Marriage counseling has an unfortunate stigma attached to it, which means most couples won't seek help until they are ready to call it quits. At that point, seeking marriage counseling becomes at best a perfunctory effort to save the marriage. When one or both partners have detached themselves from the marriage and are ready to move on, counseling is not going to help.
One of the best times to seek marriage counseling is BEFORE you get married. Churches frequently offer this service to young couples planning for marriage. It mostly helps them evaluate why they're getting married, opens their eyes to the joys as well as the responsibilities of marriage, and helps them decide whether it is really the wisest course.
Some couples seek counseling just so they can enrich their relationship. Think of it this way: Would you attend a photography class because you want to stop hating photography, or because you already like photography and want to learn as much as possible about it? You can look at marriage counseling the same way.
You'd also want to consider marriage counseling when you're having relationship problems, and divorce has started crossing your mind. If you have children, you'd want to try even harder to figure out if you can save this relationship. Although there are certainly cases where it's better for everyone if the couple divorces, it's usually better to try and work things out first.
If you or your partner suffers from depression or a mental disorder, you should seek more than just marriage counseling. You need professional help that will address this. You can seek marriage counseling too, of course, but don't neglect the root problem.
Remember, relationship counseling does not have to be a negative thing. Avoid using marriage counseling as a last-ditch effort to save your relationship. If you are just starting to consider divorce but aren't yet ready to throw in the towel, now is a good time to seek counseling.
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