Before I was married I thought that couples counselling was for marriages on the brink of divorce. In television and movies, counselling is for couples who have experienced infidelity or marital dysfunction. It’s a final effort to keep a marriage from unravelling, and one that usually doesn’t work.
A few years ago a movie called Hope Springs was released, with funny-man Steve Carrell playing the marriage counsellor to Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. I really wanted to love the movie, but I found myself feeling depressed for this couple who had lost out on years of joy because of stubborn hearts and a refusal to seek help. It was painful to watch Arnold (Jones), stone-faced and resilient to therapy for much of the film, while Kay (Streep) tried desperately to get through.
This film perpetuated these common misconceptions about marriage and counselling. I believed the misconceptions until I had my own marriage to care for. A few years in, and my husband and I were in counselling together, despite the fact that we were strong communicators with a mostly happy and healthy marriage.
Why were we there then? Well, it’s not really any of your business! But, we needed help to sort out ourselves, our hearts, and find a way to be unified in our struggles.
It wasn’t until I sat in our counsellor’s office, holding the hand of my husband who was faithful and kind to me, that I knew how truly wonderful our marriage was. It wasn’t a strained conversation with our counsellor, but one that was free-flowing. We were vulnerable and honest, and our therapist helped us to navigate questions and explore avenues we would never have thought of exploring on our own.
It’s my belief that many strong marriages are made stronger in therapy. If only we went for couples counselling before the troubles began, we’d have a lot healthier marriages and a lot happier spouses.
It was in couples counselling that I truly saw my husband. It’s where I got to know the little boy inside the great man I knew. It’s where I learned about his hurts and wounds, and his passion and desire. It’s where I saw his kindness and softness, but also his strength and stamina. In couples counselling I grew closer to a man I already admired and loved deeply.
As the layers of our lives were peeled back, I grew to love the soft and tender people we were underneath. We had built protective layers around ourselves, to keep the cold harsh world from harming us. But in the process, it also prevented the people we loved to see our true selves. As we chipped away at the hard exterior with our words and raw emotions, we exposed the beauty we had been hiding all along.
I love going to therapy with my husband, and I truly believe we saved our marriage before it ever really needed any saving. We’ll continue to go, because we want to continue strengthening our marriage and finding our own inner strength along the way.