I'm Not Ashamed To Admit That Therapy Saved My Marriage

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
Tiko Aramyan/ Shutterstock

The warm summer sun filtered through the screened windows, and I could hear our children giving chase in the yard, oblivious to the fact that their parents’ marriage was seemingly crumbling before our very eyes.

We’d hidden our stresses well, never arguing in front of them, but that day was different. The arguing had intensified after years of disrespect, hurt, and resentment. Up until that day, we’d always stopped short of the words we knew couldn’t be taken back. The words that we’d vowed we’d never use as an empty hollow threat.

“I want a divorce.”

The words hung heavy above us, paralyzing our movements. As I stared into his eyes, my face crumbled into a wall of tears, and as I looked up, I raised the white flag.

I was done. I couldn’t live in a marriage full of anger and bitterness one more minute.

I tried to think back to a time when we were kind and gentle, caring and loving, wild and spontaneous. But in that moment, all I could see were his blue eyes piercing mine, and I watched as the thunderous look on his face melted into hurt and shock. As my words registered, his jaw softened, and he straightened his frame.

“So, that’s it? We’re done, just like that?”

I contemplated the enormity of the words I’d just thrown at his chest. The reality of what I’d said began to flow over me, and I realized that, in that moment, I was sure.

And it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I said the words out loud. His face was pained as he finally started to speak.

“Twenty-two years together, and you aren’t even going to try to help me fix us?”

It never occurred to me that he didn’t want out of our marriage too. I couldn’t see beyond my hurt and resentment to even consider seeking professional help.

I had a decision to make.

I could give up and walk away.

Or I could open myself up to the possibility that we weren’t broken beyond repair. Our marriage was in tatters, and the pieces of the life we’d painstakingly built lay shattered at our feet. Was it possible that we’d be able to find the glue to put us back together?

Underneath the anger, I knew I loved my husband, but I was resistant to sit on a couch and talk to a stranger about the intimate details of our life.

I couldn’t fathom not feeling angry or hurt or bitter when I tried to explain my side of the story.

I didn’t want to sit in an office and listen to my husband run through a litany of my faults, and I sure as hell didn’t want to admit that I might be at fault for some of our issues.

I was clear with my husband: We’d done enough mudslinging over the last few years and I wasn’t about to pay someone to listen to us scream and yell. We could do that at home for free. We’d been doing it, and it clearly wasn’t helping.

“Just fucking grow up and go to therapy.”

My friend’s voice cut me like a knife as I wallowed in self-pity that my marriage was in the toilet. I’d confided our issues, expecting a sympathetic ear and a shoulder willing to let me cry until my tears stopped flowing. But as good friends do, he not-so-gently reminded me that marriage isn’t a Disney movie, with princes, white horses, and happy endings.

Rather, marriage is mortgage payments, braces, and Legos crammed into every crevice of a house that is never in order. Marriage can mean losing yourself as you watch your partner find professional successes and watching bitterly as your career aspirations fade slowly before you, swallowed up by a sea of diapers and sleepless nights. Marriage is sometimes not liking the person you love and coming to terms with the fact that you might be unhappy with the choices you’ve made along the way.

“Marriage counselors would be out of business if they told everyone to get a divorce.”

And it’s those words, coming gently from my husband as he urged me to take the first steps toward repairing our marriage, that found me in a therapist’s office, discussing the details of our lives. As I took those first terrifying steps and openly talked, and listened, I realized that therapy was the answer I didn’t know we needed.

Until we did.

Marriage counseling doesn’t mean the end. Far from it, in fact.

It’s the beginning.

A fresh start.

An opportunity to rewrite every rule and play in your marriage playbook.

A chance to find each other again, underneath the piles of laundry, school projects, and harried weekends at sporting events.

It’s learning to create “we moments” that you both can draw on when life gets in the way. Moments that bind you together, whether it’s carving out time to sit with a glass of wine or hiding in the car to talk uninterrupted for 10 minutes. It’s reestablishing date night and rekindling the smoldering nights from long ago.

Marriage counseling lays the foundation for your union to stay strong, long after the kids grow up and move out. Brick by brick with a layer of mortar laced with truth and honesty, marriage counseling can solidify what was already strong. Only now, it’s weatherproof.

Marriage counseling means redefining your priorities and taking a step back from activities that prevent you from doing the hard work of putting your marriage together.

“But we thought you had the perfect marriage! How is it you are in counseling?”

Our friends are surprised to hear that we’ve been struggling, and it has felt at times that we’ve let people down. But marriage isn’t perfect, and if couples therapy has taught me anything, it’s that being perfectly imperfect together is key.

And marriage counseling means wearing your battles like a badge of honor, being proud of the hard fight to stay together. For so long, we hid our “secret” from our friends and family, afraid to look as though we’d failed at being married.

But the truth is, as we’ve evolved in our marriage counseling journey, we’ve forgiven ourselves, and I’ve let go of the guilt from almost giving up on us. And we are no longer ashamed of needing help in our marriage.

It’s not a magical transformation; it takes time and hard, emotional work, but some things can be fixed, reinforced, and come out stronger than before.

We are newer, better, stronger. And wiser.

My husband and I are in marriage counseling.

And it has saved our marriage. We are so proud, we want to shout it from the rooftops now.

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