My husband Dan and I have been married for seven and a half years. We started dating in college and we’ve always had incredible chemistry and communication skills. We’re each other’s favorite person, which is notable since we know each other so well; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We know it all and we love it all (though, truthfully, we might not like all of it all of the time).
Shortly before our third wedding anniversary, our marriage dynamic was shaken up by the birth of our first son Dax, and just under three years later it was jostled again with the arrival with our second son Case. Now, Dax is four and Case is 20 months, which means that for the majority of our marriage we’ve been parents. This also means that the majority of our marriage we’ve been doing a lot of flying by the seats of our pants, trying to learn how to love on and effectively parent tiny humans for the first time, as well as invest in our relationship, all on little to no sleep.
We’ve been rather cocky about our ability to almost effortlessly knock this whole marriage thing out of the park, so I suppose it stands to reason that it’s about time we run into some issues we can’t work out on our own.
So we’ve started going to marriage counseling.
A really close friend of mine is a little bit farther down the field than I am. She has been married for over ten years and has three little girls seven and under. A few weeks ago I was lamenting to her our current situation, in which the only thing Dan and I seem to be good at is getting under each other’s skin. I came to her feeling quite defeated, like ours was the only marriage in the world where something like this – going from being head over heels obsessed with each other to fighting over the littlest things – could happen. I could almost hear her laughing as we were texting from several states away.
“Lindsay, this is so normal,” she reassured me. “Like, you don’t even realize how normal this is.”
The tension in my shoulders eased a bit. “Really?” I asked as my eyebrows rose.
Her wisdom was palpable. “Totally,” she typed back almost immediately. “I have a rule of life: no couple with any number of children under five years old should be allowed to split, barring any abuse or infidelity.”
I chuckled a bit as she continued.
“Think about it,” she said. “Neither your nor Dan have slept properly in nearly five years. You don’t recognize each other anymore because you’re still in survival mode. No wonder you’re so prone to snapping at each other. You need someone – preferably someone who has had at least one full night’s sleep in the past week – to come in and give you guys some guidance on how to move forward. So good for you! You’re doing the right thing!”
I smiled. Good for us, indeed.
Our first counseling session was just a few days ago. We were both nervous going in, but it was nice to feel like at least we were on the same page for the first time in a long time. Granted, that page was peppered with anxiety, trepidation, and sweaty palms, but regardless. I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but I was all but convinced we were going to walk in there, say a bunch of stuff about what we’ve been dealing with, and then leave in a fight.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Our counselor was sweet and spent our allotted hour getting to know us as individuals and as a couple. She asked us questions that led us to detail our current situation, but her peaceful mediation and brightly lit office created a haven of neutrality, so we were both able to express our feelings without feeling like we were walking into a field of emotional landmines. At the end of our session, we were the farthest thing away from being in a fight – we felt closer to each other than we had felt in months. Both of us are looking forward to our next session, carrying with us a newfound energy behind our commitment to each other, knowing that we don’t have to do this on our own.
I know that marriage counseling carries with it a stigma. As a matter of fact, our counselor even admitted that most couples that go to counseling are really just ready to call it quits and are only doing it as a last-ditch effort to say they tried. But the reality is that a marriage is a legal, permanent partnership between two completely imperfect people, complete with several decades’ worth of hurts, baggage, and failures, so I’d recommend counseling to anyone who’s been married longer than five minutes.
Whether you and your partner are experiencing issues you can’t seem to sort out on your own, or everything seems to be going perfectly fine, I’d love for you to consider seeing a counselor. It certainly can’t hurt anything, and if it’s anything like our experience so far, it will be a huge blessing to both of you, and your children if you have them.
Added bonus? You usually get to sit in really comfy chairs and play with stress balls for an hour, so that’s pretty nice.