#4 The Counseling Continuation
Erik and I did not seek premarital counseling. If we had, we may have delayed our marriage for a few years working through all of the baggage we were bringing with us, but alas, instead we were married after just a month of being engaged. Erik told me about a couple the other day that is planning to not only get premarital counseling, but also seek therapy all throughout their marriage. I think that is so smart! Much like maintaining a car instead of waiting until it breaks down and leaves you stranded while picturing terrifying scenarios involving hook hands and horror movies (just me?), attending therapy in the good times instead of waiting for a crisis is one of the best tools (in my opinion) for starting and keeping a happy marriage.
Even as we speak, Erik and I are back in the middle of counseling. We have done marriage counseling in the rocky times, individual grief counseling during our fertility trials, and now we are back to do a little maintenance as getting this right is even more important now that we have a precious baby girl. We want to make sure that our baggage stays where it belongs, that we handle disagreements with the utmost maturity, and that we learn how to manage keeping our marriage on track while being new parents. If you were to count up the time and money we have spent on therapy, it would be astronomical. So we don't. We just know that it's been worth every dime.
I have heard so many excuses from couples on the brink of divorce and it usually starts with money. As far as I'm concerned, if you can afford to eat out, go to the movies, or pay for your child's activities, you can afford to go to counseling. Or rather, you can't afford not to. Your child may miss their year of baseball, but I'm sure they would miss their mommy or daddy much more were your marriage to end! And it's probably cheaper than a divorce too!! Many counselors charge on a sliding scale based on your income, most take insurance, and there are some that are working on their licensure that are quite cheap, relatively speaking.
The other mistake that we've seen couples make is quitting counseling too soon. It is going to bring up tough, painful issues. You WILL want to stop going. Just remember, it often gets worse before it gets better. There would be nights we would leave counseling and not speak all of the next day. There would be nights we would leave and vow never to go back. But now, I value the dialogue it opens up, the forum it gives us to voice our feelings, and the communication it inspires once we leave. I like knowing that if and when life throws us another curveball, there is someone who knows our entire relationship history, who values the sanctity of marriage, and who will help us work through anything.
It has not been a quick fix, no. We will always be a work in progress, and we will continue to use her as needed, regardless of stigmas and without apology.
We have given the name of our counselor to more couples than I can count. If you would like her name and number (and she is amazing, trust me), just send me a message and I will happily pass it along. We don't get anything for referring people to her...otherwise we'd have a free lifelong pass. And believe me when I say that we wouldn't be ashamed to use it!
"The development of a really good marriage is not a natural process.
It is an achievement."~David and Vera Mace