Marriage Is Hard.
This is typically not a statement up for debate. Through the course of our lives, we learn that anything worth having requires work. Marriage is no exception. In fact, it may be the standard by which many of us measure difficulties in all aspects of our lives. At some point in the relationship/marriage journey, many of us learn to utilize therapy. For me, it has become a tool that I adore as much as my marriage.
We’ve all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In many cases, this is true. However, sometimes a little extra care and attention are necessary, like when taking care of your vehicle. You maintain your car with regular oil changes and checkups, fill it with gas, and sometimes you even wash it. In exchange, your car operates, it’s comfortable, and it gets you from point A to point B. By being proactive about caring for your vehicle, you ensure that your trusty car continues working and getting you to your destinations.
The same logic can be applied to caring for your marriage through therapy. Just like proactive car maintenance, don’t wait for an issue to arise before starting marriage therapy. It’s much harder to dig out the root of an issue that began years prior to the eclipse of emotions, especially when one person isn’t aware that there’s an issue to begin with.
Therapy is always going to be hard.
As our therapist says, “If therapy were easy, then I would be out a job.” We wouldn’t be paying her the big bucks to coax (and sometimes force) introspection and reflection about our marriage. At those times, my husband and I find it necessary to remember that “anything worth having requires work.” It helps remind us that no amount of delving into childhood abandonment issues or previous detrimental relationships is easy. But after reflection and discussion comes comfort. Comfort in knowing that we are doing everything we can to be there for each other, as well as comfort in knowing how to care for someone else’s emotions without disregarding our own.
Communication is the key!
Long before the moment we speak our first words, we learn how to communicate. We observe and pick up on social cues, both physical and verbal. Far more than words, communication is a dance of understanding, acceptance, and taking turns expressing ourselves. It is truly complicated, and adding new life to the mix makes it even more so. Even if you manage okay with your spouse/partner, once kids come into play it’s a whole new pattern to learn (or unlearn, for that matter).
It’s a strange thing to realize that our kids are always observing my husband and me. They see how we interact as a couple, as a family, and how we act when we think they aren’t looking (by the way, they’re always looking). And they definitely see differences in how we treat them in a one-on-one setting versus when we’re with all of them at the same time. It was a punch-to-the-gut kind of realization that really caused me to evaluate our communication. What example are we setting if we can’t even pretend to like each other when perturbed? Does anxiety become compounded when we bring our frustration and anxiety home from work? Is there something I can be doing better?
We can always benefit.
If we approach therapy as a marriage tool, then we can benefit from it all the time. Although I was raised in a family where therapy was for people with problems, I now see how deeply flawed that thinking was. We can all benefit from an impartial judge, especially in times of turmoil and mixed emotions. I can’t possibly expect to teach my children about healthy communication if I’m not sure how to handle it myself. That’s just unrealistic.
The more time we spend practicing healthy communication in our marriage and being proactive about issues, the less time we have to spend uncovering the root cause of any issues that may arise. This is particularly applicable when we do hit a wall in our relationship. There may be times that I choose to yell over choosing precise words to express my emotions, but I’m still learning. My husband and I are learning together, and what we learn is used to teach our children. And hopefully save them some money on therapy down the line.