I want marriage counseling for Valentine's Day. Here's what's NOT going on in our marriage:
- We are not headed for divorce.
- We are not dealing with infidelity.
- We are not dealing with sickness or a recent loss.
The purpose of this post is not a call for help, but rather an admission to others, in hopes that it will help them to be brave:
Marriage is hard, and we need help with ours.
I find it funny that bettering ourselves is admirable in many aspects of life, but you utter the phrase "marriage counseling" and you hear an audible gasp.
- You want to get in shape for your wedding or post-baby, and you get a personal trainer.
- You want to learn the latest software at work, and you go to a professional development.
- You want to learn to cook, or sew, or build, and you attend a class.
But somehow, the two most important jobs that a human will ever have in his or her lifetime- being a spouse and being a parent- have little to no support. Perhaps it's because people have been doing this since the dawn of time, so we all just assume that we'll figure it out. But the thing is, we don't all figure it out. It's not always obvious, and it rarely is easy.
When we were first married, we'd have friends and family comment on how cute we were together, what a good couple we were. My sarcastic husband would respond, "Thanks. The counseling is really helping!" And I'd giggle. How utterly laughable it was that we would ever need help.
And then, real life set it. We had our first child; a joy, of course, but also a challenge. We decided that I would stay home. Several months later, my husband's job went south, and the income and security that we were used to was no longer there. Sound familiar? It's nothing earth shattering. But it had its effects. Three jobs, two moves, and one baby later, is where we find ourselves today.
As I said, we're not heading for divorce. But we need marriage personal training. While we know that the DINK (double income no kids) life is no longer a reality, we want to be better. We know that our teamwork could be tighter, our communication more flexible, and our bond stronger. Just like parts of our body, there are a lot of exercises that we can do and tools we can use. Sometimes, we're unsure what they are or how to use them. We just need a little coaching.
A friend of mine, Emily, eloquently wrote about the same thing in a three part series. Here's an excerpt from Part 1: Drowning:
So the thing about drowning is that people who are drowning don’t look the way you would expect a drowning person to look. They aren’t screaming or splashing or making a scene. They are trying to survive. Up and breathe. Down and panic. Up and breathe. Down and panic. Grab. Grasp. Gasp.
Drowning couples go to church. Drowning couples go on dates. Drowning couples go through the motions because maybe, at some point, they will grab onto a moment of normalcy that will become a life raft.
Are we drowning? It depends on the day. Some days, we're effortlessly doing the breaststroke. Other days, we need floaties. Desperately.
We prefer the breaststroke days: when we keep consistently swimming, and we aren't gasping for air. And that's why we found a marriage personal trainer. We've been seeing her for two years, and we are so grateful for all the guidance she has given us. I shudder to think where we'd be without her expertise.
Marriage. Is. Hard. Add the mixed blessing and challenge of children into the mix, and the difficulties are intensified. I firmly believe that, post-partum, you should walk out of that hospital with three things: your baby, your paid meds, and a voucher for six marriage personal training sessions.
Who pays for this? I don't know. But preventive measures are usually more cost effective than fixing the problem later. Perhaps then, 50% of American marriages wouldn't end in divorce.
I know that marriage counseling can't be unwrapped like a box of chocolates, or sniffed and admired like flowers, or worn like jewelry. But, in my eyes, it's a priceless gift.
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