So you and your wife have agreed to seek couples counseling. But that’s about all you’re agreeing on these days. You’re ready to air out your marital issues and hear the opinion of a professional, hoping to eventually make it back to that blissful post-honeymoon state…or at least less screaming and hurling of kitchen utensils. The appointment is coming up soon. You’re vacillating between extreme nervousness and “this shrink’s got nothing on me.” So what can you do…uh… say to ensure that you and your wife get the most out of your couples counseling sessions?
1) Many therapists advise to have common goals for what you and your wife want to get out of therapy. (I find this a lofty hope when most couples’ relationships have deteriorated to the point of not speaking, even if one of them has just burst into flames, much less to sit down calmly and establish mutual goals. But I’m not an expert, either) At any rate, have an idea of things within your marriage that you want to work on.
2) Bare your soul and empty your pockets. Speak from your heart. This is, of course, dependent on whether or not your wife is armed. It’s important to at least attend the first session with no firearms or cutlery. If this seems like a lofty goal, at least try to be weapon-free by session three. (It rhymes for a reason.)
3) Don’t allow children and/or in-laws to attend counseling sessions. Unless it’s child centered family counseling, there should be only two people on your therapist’s comfy couch. That’s you and your wife. Many a session has been ruined by mom-in-law’s attendance where she takes up 52 minutes with stories of your wife and her ex-boyfriend, the one Grandma wishes she’d married.
4) Bring positive expectations. Don’t go into counseling as you would a hostage situation, unless a straight jacket and hired hit men are involved. Your therapist is a professional and knows what he/she is doing. Assume that this is the step that will get things back on the right track.
5) Accept whatever observations and advice the counselor offers. Chances are he/she will point out things that may paint you in a light more reminiscent of Charlie Sheen than Prince Charming (or insert an unattractive husband you relate to) Be willing to admit you have character issues that need a little work. Then follow the steps prescribed by your therapist. This is the ONLY way to move forward in couple’s counseling. A tablespoon of humility goes a long way.
6) Make your couples therapy a priority. This is not an office where you show up once a week and then forget everything you learned and discussed. If it’s going to work, it’ll be a way of life. You’ll have homework. Do it.
You can hire the best counselor in the universe. But the most important instruments of change will be you and your wife. Remember this and your results will most likely be better than average.
About the Author: Angela is an award winning humor columnist, freelance writer and public speaker living in Middle Georgia, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She uses her keen insight and clever wit to help husbands understand the complex mechanisms that are their wives. “I like to think of goodhusbanding.com as an owner’s manual for the average wife. Of course results may vary, but we’re all fairly similar whether we admit it or not.” Angela uses her background in psychology, the myriad of learning experiences offered through her ten year marriage, and input from her “in the trenches” audience members across the country as input for her articles.