Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dr. Therapist

I mentioned earlier that S and I have been visiting Dr. Therapist, a counselor who deals with couples.  I always thought that going to see a Dr. Therapist or one of his colleagues was a sign of DANGER, a signal that a marriage is in trouble and there's no turning back.  Which, is kind of a stupid thing to think, because why would you put the time, energy, and money into seeing Dr. Therapist if it's not going to do any good?  Now I think that all newly married couples should find a Dr. Therapist to talk to.

We had "premarital counseling" just like everyone does with their pastor but ours amounted to three conversations that showed us that 1) we agree on most important issues, 2) we are good at filling in little bubbles and then listening patiently while our pastor explained the results of our test, 3) there is a lot of church conference gossip to share!  But we didn't have time to figure out why I get so incredibly angry when S forgets to take out the trash or why S won't tell me when he's frustrated with something I've done.  So, a year and a half into our marriage we decided to get some help with these things.  This was not an easy decision.  As a couple, S and I REALLY like to fix things ourselves, by ourselves, without any help (we also function this way individually which creates some interesting situations).  Just wait until we own our dwelling place.  It is very likely that you will never see us again because of all the projects we will find for ourselves.  But, we decided to go anyway.  Think of it as hiring a contractor to help with the really big jobs.

Here's the deal with marriage counseling.  I was afraid that if we talked to a therapist all these secret, deep-seated issues would surface and we would find out that we made a huge mistake and Dr. Therapist would tell us that we needed to go our separate ways in order to have any hope at happiness.  Eek!  I certainly didn't want that!  But, as it usually turns out, my biggest fear wasn't at all connected to reality.  I'm a chronic worrier so this wasn't a huge shock.

Instead, in our every-other-week or once-monthly sessions we have the exact same conversations that we've been having for about three years EXCEPT this time there is a third party present to look at us and say, "so what are you going to do about that?"  Oh.  You mean we should come up with a tangible solution?  Huh, we never though of that.  Dr. Therapist also reminds us that while our problems seem big to us, they are normal.  Like I've said before, my closest friends live far away and we're not able to have regular conversations about marriage, careers, and life.  When we do have these conversations we realize we are all having the same frustrations and can laugh and not be so worried about it.  But these normalizing moments are rare.  So, our insurance pays Dr. Therapist to help us realize this.  And now when S forgets something I told him three times, we can laugh about it and then he goes and puts it in his gmail calendar so we don't have to find a way to laugh at it again.  Yeah, sometimes something kind of unexpected comes up in our discussions but it's usually something we were sort of aware of before but weren't sure how to talk about.  And Dr. Therapist helps us stay productive and thoughtful rather than getting defensive.

We're also reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman which is a really good book based on 20 years of solid research.  We recommend it.

So, that's the big secret!  Seeing Dr. Therapist isn't scary or bad because S and I like each other, we love each other, we're best friends, and we want what's best for each other and our marriage so this is just one way to ensure that.


  1. I wish we could have normalizing conversations more often. I also wish I could talk Matt into going. :)

  2. I wish I lived closer to Terry Parsons so that he could help my life and marriage. I put this book on hold at the library.

  3. Friend, it is so nice to read your posts, because they are honest and real, and so relatable. Even though we're far apart being able to read the things going on in your life help me feel a sense of normalcy. I wish I could blog more, and we could get a real thing started, but I"m always worried a parent of one of my students will stumble upon my typings, and that could prove uncomfortable. Even though we're far apart, we're always in sync!

  4. Ben doesn't like to take the trash out either. and it gets me irrationally upset too :)

    but ya know we talk about it and try to find a way for it to happen. and of course I try to pick up all of my shoes and random things that I love to throw around the house and he gets upset about too.

    It's so nice to read this and realize that we're all normal. sometimes I think I'm going crazy :)