Having a successful long-term relationship requires perseverance and a willingness to see things in a different way. I’ve been with my partner for more than a decade but I haven’t done it alone. We’ve had the help of at least five marriage counselors, all of whom continue to benefit our journey in one way or another.
They’re a neutral third party. When we’re in a rough patch, it’s helpful to have someone to go to for guidance, especially someone that’s totally unbiased. If we go to a parent, they automatically side with their own child. Our friends tend to have their own positions that they’re bound to take depending on who they’re closest to. In going to couples therapy, we can have someone give advice that doesn’t show preference to one or the other.
You don’t annoy them. Listening to people talk about their life struggles is literally what they signed up for. You’re not inconveniencing them—you’re literally the reason they come into work every day. Also, you’re paying them to listen. You don’t have to worry about annoying a friend with the same story about another problem in your life. Instead, you can go into a counseling session without fear of driving someone crazy.
They see things you don’t. Being on the outside, they get a much clearer picture of the issue than what you have. When you’re in the thick of it, you aren’t in a space where you can see things from different angles. Often, the counselor can point out a pattern that you don’t even realize exists. They can also relate separate issues together that you don’t see as intermixed.
They keep things confidential. There are times that you just don’t want to air your dirty laundry. You tell a friend, who tells another friend, and then they tell someone else—before too long you realize that all of your circle knows about the relationship troubles you’re having. Going to a counselor guarantees that it stays in the room because otherwise, they lose their job. It sounds weird but it’s pretty reassuring.
They help plan ahead. It’s been great to have a route to take if an issue were to resurface. My partner and I have many communication tools that allow us to have a better quality relationship than what we started with. We also identified what each other’s triggers were early on so that we know when to back off or what words to stay away from. These were things that we weren’t noticing despite being together so long. It was through clear and quality conversation with and observations from the counselor that it all came to light.
They all have different expertise. We haven’t gone to five different therapists because we disliked the one we were with and moved on, we’ve done so because when we’ve needed guidance, it was because we were in a new era of our lives that we had no experience with. Therapists have different specialties, so if we feel that one isn’t a good fit for our current issue, we find one that is.
Their office is a safe place. During arguments, there were many times that I didn’t want to share my true thoughts and opinions with my partner. I knew it would result in a fight and I wanted to avoid that. When you’re in a therapist’s office, you know that you can say whatever’s on your mind. If something comes out that your partner takes issue with, the counselor has the ability to diffuse the situation before it blows up.
They uncover other issues. It was fascinating to learn that stuff from a person’s past could strongly influence their current life. I was one of those people. As we dug into issues, more questions arose as to why I react a certain way when something bothers me. What came out were experiences in my past that were influencing my behaviors now. It shed a new light on the situation and helped me correct some of those kneejerk behaviors.
It relieves tension. Many sessions left us emotionally drained and at times even more angry at each other. Even so, in the end, we felt a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. Being able to put it all out there and work through things together makes our relationship stronger. Vulnerability in front of another person while entrusting them to help through such a difficult time isn’t easy. The result that comes when you dedicate yourself to seeing the problem through to the end, however, makes it all worthwhile.
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