Sirens blaring means ‘help is on the way’

[shudder] I’m sitting here watching a parade of ambulances and other emergency appliances racing past with lights and sirens blasting. Whatever sparked this call out, it can’t be good.

Until recently, this kind of scenario had the potential to pull me into a mild panic, which is kind of silly when you consider that the crisis most likely began 20 minutes or more ago, and what I’m seeing is in fact the beginning of the solution.I’m grateful to a friend who re-languaged it for me – “the sirens mean that help is on the way”.

I wonder if we sometimes have this kind of disconnect over the idea of relationship counselling. If I’m totally honest, my knee jerk response a couple seeking counselling would almost certainly be along the lines of  ‘oh, is it that bad?’

I know of a handful of couples who have had or are having marriage mentoring, or professional counselling, and I could probably write a list of couples whose relationships would benefit from the same,[ including my own], but I’ve never even heard of anyone who has said ‘things are going okay, let’s get some professional help to make it even better!’

One of the few ‘socially acceptable’ times a couple may get relationship counselling is in the lead-up to their wedding, often included as part of the Celebrant’s fee, but in my experience, most couples will avoid dong it, if they possibly can.

Why is that, I wonder? Why do I struggle to admit that I sometimes need outside help, as if that would some how mean that things weren’t going well, when the truth is that, just like hearing sirens in the distance, what it really means is that help is getting closer.

What could we achieve if we removed the stigma from seeking help for our relationships?What would our families and communities be like if, instead of viewing relationship counselling as an admission of failure, it became more like routine maintenance? How much better could our marriages be if, instead of waiting for a crisis to hit, couples were proactive about getting good tools into their relationship toolbelts?  That’s not going to happen anytime soon if we keep viewing relationship counselling as something that’s “only for relationships that are in trouble”.

Relationship counselling works. It must do, otherwise why would we have government-funded counselling options? Marriage mentoring can offer a fantastic relationship roadmap.  Educating yourself and your spouse so that you communicate clearly is an excellent investment of your time, money and enthusiasm.

So, to start the ball rolling, how about this: If you were offered pre-marital counselling, but have been putting it off, don’t! If you’re serious about spending the rest of your lives happily married to one another, grab every opportunity you get to improve your relationship. I’m sure that not all of what you’re offered will be life-changing, but even if you learn one new thing, I think it will have been worth it.

And, if it’s too long ago, or if you were never even offered pre-marital counselling in the first place – go seek some out! I’ve known The Mister for more than 20 years, and I’m still learning new things about what makes him tick, what makes our relationship stronger, and what threatens it.

If you don’t have any other options, head down to your local library and see what’s on the shelves. I can really recommend learning about love languages, personality differences, learning styles, etc, just for starters. [And you know you can always drop me an email for more ideas, inspiration and information! ]

As a society, we change our thinking all the time. Once upon a time an unwed mother was a terrible scandal. Once upon a time, staying in a violent marriage was the right thing to do. I wonder how long will it be until working on your relationship moves from the unthinkable to the unremarkable?

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