Earlier this year, my partner and I decided to try marriage counseling for the first time in our nine years of nuptials. After experiencing four failed adoptions in one year, while simultaneously raising a newborn, our marriage had taken a backseat. We were stressed, grieving the emotional rollercoaster we'd been through, and along the way we'd lost the ability to take care of each other. Thankfully, we came to the conclusion that seeking marriage counseling was a good idea, because it turned out that marriage counseling was the help my partner and I needed.
Initially, we sought counseling because we were trying to make a decision about whether or not to give up on adoption, and we'd reached an impasse we couldn't push past by ourselves. We were both sitting in our respective corners, unwilling to give in to the other and completely unable to see a way forward. Of course, when we arrived at our first appointment, we realized there was more we needed to adrress and fix before we could even make that big decision.
We went to counseling with a couple who had been married for 35 years. They were about our parents' age, but complete strangers to my partner and I. We found them through a program at a nearby church, primarily because going to our church, and people knowing we were going to counseling, would have added another layer of stress to an already stressful situation (although we both agree, now, that we've all got to work to remove the stigma of seeking help for your marriage through counseling).
In the end, counseling was so crucial to us that, finally, I'm more than ready to be open, honest, and unapologetic about the many ways it was just the help my partner and I needed. Not only did it help us make a monumental decision, but it became a pivotal part in us keeping our marriage strong for the future.
Because We Had Reached An Impasse
For the first time in our nine years of marriage, we really, really couldn't come to a decision together. There were two options and we were each set on one. Unfortunately, there was no compromise or third option. As a result, every time we discussed the subject, we argued.
Because We Needed A Different Space
Because that emotional discussion caused arguments, we needed a space outside our home to figure it out. We didn't want our daughter, despite how young she is, feeling the stress of her parents arguing around her. or even in the same space.
BecauseWe Needed A Referee
We're typically pretty practical, rational people, but this particular topic made us both so passionate we couldn't necessarily see, or even respect, reason. We needed a referee to help us figure out what was just emotion and what was a rational part of the discussion. Then we needed that same referee to help us figure out where all that emotion was coming from, and what to do with it.
Because We Needed An Audience
We needed an audience in order to be forced to fight more fairly. We were both feeling backed into a corner, so we were essentially willing to say things we wouldn't normally say.
Because It Didn't Mean We Were Failing
For my partner and I, one of the best things to come out of marriage counseling was the realization that needing help doesn't mean we're failing. It just means we need help. Sometimes, and even for a long period of time, we might not feel like our relationship needs any help at all. Other times, and perhaps for an extended period of time, too, we might need a lot of help and support. Life has numerous seasons and some are much more stressful than others.
Because We Both Wanted To Be Better
I suppose one of the keys to marriage counseling actually helping your marriage, is that you both want your marriage to be better. My partner and I did, very much so, want our marriage to be better and stronger for us, for our daughter, and for any future kids we decided to add to our family. We wanted desperately to regain our common ground so that we could enjoy our life without snarking at each other anymore.
Because We Were Both Willing To Have Outside Opinions To Make Our Marriage Stronger
The other key to marriage counseling, for us, is that we were both totally willing to have complete strangers give their unvarnished opinions about our marriage in order to make it stronger. It's an incredibly vulnerable place to be, to let outsiders have an inside look into what you and your partner are experiencing, but it was worth it. My partner and I knew that if we let our guard down and stopped pretending everything was fine, at least once a week for a few months, our relationship would improve.
Because We Have Tools For The Future
I would imagine we'll go back to marriage counseling at some point in the future, and I wouldn't feel the least bit ashamed to do so. In the meantime, however, we've been given some incredible tools to keep our marriage strong for our whole family.