the marriage game

I didn’t want to go to counseling.

For weeks I resisted (mostly ignored) increasingly frequent pleas from my husband.  Grieving a medical diagnosis for our then 2-year-old son, I was perfectly content in the fog of pity and isolation I had created for myself.  Counseling, I believed, was totally unnecessary.  And quite frankly, I was too mentally and spiritually exhausted to take on the task.  We were merely going through a phase: our child would get better, then we’d get better, and all would right itself.

But, of course, nothing is ever resolved so simply.

It had happened slowly; over a period of months my husband and I eventually stopped communicating.  He grieved one way, I grieved another.  I retreated further into my depression and somewhere along the way I stopped thinking of him as my partner and forgot that this was his heartbreak, too.  When every day feels like a survival situation, you tend to cling to immediate needs and the things you think you might be able to control and just pray that the other stuff you take for granted is still there when it all blows over.

Finally—just to get it over with—I relented and agreed to go to counseling.

I walked into our counselor’s office defensive and annoyed, resenting having to be there.  I cried through every session and walked out dreading the next one.  And this went on for months.  But it’s amazing what a little communication can do for you.  Eventually it dawned on me that the paths that we had walked alone for months, which had been increasingly divergent, were beginning to come together again.  For some reason, I remember feeling like being a piece in a board game.  I was completely powerless of which direction I was being sent until someone reached down, plucked us up from our opposing spaces, and set us down together on the same spot.  Suddenly we found ourselves back in a place we could face the come-what-may together.

Fast-forward ten years.  I would never have pictured myself here, working in a counseling center.  Every week I interact with couples in the same shattered space where I was all those years ago.  I recognize the fear and the exhaustion in their voices, their brokenness when they’ve had a particularly difficult session.  I’ve been there and I remember how much I wanted it to be mended quickly and without too much effort or introspection on my part.  Sitting on the other side of the desk provides an insight and empathy that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been once been in their shoes.

You didn’t ask for my advice, but I’ll tell you anyway.  It was a hard decision to step outside my bubble of self and commit to mending my marriage, but I’ve never regretted it.  I pray that you do the same.  No one fully embraces how much courage it takes to walk through the doors of a counseling office and ask for help or to commit to change.  I emerged from counseling clearer and more confident in my marriage and our ability to face the future, but not unscarred.  It terrifies me to admit how disastrous my complacency could have been.  At the time I was so mired down in my pain and self-preservation to see too far in front of me.  But change never comes from doing nothing.  So, I pray you can find that courage and be willing to face those fears to find the peace and restoration your souls long for and your marriages deserve.

I didn’t think I could find the courage to face my fear, but I’m so glad I did.





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