I love this post! It’s rare to find someone so willing to break down facades and admit to the real nitty-gritty of working on a marriage. I’m so glad she talks in depth about marriage counseling – a topic that needs much more attention on this blog.
If you’ve ever felt hopeless in your marriage or on the brink of giving up- you’re not alone! This one is for you!
How could someone be so mean?
How could someone be so selfish?
We had gotten into another argument. He said hurtful things that he should not have said. I said hurtful things back. It was a mess again.
This had started early on in our marriage and had continued on for 2 years. I was at the end of my rope.
We tried marriage books and marriage devotionals.
We tried a weekend marriage seminar.
None of it was working. Things were worse than they had ever been. If I was to be completely honest; I couldn’t stand him.
This marriage was a mistake.
No one really knew. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It looked from the outside world like we had the picture perfect marriage.
While endeavoring to have a healthy marriage is a complex formula of care, commitment and love for one another, we truly believe that one of the MOST PRACTICAL steps you can take to improve your marriage is:
regular visits with a good marriage counselor.
Hey! I saw that eye roll! Just hear me out!
Now, this was by no means an immediate or even relatively “quick fix”. Actually, it took years, oh yes, you read that right, I said YEARS to start seeing significant improvement. I’m guessing that many couples don’t last long enough to get there (we almost didn’t). Also, I’m sure the deeper and more dysfunctional your issues, the longer it takes to see improvement- and we had A LOT of issues going on!
Here is our list of 3 “absolutes” that both partners MUST agree to in order for the counseling to work. If even one of these “absolutes” is missing, it will drastically alter the rate of success in your marriage counseling. (Trust me, we’ve learned this the hard way.)
1. BOTH PARTNERS MUST BE WILLING PARTICIPANTS.
If one person is “dragging” the other to the appointment and he/she sits there with arms folded, without an open mind- that’s going to be tough! Remember that marriage is a partnership! You are a team! (even if that’s the opposite of what you feel right now) You got into this mess together and you have to get out of it TOGETHER. There is no one hero here! One person cannot swoop in and “save” the other. (that’s just in the movies ladies) Usually by the time you are sitting on a leather chair in the counselor’s office you can barely stand being in the same room as your spouse. I get it. When you said “for better or for worse” this is worse than the worst-iest worse you thought possible! Try your best to trust the counselor and put into practice his/her advice. (even if you don’t like it- or agree with it at first)
2. ADMIT WHEN YOU ARE WRONG.
I know. This one’s brutal! Although you probably have a laundry list of offenses your spouse has committed against you (even if they are legitimate) refrain from getting trapped in the “blame game”. “Yes”, he/she has done inappropriate things in your marriage. That is why you are here. Counseling works best when each person focuses most of their energy on what they can personally work on about THEMSELVES.
You cannot change your spouse.
If you could, you wouldn’t be in this mess.
Oh man, this was hardest part for me. I can get pretty wrapped up in all of the things my husband does wrong. It’s so much easier to point out the mistakes he has made! It’s hard to push through all of the hurt and anger you feel the other person has caused and look at yourself. Even if you feel that your offenses are the lesser problem- they are still YOUR offenses and therefore YOUR responsibility. It could even be as simple as working on the way you respond to your spouse when they do something that is hurtful toward you. It’s hard to sit in an office and have a counselor give you tips on things that you need to change.
Then I convinced myself that the counselor has misunderstood me and didn’t actually “get” whats really going on…
Then, I moved on to mentally discrediting the counselor: “Maybe we should see someone else. Clearly “He/She” doesn’t know what they’re doing…
And then finally, after I’d given it some thought I realized that the counselor was probably right, after all he/she was a professional. Perhaps I wasn’t perfect after all…(bubble officially burst) 😉 It’s really hard to hear criticism about yourself. Even though it’s hard, that is where the REAL change will start. If each person is focusing on working through their OWN issues like getting to the root problem and developing new coping strategies- significant progress can be made. Accepting and owning your own issues does not mean that your spouse is “off the hook”. It does not mean that what he/she has done is “okay”. Pride can so quickly creep in and keep you from acknowledging your own short comings.
