How long have you been married? Have you dealt with infertility? Have you moved to a new place far from home? Do you have in-laws who aren’t easy to be around? Are your parents or friends disrespecting boundaries? Do you suffer from anxiety? Are you experiencing financial changes, health problems, or a faith crisis? Have you and your spouse faced an unexpected challenge in your marriage?
If I asked you these questions, there’s a good chance we’d go deep fast. (Just the way I like it.)
I can be snarky, but this post isn’t a response to the woman who told me marriage should be easy and made me feel inadequate when I shared that “easy” was not a word I would use to describe mine. Instead, this is my way of letting you know that you aren’t alone and offering a chunk of my heart on the subject in hopes of encouraging you, wherever you are.
Let’s retrace my steps starting with April 10. That’s the day I let the world in on a not-so-fun secret: E and I were experiencing major growing pains in our marriage and needed prayer.
A couple of months later, on June 13, I shared that we were doing really well, but decided to be proactive and start seeing a counselor as a way to be proactive in our marriage.
After just four sessions with our counselor, on July 15, I boldly shared, “Go to counseling. Not because you think your spouse needs it, but because you want to bring your best self to them everyday.”
I wanted to keep it real online and be honest that we started seeing a counselor for two reasons. First, because it’s true. Second, because there’s a stigma around the words “counseling” and “therapy” that lead to misunderstanding and unnecessary shame.
What I’ve learned is that counseling isn’t just for the bad times. It certainly isn’t just for the weak, the broken, or the hurting; although it can be. Thank God he made empathetic people with a heart for listening, patience, and a willingness to walk with people in their darkest times. Counselors, at least the few that I’ve gotten to know, are some of the least judgmental and kindest souls.
I went to counseling during my college years to work through junk from my past that was hindering my present and likely to cause havoc in my future. Those 60 minutes spent spilling my guts out to a person, who was merely a stranger vowing to keep my words confidential, became sacred.
Later on, when E and I got engaged, we went through premarital counseling together and found that to be an intense time of learning the depths of each other that we might not have known otherwise. (I strongly recommend it, engaged friends!)
In the very beginning of our dating relationship, we made a commitment to wait for our wedding night to have sex. I believed that our marriage would be blessed because of this and when it didn’t go as planned for the first few months, I grew angry. What was wrong with me? Why was it painful? Is God punishing me for the past? I soon learned that God was not punishing me, but he did make some of the smartest humans and those people become doctors. With their help, the problem was taken care of, the pain subsided, and on we went doing the most natural thing two humans who love each other would want to do. However, getting into a healthy rhythm after all that we went through wasn’t easy.
Fast forward in our marriage to when we were living in a teeny, tiny apartment with jobs that allowed us to work from home together. Sounds like a dream for any newlywed couple, even to us at first. It wasn’t long before we started to lose the feeling of missing each other. We felt like roommates because we were together 24/7 at times. Bickering became more frequent.
On top of these things, (and I share it all with E’s permission) my husband’s faith had come to a halt. Very few people knew this was going on in our little world, but it was tough. So much harder than any toilet seat being left up or chewed gum stuck on the side of his plate. We came to the realization that spiritually we were in two very different places and that wrecked me.
As if those aren’t all hard enough, we also dealt with the same things 99% of married couples go through including, but not limited to: learning how to overcome expectations, communicate more effectively, balance friends and family, and relinquish the desire to be right or have the last word.
Do we love each other? Heck ya! Any less than the woman who told me her marriage is easy? No, I refuse to believe that lie. Does our marriage bring us joy? So much. Is it hard? At times, extremely. Does this make us abnormal/weird/bad spouses? No. My prayer is that if you’re reading this and you’re married, you wouldn’t feel alone or inadequate if your marriage is far from easy.
Where are we right now? In a bigger apartment (Praise Jesus!), kissing each other goodbye every morning as I head off to work at the church, and seeing a counselor every other week to be intentional. We’re doing really well.
Although we’ve never been on the verge of divorce or dealt with some of the heavy things that many marriages are at war with, we choose to see a counselor together every other week because we knew we could be better. And we wanted to be.
Bottom line- you don’t have to wait until everything falls apart to reach out. You shouldn’t wait until you’re married either. Counseling is a great way to be proactive in your personal growth and no one is “above” it. 🙂
PS. If you’re in Chicagoland, we highly recommend Focht Family Practice.