Earlier this year, my partner and I went to relationship counseling. We had hit an impasse, unable to make a decision that needed to be made for our family, and in our particular situation there wasn't a compromise or a middle ground. As a result, it became increasingly difficult to find a solution without outside help. Relationship counseling was incredibly difficult to go through, to be sure, but it was worth it. Not only did it teach us things about our relationship, but what relationship counseling actually taught me about motherhood has proved to be undeniably invaluable.
Making the leap to attend relationship counseling can be so difficult. Making the decision to continue going when you leave feeling like you've been hit by a truck? Yeah, that's even harder. But as someone who has come through the other side of counseling and, as a result, is much stronger in her relationship with her partner, I'd recommend it to anyone. It's tough work, but it's worth discussing the hard stuff that can fester if you leave it alone too long.
Obviously, having a strong marriage is important to my partner and I as we parent our children, but there were so many lessons I learned that I could also apply to motherhood that have been incredibly clutch already. Here are just a few:
That My Marriage Comes First
It's crazy how easy it is to let kids come before marriage. Obviously, my partner and I would both do anything for our kids, but if we don't protect our marriage we can't be the team our children need us to be. Our kids rely on us being strong, on the same page, and communicating with each other in order to get the best of us as parents. And sometimes that means my marriage comes first.
That Motherhood Is Dangerously All-Consuming
It took relationship counseling for me to realize that I had been totally consumed by motherhood. It had gotten to the point that motherhood took up the first 10 spots on my priority list, and after those 10 spots I really didn't have room for anything else. It's easy to become consumed by parenthood and forget that anything else matters, but it's good to have a reminder that it's OK for other things to be important, too.
That Listening Is Important...
Listening to your partner — and listening to your kids — is important. The first year I was a mom, I was "listening" but I was so tired that, honestly, I wasn't really listening. My brain was full of all things motherhood, and I couldn't quite get up the energy to actually take the time to stop and listen to my partner. Turns out, that can take a toll on your relationship. Thankfully, a counselor can help iron it all out.
... But Validating Is Much More Important, Even When You Don't Agree
One of the only things that's more important than listening is validating someone's emotions, concerns, or feelings. Thankfully counseling reminded me how vital it was for me to validate my partner's feelings, even if I didn't agree with them. It wasn't my job to change his mind every time he shared how he was feeling or an opinion with me, it was just my job to tell him that his feelings are justifiable.
That Everyone Needs A Restart Button
Everyone needs some help getting through their problems sometimes. And everyone needs a total restart every once in a while, too.
That Counseling Isn't Scary
At first, honestly, counseling felt very "last resort" to me. I wasn't excited about going, but it felt like the only thing that would help my partner and I get over a rather large impasse peacefully. Counseling had always signaled failure to me, but boy was I wrong. Going to relationship counseling is brave. It's tough work and you don't really feel wonderful when you're going through it, but it's brave to ask for help and seek it out. I am so glad I know this now and might be able to encourage my kids to go to counseling if they need it in the future.
That Everyone Processes Differently
For me, part of my frustration with my husband — and his with me — was that we process problems so differently. I need to talk things to death and he needs to do the opposite. Cue major frustration on both sides that often leads to totally non-productive arguments.
Counseling made us both realize that we need to take the other person's processing speed and style into account and, in the end and always, respect it. Of course, the same applies to parenting. My kids aren't going to process the same as I do, and aren't even going to come to the same conclusions as I do. I have to respect that.
That Sometimes It's Not Fun
So often, motherhood means balancing what you want with what your kids want, then cross-examining what you can actually make or allow to happen. Marriage is the same, and counseling taught me that sometimes saying no to one is just the sacrifice you need to make in order to preserve the other. Saying, "Let's get a babysitter," isn't always the easiest thing to do, but it's sometimes the best thing for my marriage in the long run.
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