I’m not ashamed to admit that a few weeks ago I attended a counseling session with my wife.
is, if you go to therapy then your marriage must be on the rocks and you’ve got a divorce lawyer on speed dial. In some cases, that may be true.
Not for us. In fact, therapy for us is a chance to make our bond stronger, confront some of the challenges we face and, most of all, and learn to communicate better.
Marriage is tough and most couples could use a refresher in these areas. Some of the issues that my wife and I are working through are it’s tough raising two kids under the age of 3, dealing with chores, making sure everyone is fed, clothed and cared for and still make time for one another. Factor in that we are both working parents and you’ve got two people desperately in need of a psychiatrist. Hell, kids alone can drive you to the brink of madness. Bottom line, we weren’t communicating well. It was like a train that goes slightly off track, it might still be able to move but the train no longer runs smoothly and the longer it goes without repair, the more long-term, structural damage is done.
What I learned in our counseling session is how it alleviated some of the underlying animosity and resentment we shared.
First, it was a safe place to air our grievances. Face it, we all hold on to stuff. It can petty or it can be huge; it can threaten to destroy a family dynamic. No matter what it is, I felt this session was a safe place for each of us to address the concerns we had and weren’t comfortable discussing alone.
Second, I knew the counselor would focus us back to the things that brought us together all those years ago. Deep down I’ve always known the multitude of things I love about my wife. I’m grateful every day for the love we share and the life we’ve created, but sometimes with the constant heartbeat of parenting, I forget that she is my wife and not just the mother of my children.
Third, I hoped the counselor would help us find a way to discover the all-important “us” time. For many guys — including me — that’s code for sex. I know that we each need more than that — time to talk, laugh, cuddle. Time to just be.
We found out need a signal — a time-out sign, for instance — to use whenever a conversation is veering close to an argument. We’ve only used it once so far but it seems like a benign, non-threatening tool. I can’t say that we argue a lot but after 14 years together, we certainly know the buttons to push to slide into an unhappy place.
The counselor then asked us a simple question — “Tell me 5 things you love about each other.” By the second answer I think both of us were crying. This straightforward, poignant question elicited enough emotion to win each of us an Academy Award. I’m proud to say it was easy for us to enumerate responses and this one exercise crystallized and reaffirmed the depth of feeling we have for one another.
We were also challenged to schedule time to spend together each day. Even if it’s 30 minutes, the counselor explained that those minutes will be like a battery charger to our relationship. It’s difficult because I work evenings and our days are filled with activities and our beloved routine. We are focused on making some changes to our schedule to discover the time we need to reconnect.
There were some other tips we discovered but, for me, the biggest epiphany was how much good can come from a mere 60 minutes with a trained professional. It’s like being taught the words to a new language and understanding how to use them. I know that my wife and I will continue with the sessions because, after all, marriage is a lifetime commitment and a lifelong work in progress.