It all started with a fight. A heated debate over something critically important–I’m sure of it! At least, it seemed important at that moment. But now, I admit I don’t even remember what the argument was about. Whatever it was, it made me reassess our relationship (as these sorts of blowups usually do), and I had a brilliant thought. Let’s try marriage counseling.
Over the years, we’d been through our fair share of garbage—things like prolonged battles with mental and physical health issues, multiple moves, job losses, financial pressures, and the unwanted delay of starting a family. However, the most challenging of all the circumstances was when my husband, Tom, was unexpectedly thrust into the role of being my caregiver.
In 2012, my health rapidly deteriorated, leaving me with a sprawling set of debilitating symptoms and no answers. Sadly, I became bedridden from weakness, and endured an inexpressible level of fatigue. I was intolerant to light and sound and had very little contact with friends or family. It was this marked physical decline that landed Tom the lead part as the caregiver in our marriage. It was a difficult job, but he soldiered through it like a champ.
Eventually, the diagnosis came. “You have late-stage Lyme disease,” the doctor said with a sympathetic look in his eyes, “There’s no cure, but we’ll try to beat this thing into remission.” His face didn’t look too optimistic.
Fast forward to the end of 2016. After multiple doctors, many rounds of harsh drugs and experimental treatments, I’ve made some progress. I’m not yet where I want to be, but I’ve experienced healing in areas that once looked bleak.
Enter my idea for marriage counseling.
Truthfully, I’ve never been much for counseling, but I could see the years of toiling for my health and struggling to survive had strained our relationship. As our 10-year wedding anniversary approached, I asked Tom if he’d be willing to go to marriage therapy with me as our gift to each other. While marriage counseling might seem like an unconventional present to mark our milestone, it was exactly what we needed to reconnect, deal with the negative patterns of behavior we’d established, and move toward another (hopefully healthier) 10 years. Thankfully, Tom agreed.
“What brings you here today?” asked the counselor as we sat down on his pale, upholstered couch. I looked at Tom. Tom looked at me. And for a second, our reason for coming seemed silly. “Well, we had a fight last night, ” I confessed. “We’ve been through a lot in the 10-years we’ve been married, and we’ve dealt with some pretty heavy things. During the next phase of our life, we want to move forward in a more positive way.” In that first session, we discussed the argument. Then, like clockwork, our time was up. We booked a session for the following week, but I was doubtful anything would really come of our experience.
Surprisingly, by week three, we experienced a breakthrough in the way we spoke and treated one another. By week four, we both realized we were seeking similar things in the relationship–respect, a listening ear, and some enthusiasm toward maintaining a thriving relationship. Bogged down by the weight of illness, we’d lost sight of the fact that even though there were obstacles in our path, we could still flourish if we worked together to conquer those problems. After just one month, marriage counseling had helped us create a shared vision for our future and a renewed sense of excitement.
So, does marriage counseling work? In our case, the answer is yes. In fact, we’ve decided to continue our sessions a while longer. Who needs diamonds when you can have a robust, fulfilling, lasting relationship? Here’s what marriage counselors are secretly thinking during your sessions.