Suburban Snapshots

Something to Save

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Back when I first wrote about Steve and me going to counseling, I got really amazing responses from you readers, from people who'd been there or were considering it, and I got some frustrated replies from those of you who felt your marriages could benefit from the help but whose spouses couldn't be convinced to go.

When Steve read the comments he looked at me with genuine bewilderment and said, "If your wife is coming to you saying she wants counseling, then obviously there's something wrong, obviously you need to listen to her," and he's right. "I want us to get counseling" says, "I love you, but we can't fix this on our own." I won't speculate on the reasons men* resist -- or as other friends have experienced, tell their wives to go alone -- because I'm sure they're more complex than any of my generalizations.

It's been a hard year for friends of ours -- not one particular set of friends, but a good handful of couples who have found themselves struggling. Our weddings are memories, the kids are a joy but often a chore, and our days as a unit consist of orchestrated routines and nightly scrambles. Maybe we're too busy, or we mean to listen but someone needs a wipe or a bath, we let stuff go. Sometimes it's fine, eventually we get our relationship back on track and it's no worse for the wear.

But sometimes it's not fine. We spend months or years slipping into insidious habits: he's on the couch because the kids sleep better in your bed, she's spent her day catering to children and the last thing she wants is another body to please; he doesn't have time to notice how stressful her days have become, she feels invisible. It just happens.

We're a bunch of flawed humans trying to blend our lives harmoniously forever, and while we expect compromise and even sacrifice we often don't anticipate resentment or disappointment, we underestimate change. How can we not want a little help sometimes?

If you're trying to convince your partner that counseling might be what you need, keep trying until you get the message across. Fifty minutes isn't much to ask considering the work you've done and all you have ahead. Sometimes we just need a reminder of what we have to hold onto.

*I talk about this issue almost exclusively with women friends, I'm interested in what the men have to say.

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