect your daily life, but still...
Why not do the same for your marriage? Find a good counselor, and go in for a checkup every few months.
'Find a good counselor'...you may be saying that it's easier said than done. True.
One thing you should not do is go to your church and rely on your pastor for 'free psych work'. Most pastors will be too nice to say no, or if they have to decline, will refer you to a member of the pastoral team...but unless you absolutely can't afford to pay for counseling, don't do this.
It's taking advantage of people who are far busier than you can imagine.
What you can do is talk to your pastor about a counselor he or she would recommend. Most pastors have a pretty good idea of the competence and suitability of the local talent, and will take pains to guide you well.
The most important thing about a counselor is that you have a feeling of friendly neutrality. The counselor should be an objective, interested outsider whom you can respect...and who respects you.
There are counselors who take sides. If you find one, run. Away. Fast.
Schedule the first visit as a meet and greet - and make it clear that you are being proactive in establishing a healthy baseline, to keep your marriage on track and functioning well. You'll see one happy counselor - guaranteed.
Most people run to a counselor when things are spiraling out of control, and too often there's little a professional can do but try to put out fires. Having the chance to help keep a marriage healthy from the start - that's a treat.
But be honest. Don't make it all sweetness and light. If there are minor problems, address them, but don't try to take over the meeting with them.
Allow yourself to be guided. Let the professional be a professional. That's what you hired her for.
Finally, if you're given assignments, stuff to work on - do it. You wouldn't buy a new refrigerator and leave it in the garage, so why leave the tools a counselor gives you 'in the box'?
It does cost money.
But when things are priced according to their value...proactive counseling is the best bargain around.