My husband and I breezed through the five sessions of our church’s mandatory premarital counseling. We were so in love, and there were no troubles on the horizon. The counselor had suggested that there might be some friction in forming our family unit since we came from such different family backgrounds, but I was too busy with wedding tasks to truly stop and think about such unhappy things.
My husband was 34 and I was 33 when we were married two years ago. I had been living alone for seven years, and he had been living alone for over ten years. During our first few months of marriage, we seldom fought and were starting to form our own family unit.
But then problems began to arise that involved each of our families. My husband comes from a close family that seems to stay out of each other’s business. I come from a close family who is ALL about staying in each other’s business. His family would never give their opinion on a matter even if we had begged them to weigh in on the situation. My family quickly gives their opinion even when it was never requested.
Our families didn’t know quite know what to do with us as a couple instead of how they’d always seen us–as the “token ‘single’ family member.” We had both been single for so long that this new role was hard on everyone. Our fights continued to build and build around the other’s family, and it mounted pressures on our new life together. It was like we were still members of our individual families instead of forming our own team.
Other stresses and changes began to enter our lives in the short two years that we had been married. We went through parents retiring, a parent having a stroke, the death of a grandparent, a sibling moving to a foreign country, the birth of a niece, building a house, getting hit by a drunk driver, having two miscarriages, and finally to expecting a baby. When I look back at the list of all the crazy trials in our lives, it exhausts me, but I truly would rate us as having a very low score on the tragedy meter when comparing us to other friends and family.
But finally after the second miscarriage and having stupid fights over family drama, we decided to consult our Sunday School teachers. This godly couple continually prayed for us and provided a listening ear. Throughout our first year in their Sunday School class, they often suggested that Christian counseling was such a great option for newlyweds. Although we struggled with asking for help, we finally got the name of a great Christian counselor and made an appointment.
I remember sitting in the waiting room at the counseling center before our first appointment. Looking around, I wondered what troubles everyone else had to lead them to counseling. I was hoping that they thought we were there for premarital counseling, but then I knew they probably noticed our wedding rings.
My husband squirmed in his chair as we settled into the room with our counselor. This was totally not his element, and I felt so vulnerable telling our deep, dark problems to a complete stranger. But we survived that first session and made a follow-up appointment before leaving to hold us accountable to return.
We have been going to counseling for a little over a year now. I feel that one of our greatest areas of growth is discussing conflict without continuously hitting a brick wall.
When we previously fought, we both wanted the last word and wanted to be right; our counselor has taught us to discuss our disagreements by making sure we tell the other that we understand their position, but then calmly discussing our stance. We now realize that we are often on the same page, but just have a slightly different way of fixing the issue.
I fail at it often, but I am learning that my way is not always the right way. My controlling nature has often hurt my husband and made him feel inadequate. Our counselor has opened our eyes to how we each like to feel respected.
We continue to balance the role of husband/wife and son/daughter. Our counselor has helped us understand how to form new boundaries with our families, while still staying connected with them, yet we are also free to make new traditions for our own family.
I have opened up to several friends about going to counseling, and I always receive encouragement and warm feedback. They often lament to me how they wish that they had pursued counseling during the beginning of their marriage.
During my quiet time this morning, I was reminded that if I criticize what is going on in my life (including my husband), I act like I could run the world better than God. I know that God placed my husband and me together in His perfect plan.
Although I never dreamed that we would be in counseling during our first year of marriage, it has been such a blessing to us. Through seeking God and using godly resources in this world, we can continue to strengthen our marriage.
…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)
Counseling is often seen as a last resort before divorce, but marriages benefit from it greatly long before things get severe. Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these photos: