Love is confusing.

Logic might say it’s because it involves not just matters of the heart but two different people.

And that would be true.


But what makes it even more baffling is somehow we mistakenly think we can do the work of two people.

This bears repeating…we believe we can do the work of two people.

But we can’t.

Here is what we can do.

We can come to one another’s aide and help each other out. We can temporarily take on more than the other person when necessity calls for it. We can tend to one another in times of sickness or great stress. We can give and we can take.

We can be there for one another.

But we cannot carry a relationship alone.

Nonetheless, we mistakenly believe we can – especially when things digress. We take on the role of rescuer. We convince ourselves if we overcompensate then one person can heroically and single-handedly rescue a relationship.

Marriage counseling is a commitment.

Not just to one another but to ourselves. 

It demands insight, reflection, and accountability. 

Most importantly, it requires two people who both want to repair a relationship as badly as the other.

Unfortunately, many relationship maladies exist long before this step is taken. Thus, complicating how invested each party is in one another.

There do exist universal truths which can help clarify just a bit of what marriage counseling will teach us.


A Cheat Sheet for Marriage Counseling – 5 Biggest Lessons


There Is No Excuse for Bad Behavior

One of the biggest takeaway’s from marriage counseling is there is absolutely no excuse for consistently bad behavior.

Every individual is capable of mistakes it is part of life and the human condition.

What differentiates average mistakes from the norm is ‘repeatedly’ bad behavior.

Forgiveness is forgiving bad behavior once or twice and enabling is forgiving it over and over again.

Putting up with someone who continually acts out, causes hurt, unpredictable behavior, financial or emotional chaos, has a

chemical dependency, continually cheats, etc. is not being kind. It is allowing ourselves to be mistreated over and over again.


You Can’t Change Someone They Must Want to Grow Themselves

Contrary to popular belief people can change.

It is called ‘growth’ but the individual must want it for themselves.

We can’t compel someone to want it no matter how badly we love them.

And forcing someone to go to counseling won’t necessarily yield the desired benefit. Especially if they are the individual who is either apathetic or repeatedly behaving badly.

Sometimes relationships change because two people outgrow one another.

Or one person begins to care less than the other. Or bigger problems begin to manifest, i.e., cheating, addiction, etc.

We can’t change others. We can only change ourselves and how we react to them.


A Marriage Can Only Be Saved If Both People Want to Save It

As painful as it may be, one person can’t save two people.

Every once in a blue moon we may hear a story to the contrary.

A ‘Johnny and June’ tale.

But these are the exception.

This is a hard truth to accept.

But perhaps a better way to view it? Why invest in someone who has repeatedly chosen themselves? Or continually lied? Or repeatedly made us a low priority? Or is apathetic about the marriage? Or continually fed an addiction, etc.?

Addictions are an illness. They are often out of the control of the individual making it even more out of control for those who love them. Can they be overcome? Yes, but that excruciating work is up to the individual afflicted with it. Not to the person who adores them.


We Can’t Be Overly Responsible for the Behavior of Others

We only control ourselves.

We cannot control the behavior of others.

If someone has an affair, spends all the savings, lies, abuses alcohol or ignores us that is their own free will and their own choices.

As much as it may hurt, we can’t stop them. As much as we cry, we can’t stop them. As much as we talk, we can’t stop them. As much as we yell, we can’t stop them.

And sadly, the more we do all of the aforementioned things the more we are at risk for them turning their bad actions back around at us. For instance, they may say they do it because of the badgering or the tears or the yelling.

But most importantly, we can’t make ourselves overly responsible for them.

We can’t keep altering our behavior for fear something bad could happen. This means checking up on them, staying up late for fear they are drinking or cheating, concealing the truth to supposedly protect aka enable them. We can’t keep overburdening ourselves to try and keep our world together for fear their actions may tear it apart.

We need to let go and allow them their journey good or bad and be responsible for ourselves.

People need to be self-responsible. You shouldn’t need to be overly responsible for someone else’s behavior.


We Aren’t Victims

We are not victims.

Despite our relationship choices and outcomes, we made conscious decisions to stay a part of these unions.

What does this mean?

People behave badly and they do terrible things and this includes abusive situations.

Counseling will validate this.

If we are leaving destructive and abusive people and situations it will be acknowledged. As well, as a family of origin and other factors which may have led us to these individuals. This person and the awful things they did are wrong. It happened and it is real and we deserve better.

But a really good counselor will empower us and teach us not to feel victimized.

They will instead teach us how to acknowledge the choices we made to remain in bad situations.

Teach us to heal and to recognize how we control our own decisions and who we choose to make a part of our lives.


Marriage counseling is complex.

And when we tackle this goliath it means we are putting those we love above even ourselves.

Because it will require learning difficult truths – even the most docile of personalities will learn we all bring something to the table in the world of relationships.

And rather than find that daunting it can actually be quite liberating.

Because learning to love better can never be a bad thing.


Follow me on Instagram @colleenorme


Facebook @Colleen Orme National Columnist

(Photo by Leah Kelley Courtesy of Pexels)

Twitter @colleenorme


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