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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

She says: All we ever do is argue

He Says: She is blowing this out of proportion

I think Jenny is blowing this way out of proportion. I’m stressed from work, and if she could just cut me some slack and stop nagging about every little thing, we’d be fine. We’re certainly not at a point we need the interference of an outsider. Marriage counseling is for people at the brink of divorce, and that’s not us.

What do they do?

Couples are as likely to disagree about needing to see a counselor as they are about needing to ask someone for directions. (“We’re lost!” “No we’re not!” “We need help!” “I know what I’m doing!”)

And these can actually be reasonable disagreements. One might in fact be more comfortable with constant bickering than the other, just like one might have a more confident understanding of what it means to be “lost.” (“I mean, we’re in the right city aren’t we?!”)

The bottom line is that if one perceives a need for outside help while the other doesn’t, each needs to respect the other’s feelings. Mike, please understand that Jenny’s angst about your arguing might very well be more acute than your own. Please affirm that it’s reasonable for her to feel that way, and, out of love and respect for her, seriously consider going with her to a counselor, even if you don’t see the need.

On your part, Jenny, try to understand that Mike might very well have thicker skin than you do about quarrelling, and that that’s OK too. If, for whatever reason, he just will not go with you to a counselor, accept that, affirm him and back off. But also consider going to a counselor by yourself. In fact, sometimes all it takes to defuse domestic strife is for one spouse to get professional help to figure out how to break an unhealthy cycle of communication.

One way or the other, if things don’t improve, don’t wait until you’re at the brink of divorce to seek help. Just like it’s unwise to wait until you’re almost dead to see a doctor, so it is with the health of your relationship. The sicker you are when you finally go in, the less there is to work with.

The best time to work on your relationship is before you encounter big problems. As Pope Francis puts it in his exhortation The Joy of Love: “Communication is an art learned in moments of peace in order to be practiced in moments of difficulty.”