Eleven years ago, my husband and I decided we needed professional help to save our marriage. We loved each other, but was that enough? We were about to find out.
We hope you will read this together with your significant other and that if the conversation of counseling ever comes up by either side, you will give it a chance. You never know. It might just change your life. What have you got to lose?
When my husband and I got married, we had dated on and off for seven years. There were breakups and long-distance moves, but deep down, I knew that destiny was on our side. The biggest obstacle that we had to overcome was that it seemed as though each time things got complicated, we would give up. We would take the easy way out.
At almost two years of marriage, things got complicated. It was suggested to us that we try marriage counseling. I was ready to do whatever I needed to do to save our marriage. Someone told me that if marriage counseling was going to work, we both had to attend.
My husband wasn’t entirely on board. He had what is referred to as contempt before investigation.
I begged him to give it a chance, and he did finally agree. We started on what would be a year of weekly discussions with a third party who knew nothing about either of us. It took being open-minded to the idea that someone else had the answers we needed to navigate a life together and then the willingness to take his suggestions and apply them in our everyday lives.
So now it was time for some honesty. Who was the problem?
Spoiler Alert: We both were the problem.
There would be weeks when we were in our counselor’s office that would go my way and vice versa. I figured out that there are many things that my husband says and does that are entirely out of my control. The only thing I can do is look at where I may be at fault. Do I owe an apology for something I said or did? More times than not, the answer was and is yes.
A little note about apologies, I became the queen of “I’m sorry.” He was tired of hearing it. Most of the time, I didn’t even really know why I was sorry. Saying it would stop an argument for the time being. Eventually, I realized that my actions, reactions, and the things I would say were toxic, and I found that objectionable.
I wanted to change, but how?
First, we took the “D” word out of our vocabulary. Second, we would find a word that would allow the argument to end no matter what. Third, when cooler heads prevailed, we would sit and have a calm discussion, repeating questions for clarity before answering.
When we could successfully do those things, we would plan date nights, NO KIDS. We found something to do where we were engaged in each other the way we were when we first started dating. It has kept our marriage fresh.
In the past eleven years, we have attended two years’ worth of therapy.
We did not stop our second round until the doctor told us he felt like he had helped all he could and that if we needed him, we knew how to get in touch.
I want to be clear; there are still bumps in the road. Most of the time, we are, however, quicker at resolving the issue at hand. There was a big bump right on our seventh anniversary. This was four years after our first last visit to our marriage counselor, if you are keeping up.
Guess what? I was not the one picking up the phone to make an appointment anymore. He was, and he has agreed to share his side of the story below.
Most of us get married because we love our partner, and that is no different for me. First, you meet, and everything is new. New excitement, new adventures, new dinners out, new conversations, new sex, new, new, new! That is until the new wears off. Then you get married, and that is new until it wears off. And you had better hope you love your partner and not the “newness” because love and the willingness to push through all the crap that comes once the new wears off is what decides if the relationship will make it.
Where do you go when you’re not sure how you’re going to make it?
Or, more specifically, Couples Therapy. Even spelling the word now brings back memories and feelings that rival my worst day at the dentist. The feeling was dread. There were several stages, though. Dread, defiance, confusion, anger, apathy, reality, and if you’re determined enough…hope. See, I think most men view therapy the same way.
We are hunter/gatherers at a molecular level. Feelings don’t compute when there are “larger” issues at hand.
When therapy is mentioned, it’s no surprise that we avoid it at all costs.
After all, if my wife would see how pragmatic and logical my way of thinking is, then we would not only NOT need therapy, we would never even have any arguments at all!
After a while, we realized that the pending doom was upon us, and we had to submit to the weekly therapist visits. I decided on two things. I would not go quietly into that good night, and since I must be there in front of a sage relationship expert, then how could he/she disagree with my unflawed near Vulcan-like logic! I am going to win this battle they call therapy!
I can save all of you men out there thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in one little word. I’ll save it for now. For men, the next stage of couples therapy holds confusion, anger, and apathy. All are a variation on one theme, and all of them can come and go for a long time during the process.
It’s my ego that prevented my progress initially.
I was confused in the beginning because the therapist wasn’t interested in hearing why I believed I was right and, more importantly, why she was wrong. So I became angry and made sure both my wife and therapist knew I was not happy. These feelings went on for a while until my apathy set in. This is a dangerous feeling for many reasons but mainly because it sours not only you but also your partner.
At this point, the therapist looked at me one day and asked me a simple question, “Why is your wife getting better, and you’re not?”
I felt like he just dropped a bomb in the room. Why do you ask?
Because he was right.
I was always angry or upset or overly sensitive. She didn’t seem to feel that way, so why is therapy working for her and not for me? That one little word I mentioned earlier.
Now I’m no expert, but I can tell you that it had less to do with my wife and more to do with myself when I hit rock bottom with my marital relationship. When there is no other path other than the “Big D,” acceptance becomes your reality out of necessity instead of choice.
I didn’t want to divorce my wife because I really loved that new girl I met all those years ago.
So accepting that I was part of the arguments, accepting that I played a role in the fights, and seeing that regardless of how I “feel,” the reality is I either want to move forward with the girl I love or quit the relationship entirely. And before you jump to the “it’s just easier to quit argument,” let me first caution you that if you don’t see your part in any given situation, then you are doomed to repeat it.
I’ll say it another way because it bears repeating.
If I had divorced my wife without recognizing that I played a part in the failure of the relationship, then I most certainly would have repeated it by finding another person similar to her.
Now that will make you want to go to therapy!
Now gentlemen, if you’re lucky enough to make it through to the last stage of therapy, then you will not just find your girl. You will find yourself too.
More importantly, you will both find hope. You will see there is “new” in every day with that girl you chose. And you’ll find peace in the fact that she chooses you back.
Eventually, I used the tools the therapist gave me to build on what was there once the newness wore off. Looking back, it was just making a couple of very key distinctions that lead to significant changes in our relationship. Before we began couples therapy, I thought it was me versus her.
Now I see that she was on my team the entire time, but I couldn’t see it.