There is nothing quite like an intimate relationship to show us the way in which we think, what we believe and how we are inclined to act and react. Our buttons are sure to get pushed by our partners and some parts of ourselves (that we would just as soon keep hidden!) are inevitably revealed. When this happens, we can feel terrible and hurt if our partners are not skillful in how they approach us.
Most people enter marriage/relationships with unspoken wishes or desires that the marriage/relationship will cure what ails them and that difficulties will somehow be resolved. It rarely works that way. Economic status can change - as can various other helpful factors - but we still inevitably come face to face with ourselves within the relational context.
An intimate relationship/marriage serves in many ways as a mirror through which we can see ourselves through the eyes of our partners. This can be both a wonderful and a terrible thing. When the mirroring partner reflects what we want to see and hear about ourselves we are delighted and when she/he does not it can be devastating and the relationship can be strained to the breaking point especially when we feel blamed, attacked or hurt by our partners in some way.
It is easy for us to blame our spouses/partners and make them the problem when a relationship sours. It is hard for most of us to consider that we have, in some perhaps unknown way, contributed to the problem. (This is not to say that they may indeed do, or have done, destructive things which we may not wish to be around, but we owe it to ourselves to track our part in what has unfolded.) In this regard, even though it is very difficult, it is our job to look first and foremost at ourselves and not distract ourselves with blaming and attacking our partners. In couples counseling the session is used to see what we think and how we feel about what has transpired and to reflect on how we are going to act in the present and in the future once our ability to understand has deepened.
Although couples work is hard to do, it is a great opportunity to use what surfaces in the relationship as a path to grow exponentially and make changes that will last a life time. Having a person with whom one can work through difficulties, no matter how daunting, is an opportunity not to be missed and an investment in oneself, one’s marriage/relationship and kids (if you have them).