Several weeks ago I received a request from a young women requesting pre-marital counseling for her and the prospective husband. Even though we never connected, it got me thinking about some of the perils of seeking marriage counseling.
A Priest or Rabbi. when doing marriage counseling may share similar attitudes. A Priest and Rabbi will often stress the importance of sacrifice and forgiveness in making a successful marriage. They might focus on negating one's own needs ( perhaps more so for women) for the good of the family. Both might speak of the hard times ahead, and the importance of keeping the marriage together as they wade through difficulties. They might emphasize the importance of children, and teaching them in the proper religious way. They might both speak about the sacramental nature of marriage, about how they were bought together by
G-d, and how their marriage is a partnership with G-d. While both Priest and Rabbi understand the necessity of divorce, it is usually the last choice.
If the couple walks into a therapist office, they will discuss their future hopes and dreams. The marital counselor will no doubt spend a lot of time talking the importance of communication, with the implied understanding that by communication we meaning speaking, not silence ( which is also an important form of communication.) Expressing thoughts and feelings is an essential structure of therapy, beginning with Freud, who focused on bringing the unconscious into conscious expression. So whatever it is, unfiltered, put it out there. Effective individually, but maybe less so with somebody else in the room who that sentiment is directed towards. Words hurt and memories can last forever.
The Marital Therapist view of a good marriage is where both parties wants and needs are being satisfied. When each other's wants and needs aren't being satisfied, the marriage, from the therapist perspective, is in danger of breaking down. Marriage in this venue is transactional, not sacramental.