Barry & Nicole weren’t miserable. They had never talked about divorce. There had not been an affair. Never a hint of violence. But there seemed to be a growing distance between them. They just seemed to get through disagreements without ever really reaching consensus. Nicole wasn’t even sure how to begin to do that and half the time Barry couldn’t even remember what the last tiff had been about. Life seemed crowded. With getting 3 kids to events, maintaining two careers and keeping the household running, it seemed the only time they came close to connecting was when they disagreed. The memories of fun they used to have when they were dating and early in their marriage were fond but seemed more and more distant. “Did they need counselling” they each wondered secretly to themselves? It seemed expensive. Maybe things would get better once the pressure let off.
Barry & Nicole are a fictional couple, but they could be any of us. They are hopeful that things will improve when the pressure lifts, and they may. But there is a danger here. Most couples will hobble along for seven years before seeking any kind of help. That’s the average number indicated by the research. In the mean time, the fondness of early memories begins to wear thin, if they continue to exist at all, and resentments deepen. All the while the road back to a marriage that feels good becomes longer and harder. So what about counselling? Is it worth the investment? It’s not hard to spend $1000.00 to $1500.00 on a course of treatment for your marriage. That seems like a lot of money. But it’s really a matter of perspective. How much would you spend on a vacation, or a new set of tires for the family vehicle? Most of truly place a much higher value on our marriage than we do on just about anything else, but somehow we tell ourselves that it will be ok; things will get better. In the mean time, seven years go by. How can you know if you are just in a low funk that you will naturally grow out of, or if you could benefit from seeing a marriage counsellor? Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Do you feel that you more or less know what is going on in your
- partner’s life, or more that you are loosing touch?
- Do you feel genuinely appreciated by, and fond of your partner? Are
you likely to express that fondness, or simply cherish it to yourself?
- Do you feel that connecting is easy and natural, or more that attempts to connect seem to fall flat? Have you given up all together on trying to connect?
- During a disagreement, do you feel genuinely listened to by your partner, and interested in his/her perspective, or more picked on and that you have to fight off accusations?
- Do you feel that your partner respects your opinions or more that he/she sees you as “less than” and that your opinions don’t matter?
- Does escalated conflict seem to come out of no-where, and result in isolating you from each other?
How you answer these questions can give you important information about how you are doing in your marriage and whether your love is likely to bounce back by simply being intentional about turning toward one another, or if you could benefit by honing some of your connecting skills.
By this time you may be thinking “You’re a marriage counsellor buddy, you probably think everyone should go for couples therapy”. Point taken. But if your car’s motor was making strange noises that you didn’t understand, how long would it take you to get it into the shop? I am guessing a lot less that seven years.