Should You Try Marriage Counseling?

I would like to introduce you to another site that focuses on verbal abuse, written by Kellie Jo Holly. It is called Verbal Abuse Journals. Here is the link.

One of her blogs is entitled “I tried Marriage Counseling”.  In her blog she describes going to marriage counseling with her abusive husband Will. Before they went, they set up ground rules. One rule was that they wouldn’t berate each other in front of the therapist. In their first session together, they spent the entire time talking about her cats that he didn’t like. In the second session, she told him that if he laid hands on her ever again, that would be the end of their marriage.

Within three days, he had laid hands on her again, and she left him. There was no more need for marriage counseling.

One thing that was interesting about Kellie Jo’s story is that the counselor that she was seeing for individual therapy suggested she try marriage counseling with her abuser.  People often suggest that abuse victims go to marriage counseling with their abusers. I found this to be especially true of my Christian friends and Christian pastors. However, few people realize that according to the U.S. Department of Justice,

“Many practitioners disapprove of—and at least twenty state standards and guidelines expressly prohibit—couples counseling for batterers.”* Tweet This

Why do at least twenty state standards prohibit couples counseling for batterers?

In her book Battered But Not Broken, Help for Abused Wives and Their Church Families, Patricia Riddle Gaddis says, “Unless the abuse has totally stopped for many years and the abuser has completed a program designed specifically for batterers, couples counseling will only serve to increase the risk of danger to the <victim>. This is because battering is a control issue and not a communication issue, and couples counseling poses a major threat to the abuser’s control over the relationship…This not only makes the marital counseling process ineffective; it also places <the victim’s> life at risk.”**

In Kelly Jo’s words, “Marriage counseling is designed for couples that have a failure in communication or emotional connection.

Abuse is NOT a communication failure, nor is it lacking an emotional connection. Tweet This

Abuse twists up love into an unrecognizable mess that both people mistakenly still call love. Abuse is not love, and abuse does not allow a relationship to heal.” Kellie Jo recommends that, “Until the abuser seeks personal change, don’t waste your emotional energy, time or money on marriage counseling.”

I couldn’t agree more. Next week I will share my personal story about trying couples counseling with my verbally abusive husband.

Question: Does it sadden you that it isn’t wise to go to couples counseling with your abuser? 

This may seem like one more door closing for you. But I believe information is powerful. Knowing in advance that going to joint counseling with your abuser might put your life in danger overrides the fact that this limits your options. I always go back to what Jesus said in John 8:32:      

         “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Realizing truths about domestic abuse will set you on the road to freedom.

Many blessings to you all,


*K. Healey, C. O’Sullivan, & C. Smith, Batterer Intervention: Program Approaches and Criminal Justice Strategies. (Washington, DC:US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, February 1998).

**Patricia Riddle Gaddis, Battered but Not Broken, Help for Abused Wives and Their Church Families (Valley Forge, PA:Judson Press, 1996) 50.


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