Admitting to your own issues does not lesson your spouses offenses against you.
I was disappointed that my marriage wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had to let go of the unrealistic expectations I had set on my husband and on my marriage. I had to get real with the situation at hand. Yes, things had not gone how I had hoped. Yes, some unexpected problems had transpired. But, we were where we were.
Things could not be undone.
Words could not be unspoken.
The past could not be changed.
But the future, now that was still wide open!
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t like conflict. As a middle child, I am a natural born peace-maker. I hate feeling as though a person is mad at me, or disappointed in me. Sometimes in a marriage it can take days, weeks, or longer to fully work through tough issues. You can get in a rut where you are frustrated with each other for long stretches of time. In the middle of those times it’s easy to go to a dark place and feel as though “this is it- it’ll never get better”. It’s hard to see resolution and see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. One of THE HARDEST things I’ve learned is that
It’s okay to feel uncomfortable sometimes.
It doesn’t mean you married the wrong person and it doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed. When you look at your spouse and feel as though you don’t love them as you once did and you worry that you’ll never be able to get back to that place. You will.
It will take time and hard work, but you always have the capacity to love more.
The moment you are ready to throw in the towel- to call it quits- that is THE defining moment. Are you going to forgive ONE more time? Are you willing to sit in this uncomfortable mess for a little while longer? Even though you are overwhelmed, even though you hate this feeling, can you hang in there just a little bit longer? Are you ready to say “what can I CHANGE to make this situation better?”
We often try to control things that are out of our control, yet we will ignore the very things that are within our power to change.
Yes, counseling is expensive. Sometimes benefits will cover, or you can apply for subsidy, but bottom line is that it is an unexpected expense. You may need to make some sacrifices in your budget in order to accommodate the expense.
You may think you cannot afford counseling but the average divorce in Canada costs $12,875.00!
How many other things are you spending your money on that are less important than your marriage?
You will need to see your counselor A LOT! Especially at first! If you are in “crisis mode” it may even be a couple times a week. As things improve, your visits will be less frequent but it is important to prepare yourself for this.
I have heard many divorced couples say that they “tried counseling once and it didn’t work”….hmmmm That’s like saying you exercised once but didn’t lose that extra 50 pounds you were hoping to lose! You will likely see your counselor many many times before you see significant changes.
Don’t give up! Hang in there! You can do this!
There is no shame in reaching out for help and there is no “magic fix” Sometimes marriage is just straight up hard work! Although my husband and I are no longer on the the brink of divorce (Praise the LORD!), we still work at our marriage EVERY. DAY. Nothing our counselor said made our problems magically disappear. They are still there and they still try to rear their ugly heads from time to time. The difference is now we are both committed to working HARD on our marriage and we have tools and coping strategies to help us work things out. And sometimes, even with all of the work we’ve done and all of the skills we’ve learned, we STILL get stuck in a rut. When that happens we call our marriage counselor and have a chat with him. This year my husband and I will celebrate 10 years together! And for us, it’s really something BIG to celebrate!
When I reflect on the past 10 years I am so thankful that we didn’t give up. I am thankful for a man who was willing to humble himself and come to counseling with me. I’m thankful for a man who was willing to admit when he was wrong and work hard to make changes with me. And, I am especially thankful for a man who never gave up on our marriage even when I wanted to. I think about all of the moments and memories we would have missed out on if we had walked away when things were really bad. Even in our darkest moments I am so thankful that we pushed through. There have been many days over the past 10 years when I thought there was NO WAY we would ever get here! 10 years seemed like an eternity! But, we did it and you really CAN do it too!
This post has been re-posted with permission from Clean Life Happy Wife.