Fifteen years ago my marriage was in trouble. I knew we couldn’t go on the way we were but I wasn’t sure how to change things. What I did know was that we had four children who would be adversely affected if we decided to end it. Yes, couples divorce every day but I didn’t want us to be one of them. I also knew I couldn’t support the status quo.
The long healing process began with me seeing a counselor. Altogether I saw four counselors over about a six-year period. I wanted answers, explanations and strategies I could apply right away to my crumbling marriage. Mostly what they did was listen and validate my feelings. I wanted and needed more than any of them seemed prepared or able to give. I did though learn over and over again that I was in an abusive relationship. One of the most powerful questions presented to me was: “If you respect yourself, why are you tolerating this?” Why was I? I had to think long and hard. It was a huge wake-up call that propelled me to learn more about myself and figure out why I was tolerating bad behavior.
At the beginning of one of my last appointments, I adamantly asked my counselor to please not just listen to me. I told him I wanted his advice as I have a lot of people who will listen to me. I asked if we could role play and I would play the part of my husband. That helped enormously. He gave me a tool I could immediately put into practice and it helped to move our relationship in a more positive direction.
Within a family, the partnership between the two parents provides the foundation for the family. A strong, secure partnership is essential for children to feel safe and secure at home. Tension is felt by everyone and children learn what they need to do to feel safe. They learn to protect themselves. If the pattern isn’t broken, that habit of protecting themselves carries into their relationships.
Can you save your marriage? It’s my belief, that in most cases, you can. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. I’ve been married for 26 years and it’s better now than it’s ever been. We both feel proud that we were able to weather the storms and work through our problems. Is it perfect right now? Of course it isn’t. We’re in a much, much better place though and we’re both committed to regularly working on our relationship.
Did therapy save my marriage? I would say out of the many, many hours we spent in a counselor’s office, only a very small percentage of that time was useful. I had to dig, reflect, and look at myself closely through writing, reading and lots of dialogue.