Around our 17th wedding anniversary, my husband and I found ourselves struggling in our marriage. Years of sleepless nights and managing a busy family had left us strangers in the same house.
However, even though I knew we could stand to learn better communication strategies, the thought of admitting that we needed professional help was overwhelming. And, truth be told, I was embarrassed. To the outside world, we had the perfect life. The fairy tale, if you will.
But, the fact is, Cinderella lied to us. There’s no such thing as “happily ever after” because, let’s face it: Prince Charming needs to be reminded to courtesy flush and those glass slippers don’t fit after having kids.
So, why is it so hard for a couple that is struggling to reach out for help?
Well, for me, it boiled down to these five issues:
1). Marital struggles can feel embarrassing.
Take one scroll through your social media and you will be bombarded with “Facebook happy” lives. No one is posting pictures in front of a therapist’s office with the caption, “Headed in to therapy to work out why we can’t seem to be kind to each other anymore! #blessed #therapyrocks.”
My husband and I felt like we needed to keep our struggles to ourselves and it was an isolating time. But, the truth is, the minute divulge that you are headed to couples’ therapy, you’ll be surprised at how many people say, “Oh my goodness, that happened to us, too!” Don’t be embarrassed. Just go to therapy, trust me.
2). Marriage therapy doesn’t mean you are getting a divorce.
I know this seems obvious but part of the reason I was resistant to therapy was because I saw it as admission of defeat. It felt like failure and I was concerned the therapist would look at us and say, “Oh, yeah, you two are a mess.”
But, as my husband gently reminded me, marriage therapists would be out of jobs if they sent everyone to divorce court. And, for us, that was the truth. I’m not saying every couple that winds up on the other side of their struggles but therapy can help you decide what path you ultimately take.
3). The “We should be able to fix this on our own” syndrome.
If you are like me, you are used to problem solving. If HGTV has taught us anything, it’s that you can fix most problems with a fresh coat of paint, some shiplap and a whole lot of elbow grease. That’s not the case when your marriage is running off course. You might be able to sweep some issues under the new rug, but, eventually, those walls are going to crack.
Our therapist taught us to look at our sessions like a basketball game: we were the players and he was the coach. He reminded us that, in order to stay in the marriage game, everyone needs to run drills, learn new skills and score a few goals every now and then. His analogy was just what I needed to be all in on Team Therapy.
4). Therapy sessions aren’t filled with screaming and yelling (mostly).
If you believe the therapy sessions depicted on television, couples are always angry and ready to come to blows. I was genuinely worried my husband and I would be paying a therapist so we could mudsling and say hurtful words to each other.
Nothing was further from the truth. Therapy helped us find the kindness in our marriage again. No hurling plants across the room necessary.
5). Cinderella probably went to therapy, too, so just go.
No marriage is perfect and whether you’ve been married for five years or twenty, every couple has patches where they don’t feel in sync. Some patches are worse than others but, I can guarantee you that Cinderella probably hauled Prince Charming into the therapist’s office at one point or another. I mean, his mother in law was a doozy, right?
Everyone deserves a fairy tale ending but not the one that’s been fed to us since we were little. Your fairy tale is yours to write and the ending can be rewritten in therapy. And that’s when the real magic happens.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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