Ryan and I are such huge proponents of marriage counseling. We personally have not been through it, but know it is so beneficial from many others. I am thrilled that Cat was willing to share her experiences with you and hope that someone reading will find encouragement if you are in a marriage that is struggling right now.
Hi Diaper Diaries readers! I’m Cat and John Taylor (JT) and I have been married for 7.5 years. Over the years, we’ve endured many joys and trials from child birth, family rifts, job loss, miscarriage, starting a business, moving to job loss again. Today, I want to share one specific journey we’ve traveled together and are still traveling — marriage counseling.
JT had just been laid off from his job for the second time in a two year span. We were living in our home state, but owned a house in a different state that we had been trying to sell for 2.5 years. We had a toddler and an infant. With all the added stress, we struggled with emotions that we didn’t know how to handle. Looking back now, I see that God never left us. But somewhere along the way, JT and I struggled to feel loved by one another. We simply did not know how to communicate our needs or handle conflict anymore. We begin to blame each other for our circumstances, not knowing what else to do. We grew apart. We both agreed that we didn’t want to continue living this way and we sought professional counseling together. We felt it couldn’t get any worse that what we were experiencing, so having nothing to lose we started seeing a Christian marriage counselor in September 2010.
Before we started marriage counseling:
- We both wanted to keep it a secret from everyone. We viewed our issues as weaknesses and didn’t want to reach out to anyone about our struggles.
- We both felt the other person needed to change and perhaps our counselor could “fix” them.
- We both felt that our “problems” were strictly situational, meaning if the stressful times would stop coming, we’d be ok.
- We both were scared to communicate our feelings because somewhere along the way, we started to believe that sharing our feelings meant conflict, non-acceptance, rejection and possibly even condemnation.
After 6 months, we started to really see the change we both wanted to see. I can speak for both of us when we now believe that:
- That going to marriage counseling wasn’t a weakness — it shows maturity. We saw that if we were willing to work to get to the other side, the rewards are incredible.
- That in order for our marriage to grow, we needed to share our struggles with someone spiritually mature and trustworthy for support.
- That we ourselves were the problem. We realized that the best thing we could do for our marriage was to take responsibility for ourselves.
- That our problems were deeper rooted that we ever knew. We learned that before our marriage could fully heal, we must work on our past hurts.
I harbored bitterness, resentment and fear. I believed that I would not be a good wife if I bothered John Taylor by sharing with him all the hurt I held inside. Now, I can see that was very unhealthy and he and I were both harboring hurt feelings about the past. Not only was that getting us nowhere healthy, it was hurting our marriage.
God designed us to be relational human beings. Our strongest need in life is to be in relationships. We are all born sinners and are walking around in the flesh. Conflict is going to happen in our relationships. I believe God actually allows the conflict to be in our earthly life to call us, show us and grow us. Long ago, I thought my struggles were with man. But, the powerful remembrance here is that our battles aren’t really with the people in our lives….but the enemy, who seeks to literally destroy us and our relationships. If you can remember that your conflict is spiritual warfare, then it will be easier for you to conquer and face battles because you will remember that God is greater, stronger, higher, more healing than the enemy. Right? (quoting some Chris Tomlin there)
Before our marriage could heal, we had to experience true forgiveness. This is something that happens in God’s perfect timing, but if you ask, God is there to listen. I was given a forgiveness prayer card and while reading it, I canceled every judgment I made against JT and every way I had applied that judgment against God. I forgave myself for every wrong attitude, action and reaction associated with the offense. I forgave. And then I did one more thing that I feel is crucial — I asked God to come and heal my thoughts, my emotions and my memories from all the damage caused.
My advice to anyone out there struggling in your marriage would be….
* Communicate. Remember that conflict will happen and the best way to deal with it is to make sure you do communicate. Set aside time each week without kids, TV, etc. to talk and share with each other about the week prior — what hurt you, what made you feel loved, what brought you joy.
* Listen. Give your partner the time/attention they deserve to share their feelings. Listen to their needs, desires, wants.
* Be ok with unhappiness. By that, I mean be ok with your partner being upset. One of the major humps in our road was that we didn’t want to upset the other. We instead held everything in. Some people say, just agree that you will sometimes disagree.
* Don’t isolate yourself. Get out and do things together. It helps to have some friends you can trust. The number one thing you need during a difficult time in your marriage is to surround yourself with people that will encourage you to fight for your marriage.
* Work on yourself. The best thing I could ever do for myself and for JT is to pray for God to reveal to me what I needed to change….not pray for Him to change JT.
* Pray for each other. God wants to hear your struggles and desires you face in your marriage. You may not feel that He is there during hard times, but the truth is He is. He is there to teach and guide you. Someone once told me: “Before you talk to your husband about anything, talk to God about your husband.”
* And the main thing I’m learning today is to SURRENDER. As long as I refuse to surrender all to God, I was never be truly free. Instead of everyday being a battle for me to control over every aspect of my life, I am striving to lift it up to Him.
I know that God is not finished with us yet. I can look back and now have a better understanding of why things unfolded in the way they did. I no longer try to question why things are happening in our marriage. If God has worked in our marriage this much the past 7 years, I can only imagine where we’ll be in 7 more years!