When we think of couples counseling, we immediately attach thoughts of crisis and drama to this idea. People right away say, “no, not us, we don’t need that, we’re fine”.
Perhaps the reason couples counseling has a negative connotation is because most couples that come in for help often are a little late. Which is not to say things can’t be turned around, but it only makes the work harder and the success statistics lower. Timing is everything. Early diagnosis is critical, just like everything else in life.
Point of no return
A word about being at the Point of No Return: everyone likes to think they can handle their own relationship, that they don’t need “an outsider” to preside. So they wait, they handle it, until “working it out on our own” no longer works . I suppose it does take some humility to allow help in this very personal area. So what? The cost of pride is high, my friends. I see it when such very sad couples come in with no respect, no hope, just contempt. It is a high price to pay.
Being proactive about counseling
Might we look at the benefits of being proactive in this essential area of our lives? We take our automobiles in for tune-ups, we go for annual physicals to maintain health, we go to eye doctors, dentists, dermatologists, etc. It is amazing to me how we examine all other areas of our beings for flaws and imperfections, while we ignore the state of our relationships! We let stuff fester, overlooking what is not quite right, what is not making us happy, until resentment builds and takes its toll. Pretty amazing.
True, marriage is not perfect, relationships require acceptance of the good and the bad, and yes, we do need to overlook certain kinds of things. Where to draw the line? When to know what is not ok? How to change what needs to be fixed? Fine line, people. It takes honesty with one’s self, checking in with personal value systems and belief systems. It takes honoring one’s own needs to feel good in life. And mostly, it takes Attunement. We are not taught that, anywhere in life. In all my experience working with couples and families, it is the most essential ingredient in a healthy relationship. Hmmm, might that be something worth learning?
Learning to operate in tandem
Learning, to be a partner, a couple, an integral part of a family system. There’s a lot to it, and it’s not an easy transition from operating solo to operating in tandem. Who teaches us this? Do we see it all from our parents? Rarely the case, from where I sit. Perhaps if there were some workshop taught in our early education, we might be in better shape as a society. Perhaps if there were some ongoing educational requirement, we might pay attention more to what is required to succeed in this significant area of life. We renew licenses of other sorts, why not the marriage license …
What is relationship counseling, really?
Relationship Counseling is a call to action, to learn, to pay attention, to be attuned. It is an educational experience in learning what we did not thus far: to hear differently, react better, and to give our partner what he/she so desperately needs. It is not admitting failure, rather it is realizing your union is worth effort and prioritization. It is saying “hey, we are worth it; let’s start feeling good again”.
That is when it is time for Relationship Counseling. When it is time to feel good again. When it is time to let go of ego, and be open to learning what we don’t know. My most personally rewarding sessions are when I hear clients say those words “Oh, I didn’t know that about you” or “I did not know you felt that way”. Surprise! We don’t know everything after all. None of us.
Relationship counseling, at any age, any stage, is an investment in emotional intelligence and life satisfaction.