The other week my wife, Cassidy, and I went to marriage counseling. After only seven months of marriage, we felt like things were falling apart… Just kidding. Actually, we feel quite the opposite. I would say that our marriage is pretty awesome. We never fight, we talk about everything, and we genuinely love each other. I would do anything for my wife, and I know that she would do anything for me.
So why in the world did we go to marriage counseling? Good question. Well, it was actually as part of an assignment for my wife’s marriage enhancement class. Probably not the answer you were looking for, but after our first appointment, we walked away with new knowledge about our relationship and tools to help us overcome some of the small challenges we face. I believe that marriage counseling is for everyone who is married – no matter how good or bad your marriage is. Some people may disagree, but let me relate my experience and then you can judge for yourself.
Every marriage has its ups and downs. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that my relationship with my wife has taken a lot of hard work and commitment. However, we have never had a disagreement that has extended beyond the day that it came up. We have focused on being transparent and communicating with each other so that issues will never build up. Neither of us is perfect at this by any means, but it’s something that we continually work on.
When my wife told me about her marriage enhancement class assignment and listed the options, she suggested that we do the marriage counseling option, just to see what it’s like. It sounded fun to me, so I agreed. I also thought that it could be beneficial to get an outside perspective into our relationship. It also helped that it was free through BYU because we are both students. Before our appointment, we had a phone interview where a counselor asked us questions about our backgrounds and about our relationship. As she asked us specific questions about any issues we were dealing with, we didn’t have much to report. She then asked: “So…then why do you guys want to come in for counseling? General prevention?” I didn’t even know that was a thing, but sure.
During our actual appointment, one of the first things our counselor said was that she noticed we were really in love with each other and had a good relationship. As we held each other like a fresh newlywed couple would, we agreed. She also asked us what we wanted to work on, so we mentioned things like how to deal with stress/anxiety and how to maintain our relationship. Through the course of the session, we realized things that were issues that we had not thought of as sources of stress or anxiety on our relationship. The counselor also helped us identify what we could specifically do to fix those issues. Above all, it was nice to have someone listen to what we felt individually and as a couple.
Cassidy and I walked away from the appointment feeling like we could conquer any marital challenge. We felt like we now had the tools to work on some of those issues that had been harder to pinpoint before. Now, I’m not writing this to brag or boast about my marriage. I know that other people go to counseling not because they want to work on little things, but because it’s the last thing they feel like they can do before filing for a divorce. I do not want to trivialize those situations, but I do want to make a point.
I believe that if you want your marriage to last, you have to constantly work at it. There will always be problems in a marriage because two people from completely different backgrounds get put together into the same household, hopefully by their own choice. Naturally, some things will need to be worked out, compromises made, and goals set. I believe that the earlier you can do that, the less friction there may be. Marriage counseling can be a tool to help facilitate the communication and work that a marriage requires.
Unfortunately, there is a huge stigma around the word “counseling” so that if you mention it around friends or relatives, everyone asks: “Hey, are you ok? If you ever need to talk, I’m here for you.” I certainly appreciate the sincerity and concern that comes from these people, but in this situation my wife and I can assure you that we are doing just fine. I promise that she does not abuse me, and that I do not cry myself to sleep every night.
All jokes aside, I think every couple could benefit from marriage counseling. Ultimately, you and your spouse are responsible for what happens in your relationship, but you don’t have to do it on your own. For Cassidy and me, having a qualified third perspective was very valuable in our progression as a couple. Too often, I think we lie to ourselves and put up a facade, trying to create the appearance that our life is perfect. Our lives aren’t perfect. Everyone has problems. I don’t know of any person or marriage that is perfect – although there are some that are pretty close. But most of us don’t fall into that category. The honorable and respectable thing that any of us can do is admit when we have problems and honestly work toward solving them.