Earlier this year, after nearly nine years of marriage, my husband and I decided to go to marriage counseling. Not only was the best decision we could have made for our relationship, I was surprised to realize the ways marriage counseling helped me as a mom, too. From simply releasing some of the tension that had been building in our home, to creating a better example for our children, marriage counseling turned out to be what our entire family needed.
I admit I've fallen victim to the predominant, and not to mention fictitious, school of thought that claims attending marriage counseling means you're failing as a couple. After attending myself, I realize that isn't even remotely the case. My husband and I never did any pre-marital counseling, and I've long thought that we could have benefited from a bit more of an instruction booklet when it cam to continually cultivating and sustaining a healthy and happy partnership. When we reached an impasse in deciding what our next step would be as a family — and after a very hard year with four failed adoptions — we hoped counseling would help us make our decision. We did five sessions of what's called "solution-based counseling," by an older couple who are lay counselors at our church. Happily, we got much more than just a simple solution to any relationship woes out of the deal.
I'll also admit that going to counseling felt a little like being run over by a truck for about 24 hours after each session. Dealing with intense emotions is utterly exhausting. Still, by the end of the week my husband and I would be feeling stronger in our marriage, and I would be feeling stronger as a mom.
It Made My Marriage Stronger
In my first year as a mom, I became a little bit (or a lot, according to my husband) oblivious to the fact that my marriage is the most important link in our family. Marriage counseling reminded us that our relationship needs to be strong in order to parent better together. I know I've already been a better mom because my husband and I are back on the same page.
It Gave Me Half My Brain Back
Starting counseling meant that I was able to have a whole chunk of my brain back that had been previously occupied worrying and focusing on how to make our relationship better, and how to make the decision we were facing. Going to counseling, while it wasn't a quick or instant fix, meant we were most likely headed in the right direction. That step forward allowed me such relief.
It Gave Me Confidence In Our Example
I was starting to lose confidence in the example I was setting for my daughter and any future children my partner may or may not have. In our marriage, the biggest fault we've ever had is that when we get stressed we lose control of our words to each other. I never want to model that for our daughter, and I needed to hit the reset button on what was coming out of my mouth in order to be a better example to my daughter.
It Gave Me Tools For The Future
My partner and I both really needed tools for communicating when we disagreed with each other. Now we have those skills for the future, as well as for solving our immediate problem.
It Pushed Me To Let Go Of Control
In my newfound role as a mom, I might have gone a little overboard in the protectiveness arena, making it hard to relinquish control to my husband or even to a babysitter so he and I could go out on a date every so often. Letting go of that control was good practice for letting go in other areas, making me a less high-strung mama all around.
It Helped Me Listen Better
In marriage counseling I learned that I had been listening to my husband, but not really hearing what he was saying or validating his emotions and feelings. It sounds both simple and trite, but really hearing and acknowledging his feelings taught me to be careful in doing the same with my daughter.
It Gave Me More Compassion For Counseling
If my daughter ever needs to go to therapy or counseling in the future, she now has a mom who is fully on board. I admit I was a teeny bit skeptical before, but now I'd recommend counseling (or any other form of therapy) to anyone, especially if they feel as though they're losing their grip on the life they're living.
It Made Me More Conscious Of Unspoken Needs
I hope now in the future I'm able to recognize when my husband or my daughter is telling me something without telling me something. I hope I'm able to not dismiss ongoing grumpiness and, instead, ask the right questions to help reveal the underlying problem. I hope I'm able to listen if my daughter does fully open up and tell me she's not OK.