There are two things I liked to ask my “successful” couples at the end of our journey together. One, “what is one thing you walk away from the couple’s therapy that you can continue to do with each other no matter I am around or not?” Two, “what advice you would give to the couples who are currently in your place that led you to start counseling?” Here is the second highest feedback I got from my successful couples.
(Read Part 1)
Wisdom #2: “ I wish that I would have listened to him/her when he/she first mention to me we have a problem.”
I have always said, it doesn’t matter how rich you are or what religion you have, you cannot buy back the time you have lost.
A lot of times, I got the phone call from one of the spouse and he/she would tell me: “but my husband/wife said he/she doesn’t feel we have a problem.”
My response is: “Isn’t that a problem that you feel there is a problem but he/she doesn’t feel like it?”
Takeaway #1: When you and your partner do not feel the same way about your relationship status, it means you are not on the same page anymore.
Myth # 1: “he/she said, because I am not happy with the way it is, I am the one with the problem, not him/her.”
Truth: There are three people in the relationship, you, your partner, and your relationship. How the relationship is going to turn out depends on both of your input into the relationship. Then, your relationship feeds back to the individual satisfaction.
Therefore, there is a possibility that your life situation or your own past history made you feel the way you are feeling about your relationship. At the same time, it is also very likely the contribution from your partner to the relationship feeds back to make you unhappy.
However, either way, what I want to ask you is: if your partner is unhappy, what stop you from wanting to understand why?
Myth # 2: “If he/she is not happy about our relationship, it must mean that I have done something wrong but I don’t think I am. Why do I want to go to therapy with him/her if I don’t think I have done something wrong?”
Just because your partner is not happy, it doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. The truth is he/she is unhappy. Your willingness to know what is not going right for your partner shows your partner your willingness to understand her and to know her.
Takeaway 2: As long as one person is unhappy in the relationship, that means your relationship needs evaluation.
Do I have to explain this more? It takes two to have a relationship but only one to break it. As long as one person is not happy, it will feedback to your relationship.
Takeaway 3: Take action and do not wait.
The hardest part of being a couple’s therapist is to work with the couples with two people on the different page. Over and over again, I have one partner said to me: “it’s too late. I told him/her how I felt years ago and he/she didn’t want to listen. I have given up and finally ready to move on. Now, he/she wants to work on our marriage?” At the same time, the other partner said: “I just don’t want to give up without giving it a try. I don’t know why you do not want to try.”
I can understand both partners’ perspective. One person has begged the other one to try for years. He/she has shut down and move on by finding ways to make him/herself happy without the partner. It is hard for this person to turn around and to rehash all the unhappy feelings over and over again.
At the same time, the other person just starts to realize the problem and still wants to fight. So, he/she wants to work on it.
The are not on the same page and it’s going to make it so much harder to find the common ground to process your relationship.
It is certainly doable. This suggestion comes from some couples who are happily walking out of my office after months of therapy. They are able to find their way back to each other because of their determination to get their relationship back.
At the same time, some of the couples walking out of my office decided to end their relationship peacefully. However, they still give this advice after being able to improve their communication for the sake of their children. That is so important and I always reminded my couples in the very beginning of the therapy: “You might be able to cut off your relationship easily. However, your children cannot cut off the relationship with either one of you. For their sake, you still need to be able to communicate with each other better for the rest of your life.”
So, take action, don’t wait. The sooner you take action, the fewer efforts you need to remedy your relationship status.
(to be continued)