When I was in my early 20’s I learned a very valuable lesson in a very hard way. I blew up the engine in my car because I didn’t know that you had to change the oil regularly. I didn’t know anything about having preventative maintenance done on my car to make sure that little issues didn’t turn into big issues. I ended up breaking the bank just to keep my car running. And in case you didn’t know what happens after you blow up the engine of your car, I’ll tell you…your car is never the same and it will eventually just stop working all together no matter how much money you put into repairing it.
I share this story because I’ve learned to apply that lesson to more than just my car. I use the same concept when it comes to my mental health and my marriage. If you got married in a church there is a good change you had to go through pre-marital counseling before a pastor, preacher, or rabbi would perform the wedding ceremony. They wanted you to discuss some of the tough topics before you decided to commit to forever with your spouse. Think of this pre-marital counseling as the initial inspection you do on a new car. You just want to make sure everything is going to run right before you sign on the dotted line.
Recently I spoke to Pastor Steve Swisher of Essential Church in Virginia Beach about the topic of marriage counseling. He had preached a couple months back about how to maintain a healthy marriage and his advice was right in line with the beliefs I have about why people should seek out help before a problem arises. Much like a car needs a tune-up and oil changes to make sure everything is going well, a marriage could use a check-up and check-in to make sure you two are still on the same page.
“Every marriage is going to go through hard times. When we are in a crisis and couples have lost trust in each other, it’s extremely difficult to mutually find a counselor that both people will trust. Establishing a relationship with a counselor when things are good will give the counselor a base line to compare things to when trust erodes and love is a struggle. It also speeds up the process when the couple is in therapy because you don’t have to spend the first 1-3 sessions getting to know and trust the counselor. In the midst of a crisis you need help fast, and anything you can do to speed up the healing process is crucial.”
As part of the military community we are often in overwhelmingly stressful situations. Moving every few years. Deployment cycles. Hardship tours. These are things every military couple has to deal with. Often times it seems like our marriages can’t survive the military lifestyle. But if you and your spouse have that trusted marriage advisor that you turn to in good times then you know you have the same grounding person to turn to when things get hard.
I know that it doesn’t always seem like the military is there to help marriages succeed but there are a lot of resources out there for military couples that may need a lifeline or that just want to reconnect with some couples-only, kid-free time together.
*Fleet and Family Support Centers offer free counseling for individuals and couples that does not need to be reported back to the military members command.
*Military OneSource has a couples counseling option that works even for long distance couples. They will do a conference call type session if a couple is not able to attend counseling together.
*Local base chaplains are always willing to make appointments with military couples to help them get back on track if they want a faith-based counseling session.
*Strong Bonds is an Army chaplain run program to help strengthen military families.
*For Navy and Marine families there are CREDO marriage retreats offered several times a year. These are FREE weekends for military couples to work on their marriage.
*Sandy Cove Ministries offers FREE marriage retreats for military couples. There is no tv, wifi, computer screens. Just time for you and your spouse to re-connect in good times and in stormy ones. They also offer a family retreat if you’re trying to help the whole family re-adjust after a rough patch or deployment.
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