Monday, June 20, 2016

in defense of couples counseling

We live in a world where seeing a couples counselor still feels like a dirty little secret. We're afraid to admit to our friends or family members that we have problems in our relationship that need professional attention. Somehow it feels like a failure. Not to mention, we've all heard people say that if you need counseling early on in a relationship or marriage, then you're doomed. I once had a friend tell me that she and her husband didn't need therapy, because they were already able to get really deep on their own. As if people who go to counseling don't know how to get deep. To that I say:

Ahem, bullshit.

Here's where I admit that the H-bomb and I see a couples therapist. I hesitate to give a disclaimer on why we opted to seek professional help, but I think it's fair to say that we were running into the same issues, and we weren't making any headway. Getting too deep wasn't our problem. It was getting too deep without coming up with a resolution. Regardless, there's no shame in our game.

I will admit, we have a love/hate relationship with the process. There are plenty of times we leave a therapy session, smiling and joking to one another that we "give good sesh," but there are plenty of times it's a super tense walk back to the car. What I love about it is that we get to have our disagreements moderated. It can be so easy to get lost in a fight, and not see the other person's point or perspective. Sometimes it really helps to have a third party do the whole "What Saaara is trying to say is," or "What I think Saaara is feeling is." It can help to have someone on your side, and it can help to have that same person point out when you're being unreasonable or unfair.

The downside of therapy is that it can dredge up issues you thought you'd already gotten past. Once in awhile, we'll bring up old conflicts, and find ourselves pissed off all over again. You can go into an appointment thinking everything is great, but once you get talking, it can open the domestic squabble floodgates.

In an interview with the actor Dax Shepard, he explained that he and Kristin Bell started going to therapy early in their relationship, because it can be a lot harder to change patterns as time goes by. Shepard said,: "I just kept going back to 'This person has the thing I want, and I have to figure out how we can exist peacefully.' So we started [seeing a therapist together] right away." Bell added, "You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don't figure out how to cook without reading a recipe. Therapy is not something to be embarrassed about."

And those two are freaking adorable.

I know therapy might not be for everyone, but if you find yourself having the same damn fight all the time without any change or progress, then you might want to consider it. Seeking it out doesn't have to be shameful. It certainly doesn't mean your relationship is over. It's more like, "I love you so  much that I want to be better to you and for you."  If you've already discovered how to do that without a little relationship coaching, then more power to you.

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