Does anyone have a good experience with marriage counseling? I hope so. In my experience, marriage counseling actually made things worse.
I've been in marriage counseling twice: Marriage #1 and Marriage #2. I can't say I'm a big fan. In fact, I can probably say I'm a huge advocate for not going to marriage counseling at all. It's like paying someone to referee a knockdown, fist-flailing hate fest where saying anything to each other -- even truly horrible statements -- is supposed to bring you enlightened understanding and emotional intimacy.
To me, our weekly sessions were a flogging and I would have done anything, including chewing my own leg off, to escape the trap of that room. Through the months of listening to my every flaw, I would gaze out the window of our therapist's third floor office and wonder if it was high enough for me to run and jump to my death, just to escape the emotional beating that Husband #2 was unleashing on me.
I don’t blame Husband #2. He had a lot pent up inside of him. His method for dealing with conflict was much different than mine. We are like two different kinds of volcanoes. When I erupted, my emotions were the fast moving, liquid lava that freely pours out racing towards the sea. Husband #2 was a violent volcano, dormant for years with emotions buried inside before he finally let things erupt in the “safe” environment of counseling.
We went for months.
I can say that I understand his point of view and he might even be able to say he understands my point of view, but all of that understanding took us nowhere. I can’t speak for him, I can only say that I didn’t feel more loving towards Husband #2. In fact, counseling was like a wedge that drove us further and further apart. I no longer remembered what I specifically loved about Husband #2. I knew I loved him -- I just couldn’t remember why.
And our 60 minute ride back home was suffered in silence as I sat pressed against the passenger side door, mentally licking my wounds and struggling to get my tears under control. We were beating each other up at a time when our relationship was at its absolute weakest.
It turns out that I’m not alone in my opinion of marriage counseling. I recently stumbled across an article titled "Does Marriage Counseling Really Work?"
The article states that, “a lot of marriage counselors have no idea what they are doing.”
Surprised? I’m not.
So Husband #2 and I agreed to try something different for a while. After four months of not seeing each other and communicating sporadically by email, we decided to meet for a weekend halfway between here and there. No relationship talk, no divorce filing talk, just topics that we were strong enough to handle in our broken state.
It wasn’t easy and I agonized about our trip. Little things would throw me for a loop. For example, Husband #2 asked me to book the hotel. The questions swam in my head. Should I book one room or two? Should I get two beds or one? Should I be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice or should I mentally commit to stay for the entire time? What about sex?
So I took a leap of faith, put myself out there emotionally, and booked a king suite with a two person tub. Yeah. It was a huge risk.
And through all my fears, things worked out for the best.
For one weekend, we were ourselves again, the two people who fell in love so many years ago. The ones who laughed and flirted and kissed and cuddled. In some respects, our separateness is still evident, but our one weekend was a step towards remembering the reasons that I fell in love with Husband #2 to begin with.
Or problems are not fixed. Divorce papers are still somewhere in Filing Land. But we were able to build up enough goodwill to plan for a second weekend in anther two-and-a-half months.
Right now, that’s a better result than we ever achieved in our months of marriage counseling.