I am not a flowers and jewelry type of girl. I don’t drop hints about lavish gifts I desire or expect to be pampered on Valentine’s Day. The greatest gift my husband has ever given me is undoubtedly marriage counseling.
(I don’t count our kids as gifts 🙂 We made them together!)
To me, there is no greater present from my husband than a conscious, committed effort to strengthen our bond and devotion to each other.
My husband and I will be celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary next month. I know five years is not a long time in the grand scheme of life, but we had to overcome numerous obstacles as newlyweds, including a devastating miscarriage, to arrive at a healthy marriage. We are so unashamed about admitting that we’ve gone to marriage counseling and enthusiastically recommend it for any couple in any stage of marriage.
Here are a few things that we learned from our sessions:
Asking for Help is Not a Sign of Weakness
Neither of us has been married before. It should be expected that we have challenges we need help surmounting. We should not be expected to muddle through it on our own.
We are lucky to know a few couples who model the type of marriage we want and they can occasionally offer their wisdom. But there is nothing quite like an unbiased, neutral perspective on your relationship from an experienced professional.
If you had a flat tire, you’d call roadside assistance. When you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you’re dealing with complex marital issues, a qualified counselor’s insight and suggestions are invaluable.
Some hospitals or churches will even provide counseling services for little or no cost. Do a search of your area to see what resources are available to you.
Talk, talk, talk. Everyday. What are you excited about? What’s bothering you? Sometimes you won’t have all of the answers, but it’s important to voice your feelings, goals, and aspirations to each other.
Counseling was an opportunity to openly discuss our thoughts without any distractions. When your partner is speaking, make the effort to really hear them. Put your phone away, turn the TV down. Truly listen and try to understand their perspective.
Counseling not only taught us how to be better communicators, but our willingness to openly participate was a reassuring sign of our commitment to each other.
Value Your Privacy
I know this seems hypocritical because we literally took our deepest secrets to a complete stranger, but I mostly mean being selective about what you share and who you share it with.
One thing I will not do on social media is genuinely complain about my husband. I might jokingly make a comment about how he pronounces the “L” in “salmon” (that drives me crazy) or how he still looks for Pokemon when we’re out (so 2016), but I will never share a sincere complaint about him online.
I’m not omitting our problems to create the illusion that our marriage is perfect. We have issues like anyone else. But marriage is complicated and posting our problems doesn’t benefit either of us (or fix our problem). I love, respect, and admire my husband too much to let a negative post taint his image or reputation.
A counselor is an appropriate person to vent to. They will listen in order to assist you and you can trust that your conversation is confidential.
Focus on the Positive
It’s easy to leave a relationship when you dwell on your partner’s weaknesses.
When we went to our first counseling session, I had a looong mental list of things that were wrong, why it was his fault, and why we should just quit trying. Our counselor forced us to spend more time acknowledging the qualities we appreciate in each other. It still took a lot of work to address our problems, but it was easier to persist because we were reminded of what we were fighting for.
Instead of looking at your partner’s flaws, acknowledge all of the different ways they contribute to your life and your happiness.
Prioritize Your Relationship
When our first daughter was born, I was entirely focused on her and on my job. Until we started counseling, I didn’t even realize that I was neglecting my husband.
It’s common to put your children first or become preoccupied with work. There will always be other obligations and excuses, but it’s necessary to put your partner at the top of your list.
Spend time together, cuddle, go on dates. Make the decision that your spouse matters and then show them every day.
Learn to Speak Your Partner’s Language
There’s no substitute for professional help, but our counselor suggested this eye-opening book and I am compelled to share it with you:
I’d actually heard of it from a good friend who praised it fervently, but it wasn’t until counseling that I actually ordered my own copy on Amazon. The author, Gary Chapman, has identified five general ways that love is expressed:
- Words of Affirmation- verbal compliments and words of appreciation
- Quality Time– giving your partner your undivided attention
- Receiving Gifts– tangible reminders and visual symbols of love
- Acts of Service– doing tasks or chores your spouse would like you to do
- Physical Touch– bodily contact, both sexual and nonsexual
The book includes descriptions of each love language as well as guides to determine which language most closely fits your personality. There’s a ton of other useful information in this short book, but our biggest takeaway was that we were speaking different languages. Once we figured out my language (Acts of Service) and his (Physical Touch), we were able to express our love in a much more productive, customized manner.
Definitely, DEFINITELY pick up a copy of The 5 Love Languages!
Happily Ever After
Obviously, marriage counseling is not the answer for every couple, but I highly encourage you to try it! Your counselor can highlight the strengths of your relationship and help you work through your weaknesses to build a more resilient marriage.
So while plenty of women DO love flowers and jewelry, I’m so grateful to my husband for finding our counselor and attending sessions with me. The best gift ever!
Have you ever been to marriage counseling? Did it help?
This is how my husband bonds with our babies!
See why weekends with Daddy are the best!