By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.

We have studied successfully married couples for over 26 years on six of the world’s seven continents. We have traveled in more countries than we can remember. And while our focus has been on those who have made their marriages work; we are also constantly reminded that some marriages need help. Some marriages need another human being to help them make their marriage survive and thrive.

Some marriages struggle, and from time to time, they need a professional counselor to lend a helping hand. Oftentimes, it’s a Marriage Counselor.

And while most marriage counselors are dedicated, well meaning, and professional, occasionally they make mistakes when helping others who are desperately trying to build a love that lasts.

Here’s what we know – marriage counselors make mistakes ever so often, and their mistakes generally fall into seven categories. We want to address each of those in this “words-to-the-wise” message.

Here they are in a nutshell:

1. Talking jargon with their clients when Simple Truths are required.

Here’s the bottom line – it doesn’t matter if your marital relationship is at “Stage 4.” Moreover, does it really matter if your marriage, like most marriages, goes through so-called “stages of marriage.” How does that knowledge help you? How does that knowledge help your marriage?

The simple truth is, marriages facing challenges need to come to grips with the fact that marriage is not always fair, just, and beautiful. Marriage is simple to understand, but making a marriage work takes lots of hard work. And in the end, a successful marriage is an accumulation of having done the simple things.

There is nothing jargonistic about marriage. Making yours work takes lots of hard work in doing the simple things. Don’t be misled by those who hide behind jargon. The best help a counselor can give you is to help guide you and your spouse through whatever challenges your marriage is facing without resorting to jargon that you don’t understand. Working through the trying times in a marriage is not about the mystical powers of your counselor. Rather, it is about your relationship and their ability to help you and your spouse reach resolution about important issues that confront you.

2. Overly intellectualizing marriage and marital conflict.

Love is an emotion! You can’t “intellectualize” love. Love cannot always be explained in rational terms. Sometimes, love can’t be explained at all!

Without a doubt, love is something you feel – in your heart, your soul, and in your being. When your relationship needs help, the last thing you need is for someone to tell you that what you and your spouse are feeling with regard to your relationship can be explained by some entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (currently referred to as DSM-IV-TR), the most widely-used psychiatric/psychological reference book and standard diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals worldwide.

Don’t get us wrong, the Manual is a great reference source. But in the end, an intellectual tool can’t measure love! Love is an emotion, and the best counselors know this. They act as a “guide on the side” as you and the one you love address the challenges confronting your marriage. They are not smarter than you. They are not wiser than you. They are trained to facilitate the resolution of a marital conflict.

They are not always successful. In the end, it is your marriage, your emotion, your life, and your future – together or separate. The best marriage counselors help your marriage feel – help your marriage get in touch with the respective emotions of you and your spouse. The best counselors help you understand what love’s got to do with it. They help you feel the emotions that cause you to come to grips with what you want from your marriage. To love is to feel emotion. Love is not intellectual. Don’t let anyone resort to intellectualizing when it comes to your marriage!

3. Being an advocate for a particular marital perspective instead of a “guide on the side.”

Here’s a truism you can take to the bank – it is not the role of the marriage counselor to be an advocate for anything while counseling you and your spouse about your marital problems!

Frankly, their personal opinions are not relevant to your marriage. Their stories about their marriage, their parent’s marriage, or other marriages they have treated do not matter when it comes to YOUR marriage. Your marriage is, in most ways, unique! The answers you and your spouse are seeking about your marriage are not always informed by the experiences of others.

While common positive themes run through the best marriages, and while there are telltale signs of failing marriages, in the end, each marriage that is in failure is in failure for reasons that are unique to that marriage.

A marriage counselor that assumes your marriage is failing due to anything other than circumstances that are unique to your marriage, is being disingenuous at best, and incompetent at worst. The best marriage counselors are “guides on the side” and not advocates for any particular perspective. Trust us on this.

Read Part 2 - the final segment of the article, so you can understand the other four common mistakes made by marriage counselors:
The Seven Most Common Mistakes Made By Marriage Counselors - Part 2

Simple Things Matter in love and marriage. Love well!

By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

Authors of the best-selling book and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.

Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships

Author's Bio: 

As America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With 26 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 43-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.

Get started with America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts by taking their Marriage Quiz or sending your questions to Ask the Doctors for Marriage Advice.

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Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, the Official Guides To Marriage