If I can't figure out my own taxes, I call an accountant. If my water heater is broken, I call the plumber. If I have a sore throat, I see the doctor. Why is seeing an expert in these other areas totally acceptable, and yet it's taboo to consult (or admit to visiting) a counselor to fix a malfunctioning marriage?
I'm going to be bold here and admit to you that Jim and I have seen a therapist. And yes, I asked his permission to divulge our secret before I posted it here on the blog. He and I feel the same way: as long as there is shame surrounding the idea of getting help to strengthen our marriages, many of us won't give counseling a try. We think that we have a strong relationship. We are best friends. We adore each other and want to stick it out for the long haul. And yet...
...a few years ago, we had hit an impasse in our communication and we were arguing a lot. We loved each other desperately, but were unhappy and couldn't figure out how to resolve our troubles without help. We were just sick over this. We know other couples who stay together even though they clearly can't stand one another, but that didn't suit us. We knew that our relationship should not endure as it was because it wasn't healthy for either one of us.
Interestingly, if Jim and I were still dating, rather than married during that dark time, I'm certain I would have broken up with him instead of seeking outside help. But I just didn't want it to end without trying everything I could to make it work. Luckily, Jim felt the same.
So we did some research online (we didn't ask for our friends' advice because, at that time, we were fearful they might judge us...none of them had ever mentioned they had been to counseling, after all) and found a fabulous relationship therapist in Chicago. We saw her for several months - maybe even a year - and worked our butts off. Counseling can help to end a fruitless relationship or strengthen a faltering one. It assists in redefining and clarifying roles and goals. Our therapist offered us a neutral sounding board and a safe place to air grievances and admit faults. I'm so grateful we took the plunge, swallowed our pride, and made our first appointment many years ago. And you know, I would definitely consider going back if we feel the need in the future. We feel like our marriage is better than ever, cracks sealed, communication improved.
I think there is an expectation out there that a good marriage never falters - that it doesn't require outside help to remain vital and healthy. Romantic movies end with "happily-ever-after." They rarely include an epilogue that shows the couples' woes over finances, religion, family, sex, and career. Our trip to the alter was a mere blip on the timeline of our marriage. It takes energy and desire to stay together while flying on autopilot just causes fatal relationship crashes (or snowballing resentment, dissatisfaction, and stultifying boredom).
I think seeing a marriage counselor for an overhaul or a tuneup is just as important as going to the dentist for a check-up and cleaning...or getting that rotten tooth yanked out once and for all.
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