The first time my husband and I went to therapy was for pre-marital counseling with our pastor. A requirement for our pastor to marry us. We learned a lot about each other that we had been struggling with through our short relationship. Single ladies and gents… relationships are hard. They take work. A lot of work. If you go into a relationship not willing to give it 100% of your mental and physical energy, then you should probably stop now. Shit happens. Humans are just that, human. We make mistakes. We say things we don’t mean… or we say things we do mean that are mean. We say things in anger and in fear. We say things in the heat of the moment that we cannot take back. If everyone gave up in that moment, there would be no relationships ever.
Our first year of marriage we were lucky to be a part of our churches newly wed small group. We loved that group. Everyone argued over silly things like laundry and dishes. Do the forks face up or down? Yes we all got in serious arguments over ridiculous things. Especially that first year of figuring out how to live with each other. So many arguments about in-laws on all sides of the marriage. We were not so different after-all.
My husband and I have been in and out of therapy since that first year of marriage trying to find common ground in silly arguments… and those not so silly arguments.
Fertility problems triggered a big set of arguments for us. Our equal frustrations created a huge gap in communication as well as a loss of respect for each other. Blaming ourselves and each other for our lack of a child. We would go from therapist to therapist trying to find one that would fit my emotional needs and my husbands logical needs. It was a difficult process. In fact, we had one therapist suggest we get a divorce. She didn’t last very long. Another therapist suggested sex therapy. Nothing like discussing your (lacking) bedroom shinanigans with a total stranger. I’m sure there are good sex therapists but this was not one of them.
One therapist (ok she was a psychic) suggested we stop discussing divorce and start getting along like grown ass adults. Our marriage was not slotted to end in divorce. I don’t know if it was that she was a psychic or if that I really had not heard this statement before that got me to thinking. Either way, I started to see the hurt in my husbands heart and really tried to find that synergy we had when you first got married. When I opened my eyes and heart to his, he opened his to mine. Weird how that worked. A simple act of forgiveness can truly change the entire future of a marriage. Really, I was forgiving myself. My self-hate was coming out in anger toward my husband. He was just reacting to my crazy. It was a whole mess of crazy up in here. When I lessened the crazy, he lessened the reactions. We started to synergize again.
It was then we decided to adopt. Can you imagine any agency accepting a crazy couple like us? Every agency we asked regarding counseling and therapy congratulated us on our work on ourselves and our marriage and said it would have no affect on the adoption process. There were some international countries that wouldn’t accept families in counseling due to their out dated beliefs thinking therapy was for the seriously mentally ill.
We finally had a plan of action that almost guaranteed we would be a family of 3 sooner or later. Granted it didn’t make the waiting any easier. But we were finally in it TOGETHER in it. We were equally waiting. No blame. No guilt. Just waiting together.
We went through a hard failed adoption together and it made us stronger yet. Holding a child in your arms and then having her taken away makes you dig deep to just get up in the morning. But we endured it together. Being fully TOGETHER is something we had never truly experienced.
When we were placed with our son we blossomed even more.
Even though our lives seemed put together we still had our moments. This past year we jumped back into therapy head first. We went in because we kept getting in arguments over the dishes… yes 10 years later… the dishes is what we fight about. Turns out dishes was actually my fear of becoming a dreaded ‘housewife’. Which I had some negative stereotypes against. I’ll discuss some of the changes I personally experienced in another post.
This new therapist is one we can both really connect with. My husband gets his logical needs met and I get my emotional needs met. We are both told to get our heads out of our asses and given homework to do. This therapist understands job security really well and keeps finding things we can work on as individuals and couples. The thing is, we are doing it! We are doing everything we are told to do. We are enjoying our sessions and looking forward to them each month. The dishes argument is still around… because seriously…. I hate the dishes. But we have other issues that come up… individually and as a couple. Sometimes our sessions are just a hooRAH session about how awesome we are doing as a couple…. because some days we totally kick ass at marriage. And some days… we argue about the dishes.
The point of me telling the internet this is that I know SO MANY couples who refuse to go to counseling. They refuse to get help in any way. They think therapy is for sick people or they finally agree to go when its too late. They think their religion is their therapy… or their sister is their therapy. Your sister is ALWAYS going to side with you!! If your religion is your therapy, see your pastor! You need a third party to come in and tell you the truth. You need a third party to help your decipher your SHIT!
We went to therapy over the freakin’ dishes people! It’s never about the dishes! It’s always something deeper.
But I’m too busy with the kids. I’m too busy with my job. We don’t have the money right now. It’s JUST NOT a priority right now.
What happens when you don’t make your marriage a priority? What if you took your marriage more seriously than your ego?
It doesn’t take too much thought to know the answer to that.
Look. Divorce happens. I’m not saying I’m against divorce. It has its place and in many instances it’s necessary. I’m just saying, unless your physically beating the crap out of each other, give it everything you got before it gets to the big ‘D’. Before it even starts to get to that point.
A note from my husband:
I’ve been going to therapy for quite some time now, many times with my wife, sometimes by myself. Is there anything “wrong” with my marriage? Nope. Is there anything “wrong” with me? Nope. But that doesn’t mean that my marriage can’t be stronger or that I can’t be a stronger pillar in my marriage; it doesn’t mean that I can’t be better at dealing with stressful situations; and it doesn’t mean that I can’t be a better father…and that is why I no longer have a problem discussing with folks that I go to therapy pretty regularly. The stigma that therapy is only for those who are “broken” or for marriages that are on the verge of failure needs to go away – therapy is for anyone who wants to grow, anyone who wants additional tools to handle the stresses of life more effectively. I enjoy therapy for that very reason – I enjoy the personal introspection that I must do to grow, and I think many more people can benefit from therapy if we remove the notion that “I’m not broken, therefore I don’t need to go to therapy.” Try it…you’ll like it, or at the very least, you’ll learn something.
-Justin Chester, Physicist, 4x Ironman finisher, Triathlon coach, involved father, devoted husband, Mans Man.