How-To’s of Military Marriage Counseling

How-To’s of Military Marriage Counseling
Service members and their spouses participate in a Marriage Care retreat in Okinawa, Japan in 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Jessica Tait)

We’ve all been there – stuck with our spouse between loud, ahem, “discussions” and trading the cold shoulder. Maybe we feel like we’ve lost the ability to communicate after a deployment, or that we feel stuck in reintegration – still! – after he’s been home for almost a year. “Is the problem me?” you may ask yourself. Or instead, you may think, “the problem is definitely him.”

One thing is clear: there is a problem, and the likelihood of you figuring it out on your own is pretty low.

This may come as a genuine surprise, but you’re not alone on this one. Chances are that every military couple, whether they want to admit it or not, has had those moments in their marriage. The question here is over how we choose to tackle it. Do we deal with it on our own, or do we seek help?

As someone who has been there -- just as so many of us here at have -- let me offer you this free advice: seeking help won’t hurt and, in fact, it may be just what you need. My husband and I have sought military marriage counseling together in the past through an Army referral program, and I actively see a counselor who helps me deal with my own, special personal garbage. Sometimes I think it's the golden ticket to my sanity.

Getting military marriage counseling does not mean you are on the fast road to divorce. It does not mean that you are weak, bad at being married, a bad person or destined for a life of weepy sessions with a psychiatrist.

Here's what it does mean: that you are courageous enough to admit you need help. It’s a sign that you know that you are not an expert on life and that you are willing to hear someone else’s ideas. It’s a sign that you want to someday have it all together but, for now, you know that you don’t.

What you can you expect to get out of marital or personal counseling? An hour with an unbiased person who has no desire to immediately take sides on any issue in your life. You'll get level headed advice on how to handle even the most befuddling of circumstances (believe me -- I've tested this theory with some real doozies over here).

Best part? Counseling is free – yes, FREE – for every active duty, DoD military service and many National Guard and Reserve members and their spouses.

It’s much more difficult to make excuses not to take advantage of something that is free, isn’t it?

Here’s how to get help for everyday life and relationship problems:

Call MilitaryOneSource and get a referral for a face-to-face counselor in your area. This is one of the services I have used in the past. To get the referral you simply explain why you would like counseling the attendant. You can request a local counselor based on religious preference, location, gender and variety of other qualifications. The screening call to get the referral takes about a half hour. You can get up 12 sessions with a private counselor per referral.

Visit a Military Family Life Consultant (MFLAC). These counselors are available through your appropriate support center on base. Don’t know what that is? Here’s a list. You should be able to find one of these centers on your base:

  • Army: Army Community Service
  • Air Force: Airmen and Family Readiness Center
  • Navy: Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers
  • Marine Corps: Marine Corps Community Service
  • National Guard/Reserve (and their spouses): Call Military Family Life Consultant referral service toll-free at 888-755-9355.

If you need more help (or don’t like the above options) with finding an MFLAC you can call the DCoE Outreach Center at 866-966-1020 for free, confidential help on contacting Military Family Life Consultants. I’ve personally used the MFLAC service and find it to be a really low key way to meet with someone on your schedule and your terms.

Call your base chapel. A chaplain's assistant there should be able to refer you to your local chapel community's family support chaplain. This is one way to make sure that you get to meet with a qualified counselor who is also a minister.

Find more information on marriage counseling at here.

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