Have you been contemplating couples counseling?
Do you find yourself thinking “if only I could reach him or her”?
I’d only have to move a centimeter to be touching but here I am still on my side of the bed.
Do you find yourself angry about the uncapped toothpaste and too many water glasses littered throughout the bedroom and not saying, “I really miss you”?
Do you find yourself hopeful that this conversation is going to go more smoothly only to find contempt and defensiveness running the show?
Do you wonder if an antidepressant would help, maybe something to calm me down, calm him down, wake me up?
Or perhaps you both have the ability to calm down and wake up and hold contempt and defensiveness at bay just long enough to hear each other and maybe even to hold each other again.
If you are considering couples counseling you likely also consider the questions I am about to pose. Most couples question whether this is really it? Is this how it should feel? Is this how we should look (or not look) at each other? Is this how often we should talk, have sex, spend time together, argue? We find answers that tell us it’s typical, but then why do we feel uneasy or in pain or lonely when we’re not alone. We find answers that tell us we’re in trouble, but then why is there longing and hurt and attempts to reconnect? The truth is rather than look outside of yourself for answers about what your life, your relationship should look like, be courageous enough to look within yourself and to each other to decide how it is you want things to feel and be and how you want to live. Marriage counseling is a path to do just that. Many clients have the answers that they need buried under self doubt and daily stress, under outdated defeating messages about how we fall short and thousands of Facebook posts about how everyone else is doing it right. And if you’re wondering if other married women and men are asking themselves the same questions, if only there was a visible thought bubble floating atop each house in your neighborhood. Many couples, even those who have stood the test of time, have wandered in and out of the “how to save a marriage” internet search.
Couples counseling is becoming a more necessary component of a successful marriage or committed relationship. There are more demands on ourselves, on our time and on our relationships than ever before in history. We are changing faster than we can manage the growth. Despite the touch-of-a-button immediacy of “help” that is available to us, marriages do not have the same face to face, hands on resources that they once did. Couples counselors are a well-researched source of support for the ever changing dynamics of marriage and marriage problems. While prior generations work later in life and live farther away and younger generations stay longer and need more to be successful, intimacy becomes a souvenir of some long ago pastime. The order becomes harder and harder to fill until we stop to recognize that we get to write the order!
I believe strongly that one of the culprits of marital dissatisfaction is that we are not holding any time sacred for one of the most valuable constructs that we own. We have rituals for our children. We have methods and processes in our work lives. We have order and structure to volunteering in the school library, chaperoning the first grade class field trip, and making it to our monthly book club meetings. We have rituals around what we do on the train on our long commute to the city each day, how we mentor the new hires eager to absorb our professional brilliance, and always recall which nights we play soccer in the adult league in town. Here’s what we do not have. We do not have rituals to celebrate the very person who walked alongside us on our way down the aisle to these very endeavors. But does marriage counseling work? Will therapy really do anything to restore intimacy and bring us back to the aisle from whence we came? Therapy with me creates a jumping off point in which you begin to choose your marriage, for better or worse, for one hour. One hour to take a look at where you are, how you got here, and where you’d like to be. One hour to begin to decide, to agree, that there are opportunities in your lives to have rituals with each other again. They don’t need to be elaborate or expensive or even terribly creative, you just have to show up (like you were once rushing to do for one another).
Will we both feel supported?
Despite being a woman, being a mother, and having been a wife, in my profession I have a balance of men and women in my practice, and I can relate to the struggles and heartaches of each individual that I work with. In addition, ineffective or time worn dynamics that make us weary in our marriages are never one-sided. Both people have nuances that contribute to why your couplehood can be uniquely wonderful and also (though we might not like to admit it to ourselves) why our relationships can be uniquely maddening. I work diligently to develop a strong rapport with each person in the couple, whether through meeting together or carving out some individual sessions for each partner to feel adequately heard and understood. From there we are able to observe the elements of your relationship that you wish to leave behind (be they ineffective ways of communicating, struggles to manage time in ways that prioritize the relationship as you might like, accessing more help with children or other household demands so a focus on couplehood is more consistent, etc.) and better still the elements of your relationship that you wish to restore or create anew (emotional and physical intimacy, spontaneity, humor, goal setting and achievement, friendship and cooperative parenting, passion and lightheartedness, loyalty and trust). All the while becoming better equipped to soothe the anguish that may have shown up along the way.
Will we have to be meeting with you forever?
As strong a believer as I am that fulfilling marriages can be sustained, I am an equally strong believer in brief therapy. Couples counseling sessions will be thorough and will allow for enough time to discuss your concerns past, present and future while also not creating problems where there aren’t any. There will also be time to acknowledge when you have found ways to hold your time sacred together beyond the structure that a marriage therapist provides. Many of the couples or individuals within the couples that I have worked with may return to therapy for a time to touch back in with what was helpful to them/him/her previously or if new and unexpected challenges or stressors emerge. I am committed to continuing to be a resource to tap into when the well may feel like it’s nearing dry, and all I may have to do is move a few stones aside that were blocking the water below.
But does couples counseling REALLY work? What if marriage therapy reveals that our problems are worse than I imagined rather than easier to resolve?
In my experience what each person imagines about one’s marriage, one’s relationship or how little one’s partner really cares about her/him is most often more painful and consumes more time and energy than what it would take to get to some truthful answers in the process of couples counseling. And even if what comes to light is that what you most need is a place to explore the sustainability of the relationship, that too is more smoothly done with the assistance of an effective couples counselor who does not have an emotional stake in the relationship. It is my belief that as a couple you have to be willing to commit to six sessions and that within six sessions, you should both agree that what you are getting out of it is worthwhile. If you can make that commitment or want to decide if it’s a commitment that you want to make, contact Virginia Williamson, LMFT, at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be one step closer to the first hour that opens the avenue to the rest of your lives.