When looking to work with me – given that I specialize in marriage therapy, there are two things I want all my clients to know about couples counseling.
As clients walk in and out of my office, I have heard concerns around a couple of things that keep coming up. Over and over again. And I can’t help but want to prevent it from happening. Here is why. Both of these (and there may be more coming in a later edition) seem like no-brainers to me.
Yet, I hear them time and time again. And the worst thing is this: The tone of your voice tells me you mean every single word of it.
So, here you go. You’ve got to hear this from me. And, you’ve got to hear it now.
Really. I don’t. And I am not just saying that. If I thought you were crazy, I’d have you admitted to a psychiatric facility. Or I would refer you to a different kind of professional. None of my clients have ever ended up there.
If caring about your relationship makes you crazy, then I will take all the crazy there is. If being attentive to your spouse and marriage makes you crazy, I hope the line will never stop. I want my practice to be full of your kind. In fact, if that’s the kind of crazy you are, I guess I want you to be crazy. In fact, I am sure of it.
If being crazy about your relationship is the prerequisite, then I am joining your ranks right now. There you have it.
Really and truly, judging you is just plain not part of my job description. It never has been. What would give me the right to judge? Nowhere in the list of my responsibilities did it include the ability or necessity to judge. Nowhere. Are you hearing me when I say that? [Please don’t make me say it again. :)]
All I am judging and seeing is the level of your commitment and the strength that it takes to realize and admit that you were wrong. From where I am standing, what I see is your ability to put your own ego aside in the interest of your relationship. Not caring so much about being right so that you can stay married instead.
In order to be successful in our work together in couples counseling, you need to believe these two things. This is your “Need to Know” when you call or email. I want you to really know both of these to be true. Once you do, we can start making headway. Because that means you know where I stand. And you know you are ready.
And, when you are ready, then you can say with me: Couples counseling, here we come!
Relationship Problems — Hearing those two words together sounds so negative. Perhaps they even make your cringe. They almost sound like someone just pronounced a death sentence over your relationship. Am I right?
“Well, if you are having relationship problems, maybe you shouldn’t be together…?!?!”
How many times have you heard that one before? How guilty does that question end up making you feel? No wonder you made up your mind to never bring that up again or admit to anyone that you and your bride/groom are actually having relationship problems to begin with.
And maybe you don’t even like the term itself because you don’t like the idea of having ‘problems’. Because of the negativity it implies. If we have a problem that means something is wrong. That’s fine.
Here are a couple other ones for you to choose from:
Questions. YOU PICK.
It doesn’t matter so much what you call them. It matters much more THAT you talk about them existing.
Here are a couple more, pardon my brain for not stopping:
Call them what you want, what if I told you that I think relationship problems are perfectly normal?
Think about it. You put two people together in close proximity for long enough and they are going to have difference of opinions, different preferences and ideas of what the dining room should look like or what constitutes a proper kitchen mess or a proper cleaning.
If you’ve ever been in college or elsewhere had a roommate, you know what I am talking about. The fact that you both put down the same intended major on your freshman application doesn’t mean a thing about how you and the other person are going to be able to handle the questions of cleanliness, standards of noise or visitors or social interactions within the square footage of your apartment.
And these two people, they don’t even have to be married. This is just roommates we are talking about. Sometimes it helps if you are friends. Other times, it’s easier to have a roommate and have your friendship needs met elsewhere.
Now, what happens to you when you get married? I often joke with my clients that once they survived their months of engagement or, even their wedding day, they know their relationship is not perfect. Unless you are one of those couples where both in the mix are complete avoiders, you will have had a fight by now. Or five. I guarantee it. And to think that there is something wrong with you (or your union) because of it is utter nonsense.
Because making a decision about flowers or colors or the guest list is not always as simple as it seems.
I don’t know how many times I end up repeating this one. Relationship problems (again, fill in the word from above you like best) are inevitable.
And guess what?
No matter what the public opinion on the matter, or what your friends and family may or may not tell you, you are not the only ones. Couples have disagreements. They run into a problem or two. Or a hundred and two if you have been married good couple of years. Sometimes it takes weeks or months between one and the other, other times couples have seasons where they have arguments or disagreements daily.
Other issues in your life might be affecting them. Consider any one of these:
My best friend from college used to ask me this so let me ask you: “Are you picking up what I am laying down?” Does that make sense?
There are things in life that we have control over. Then there are those that are completely out of our control. And yet, they still affect us. Or your spouse or your kids. Or all of the above.
Know that no matter what stage of life you are in, or what your age is, relationship problems are a normal part of being in a relationship. As normal as it gets. Period.
Going back to my point earlier — Once you are able to talk about your issues existing, you’re off to a great start.
But not only that, it matters that you know that their existence in your relationship has absolutely nothing to do with the future verdict of your relationship. Let me say that again. There is no direct correlation between the frequency and/or number of your relationship problems coming up and the ultimate result or level of fulfillment in your relationship. Absolutely none. Take my word for it.
PS: Perfectly normal.