Going to marriage counseling changed how we saw our entire relationship.
When my husband and I first met and were dating, we were the envy of couples everywhere. We got along perfectly, we were madly in love, and my husband was at the top of his game career-wise, which allowed us to jetset off to foreign countries and have fabulous vacations. Sounds pretty perfect, doesn't it? And it was.
But all throughout that time, I always wondered, "What's the catch here?" It seemed unrealistic to assume that things would always be so perfect. I'm well aware that life is full of ups and downs, no matter who you are, and I knew that we'd likely run into our fair share of challenges. And run into them, we did.
Our first couple years of marriage presented one challenge after another, and usually these challenges were things completely out of either one of our control. Thing was, we had been in a long-distance relationship all the way up until our wedding, so not only were we suddenly faced with these new issues, we were also suddenly "thrown in the ring" together.
The first year we did pretty darn good, but into the second year, we were noticing a definite change in the way we were relating to one another. Life events had hardened us a bit, and we were no longer treating each other like we should. We were bickering, nit-picking, and even sometimes finding ourselves in full-blown, heated arguments.
That's when the dreaded C-word came up: Counseling. Most people think of counseling as the kiss of death for a relationship, sort of like admitting you're on your last leg or something.
However, we made an effort not to see counseling in that way. We approached it as if we were going to a regular ol' doctor's appointment together. We just needed a professional to look at our symptoms and diagnose the problem so we could get back to our happily ever after.
Now that we're on the other side, I can say that marriage counseling was one of the best things we've ever done for our relationship. Despite being mildly skeptical going into it, I learned some extremely important truths that are relatable to any marriage.
1. It's crucial to love your spouse in their language.
So often, we treat others how we would want to be treated, without thinking of how they might prefer to be treated. In other words, we neglect to love our spouse in their language. When my husband and I first started dating, we actually each took the quizzes in the back of the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, though we continued to forget each other's love languages completely. Doesn't help much when you do that, now does it?
During our time in counseling, however, we re-familiarized ourselves with each other's love languages, and we even discovered that my husband's had completely changed over time. It was eye-opening, and from then on out we were better able to love each other in the most meaningful ways.
2. We all have unique "buttons," and if you understand them, conflict can be avoided.
This was huge for us. Our counselor was able to help each of us narrow down core "buttons," or sensitivities we each had, that were the root of many of our problems. For example, I have a deep fear of feeling disconnected from others, and most of our fights stemmed from that sensitivity, when my husband stepped on that button.
Now that he knows this, he's better equipped to recognize it in action and talk me down off the ledge, so to speak. I also learned things about him that made a whole lot of sense, and it's changed the course of our marriage.
3. You and your partner are a team, so act like one.
During the course of our time in counseling, my husband and I realized that marriage really is a team sport, but we weren't treating it that way. Each of us was acting individually, without talking to each other about our goals and dreams so we could work on them together.
In marriage, there's no room for competing interests. We're learning to face the world with a united front, and consider each other's needs as important as our own. After all, that's part of the fun of this marriage thing, right? You get your very own, built-in cheerleader and partner-in-crime.
4. You have to be the one to take the first step toward change.
There's an ugly little thing that goes on in most relationships. It's called The Blame Game. It's much easier to see the faults in someone else and assume that they're the one that needs to change before things will get better, but in order to make positive progress, it's crucial that you look only at yourself.
Hopefully both partners are on board for change, but even if it's just you, taking the initiative and altering your behavior will set the ball rolling in the right direction. You may sacrifice a little of your pride, but the end result is well worth it.
Ultimately, my husband and I decided that our marriage is worth going the extra mile for, so we've been hard at work putting these truths into practice. Forming the habits isn't a cake walk, but neither is life. And now we feel armed and ready for whatever life throws our way.