Could Couples Therapy Really Save Us?

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couples therapy
An honest look at what can—and can't—improve because of couples therapy.

Going to couples therapy wasn't something my boyfriend or I had to wrangle the other into. Our rough patch was more like a slick of black ice, and we were careening towards a precipitous ending. We had moved in together almost a year earlier, and couples therapy seemed easier than breaking up. It would at least buy us time to figure out how to split our belongings while I looked for my own place in New York City.

I went into counseling thinking Ryan had to change. If he didn't fix at least eight of the things that were wrong with him, I was out. What were my issues? Everything. An aspiring actor, Ryan had no job security, no savings account or 401(k), and a penchant for buying every new electronic gadget on the market. He lives and breathes sports, while I swore I'd never date a jock. He can stew for an entire day if the Red Sox lose a game—an act I deem ridiculous and infantile. Why don't you try dealing with your real life for a change? I'd think. I accused him of being a man-child who slept all day and didn't know what responsibility meant.

Meanwhile, I had a great-paying job that I despised, and managed to sock away 30 percent of my income into savings and retirement. Ryan said my planning for the future got in the way of enjoying the present. His proof: I would buy a purse for $150, let it sit in my closet for 29 days, and then, overcome with spender's guilt, return it for a refund the next day. But, I reasoned, the world is far too consumed with materialism and I didn't want to be sucked into it.

When we called to make the appointment Dr. Schaffer said her schedule was full, but she would have an opening in a month. I wondered what led to her calendar freeing up. Did couples leave happy and cured, with a better understanding of each other? Or did they exit just as disgruntled as when they walked in? Maybe sitting together in a room for an hour week after week was all the confirmation husbands and wives needed to finalize their divorce. I toyed with asking what her success rate was but instead accepted the appointment and hung up.

Next: The story continues...

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