You have found the love of your life, the person who is the Wonderland to your Alice, the hot water to your coffee grounds, and the salt to your caramel. They can do no wrong. Often you gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes, and you can’t imagine being apart from them – even for one morsel of a moment. They are perfect in every way. You become engaged and the hopes are high for the future.
Fast forward a few years. There have been fights and frustrations, tears and misunderstandings, You find yourself waking up to this person’s snoring – you know, that snoring you once found so adorable but has become another irritant among a plethora of irritants. Your partner is irritated with you also. Perhaps they used to enjoy your off-key shower singing at 6:30 in the morning but are now contemplating purchasing you a Groupon for voice lessons and passively placing it between your pile of books on the kitchen table (which by the way, annoys the shit out of them). You both have considered marriage counseling at some point but decided the issues were not large enough to warrant spending the money on a therapist. More on this later…
Fast forward a few more years. You barely talk to one another. One of you may be contemplating an affair or have already begun one. Your arguments have become explosive and neither one of you can so much as breathe or ask a question without it becoming the next world war. And then it happens – one of you mentions the dreaded “D” word and now you find yourselves contacting every marriage counselor within a 20 mile radius.
Why You Should Read the Manual
Think of marriage as a new car. When you drive it off the lot, it’s shiny and new with an amazing paint job. It comes with a manual, which most of us don’t read, but we try to take utmost care of the car…at first. Absolutely no food in the car, shut the door gently, clean the car daily, and rub it with a diaper (Ferris Bueller fans that was for you). After some time you may notice dings and scratches in the paint, or a chip in the windshield from a semi-truck’s tires flinging it while passing you on the freeway. The point is that life happens. Your marriage, like your car, is going to experience wear and tear, from life events that you both can and can’t control. If you are not yet married and are reading this you may be asking, ‘If life is going to happen anyway is there anything preventative I can do?”
The answer is simple. Read the manual and take the relationship to the shop. If you have been married for some time and are recognizing there are some dings in the communication and structure in your marriage, the answer still stands – read the manual and take the relationship to the shop. If you have reached the point of divorce talk and affairs, the answer is to read the manual and take the relationship to the emergency shop that’s open 24 hours and sends a tow truck!
Counseling – Cheaper Than Divorce
Remember when you thought your problems didn’t warrant the “cost” of counseling? You’re going to end up paying an arm and a leg if you take your broken down car to that “emergency” shop, and the same holds true for your relationship. If you worry that counseling is going to be costly, just think about how financially draining divorce will be – not just financially but emotionally.
In fact, I believe it’s never too early to start “relationship maintenance.” You don’t wait until your car is chugging along on fumes before you gas it up right? Why wait until there is major damage in your relationship to start working on it? Premarital counseling is a good thing and there is a reason people do it, and even many religious establishments require it. Big things get discussed in premarital counseling such as having kids, working, housework, and sex. Believe it or not, a lot of times two years into the marriage it comes out that one person is desperate for kids and the other one has no plans to raise children. Or it comes out that one person is expecting/desires sex four to five times a week while their partner things once or even twice a week is a lot. These issues can lead to divorce and serious emotional hurt and that is where pre-marital counseling can be beneficial not only in addressing sticky issues, but also relationship building.
If you haven’t already been living together then pre-marital counseling is especially important for other reasons. You and your partner should be prepared for each-other’s small quirks and either agree to work on them or come to a compromise. Of course I would expect that you have spent ample time at each-other’s homes so you have witnessed the quirks in question and think they are no big deal. They are – or they will be. When you live with the person full time and are constantly faced with them they become big deals. Deal with them before the “I-do.”
Is It Fixed Yet?
As a therapist I personally enjoy couple’s counseling. I enjoy people and love being a third party watching a story unfold and helping people to see where misunderstandings are happening. In my experience and experiences other therapists have shared with me, more often than not, it’s as if we, the therapists, are just like car mechanics and the marriages are cars that have been totaled and crushed into cubes (a-la Breaking Bad). The crushed unidentifiable cubes of what was once a shiny operable piece of art is dropped off at our door with a note saying “please repair in three days.” Three days (sessions) later the people are staring into our shop window asking “is it fixed yet??”
If you and your partner are at the crushed-cube-unidentifiable-destroyed-automobile stage, here is some advice:
CALL a mechanic, er uh, therapist. LISTEN to the therapist and DO the homework, no matter how cheesy. Also, it will take TIME to repair the marriage as you unpack all the hurt and frustration, as well as navigate forgiveness and take hits to your pride and ego. If the therapist gives you a game, PLAY IT. If books are recommended READ THEM. Repairing the marriage takes discipline and work and willingness to look deep into you and not only admit where faults lie (both partners need to do this), but it also takes time and commitment. But just as you don’t have to repair your totaled car by yourself, you don’t have to rebuild your relationship on your own. Couples and marriage counselors can help by being an unbiased, third-party mediator who can see things in a more objective and neutral way. We can offer time-tested relationship building – and fixing – skills, be it learning to communicate more effectively or learning to forgive and everything in between.
Reach out to Deepwater Counseling at 734.203.0183 to learn more. And in the meantime, check out these books. These books are so good I now REQUIRE them to be read as a part of couple’s therapy.
Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and Coupled Up by Harriet Lerner
I love this book. It contains over 100 “rules” for couples. These rules are no more than a page and a half and they are interesting, practical, and creative! My favorite rule is “Pretend to Adopt a British Houseguest.” Pretend you have a quiet British houseguest living with you. How would you behave around them? This book is full of inventive and practical tips to improve your relationship.
Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
This book should not only be required for couples, but for EVERY human. How we use our words and view people directly impacts people in our lives. This book will make you think in new ways and help you treat people in your life better as well as yourself.
- By Annen Weber