Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
It seems ironic that we are raised on a steady diet of princes and princesses, when our marital futures are anything but guaranteed to be happily ever after. If you are struggling in your marriage, you know it is nothing like the fairy tale you envisioned for your relationship.
When you are living under the same roof and do not feel like you can trust the person you are married to, it can be lonelier than living alone. It could be that you do not trust them to treat you in a reasonable way during heated conversations. Are they prone to blowing up at you? Do you feel you are never truly understood or unfairly criticized? Are you suffocating from all the things you want to talk about, but know it will lead to an ugly fight? It could also be that you suspect them of cheating on you. This is like a stab wound from the one you count on most. Or are you dying of neglect, wanting to be noticed, valued, included in their lives?
When your relationship is characterized by tiptoeing around subjects or acquiescing to avoid an argument, there are a lot of feelings getting stuffed. If two people continue to stuff what they want to say or how they really feel, it becomes a dance of avoidance and disconnect. This is fertile ground for resentment and isolation to take root. The longer two people avoid connecting in their relationship, the harder it gets to work your way back to a comfortable place together. It gets harder and harder to feel safe opening up to each other. You begin to forget what it is like not to feel angry, hurt or rejected most of the time.
One of the many challenges of marital distress is that it is so hard to gain helpful support. If you share a frustration about your spouse with a family member, they could hold it against your spouse which isn’t supportive to you. It is important to choose your friends carefully when venting to make sure you are not the topic being discussed at the next neighborhood girls’ night out. Yet when you keep it to yourself, it feels unsolvable, lonely and scary.
This is when it can be like a drink of water in the desert to seek out a counselor for some objective support to guide you back into a connected relationship. An effective counselor will not take sides, so each of you can feel fairly represented. They will be on the side of supporting the relationship. The counselor can listen to each spouse to assess the dynamics of the relationship and help you set goals of what you want to accomplish in counseling. By the time most relationships reach a counselor, their problems have been brewing for a while. It will also take time for the counselor to work with you to get your relationship back to feeling good again. Is the rest of your life in a fulfilling relationship worth the investment of your time and money?
In a perfect world, couples would receive this kind of help and insight at the start of their relationship. Whether it is premarital counseling or laying a good foundation in the early years after the wedding, a lot of heartache could be spared by pursuing counseling before the emotional wounds accumulate. Because after all, none of us really believe that finding the right foot to fit the glass slipper will have anything to do with the future happiness of the relationship.