In the past, John and I only pursued counseling when things in our marriage were in crisis.
It did not go well.
(That is an understatement)
There seems to be anecdotal evidence that supports the theory that marriage counseling is worthless, and I think that might be because generally, couples wait to go until things are so far gone that it's almost impossible to recover.
In any case, when John and I began to reconcile we both agreed that counseling was a non-negotiable. In November, we had our first first session. We were both incredibly nervous and as we drove up the lane to the building I kept saying "We're on the same team. The same team."
Because the last time we'd seen a counselor we had barely been on the same planet, much less the same team. And lots of times the last way something was is the way you expect it to be, even when all the circumstances have changed.
But it was nothing like we expected it to be. It was so much better.
Better, but still not what I expected, necessarily. Yesterday I found myself asking our counselor if we were doing something wrong because this transition has been so much easier than either of us expected it to be.
Probably the most useful thing we've gotten out of counseling so far is some very in depth personality profiles. John and I each took a pretty extensive test and I don't think either of us thought much of it; it was just something we had to do for our counselor. And when we saw the sheets with the DISC diagrams and all the lines and squares and skewed boxes, I totally lost track of what everything meant until we started going over the results.
The counselor, who has not known either one of us long enough to know if our profile was correct or not, began expounding on what our results said about us, and within about ten seconds John and I found ourselves staring at each other in awe.
"Is this magic? This seems like magic!" I whispered frantically.
It was very accurate for each of us, to say the least.
Later on at home, John and I were hanging out on the couch and reading the sheaf of papers that explained the diagrams in detail and throughout the first half we both kept exclaiming excitedly about what the paper said about us. "Hey, this says I'm a self starter!" "Hey! This says I'm well liked!" We were both feeling pretty good about our personality profiles. I jumped up to check on one of the kids after bedtime and when I came back, John was frowning. "I don't think I like mine anymore." He said. He had reached the second half of the report, which detailed the not so great aspects of our personalities. I shook my head. "You have to own it, though. Good and bad, right?" I responded.
Of course, that's before I read my second half. We were both a little bummed reading the negative sides of our personalities. But in the past day it has started so many conversations between us...it has added a new level of clarity to past disagreements, to the way we currently interact, and I really think that having a better understanding of ourselves and of each other is going to be invaluable in the future.
So counseling when not in crisis? I'm a fan. But counseling alone isn't a miracle cure, and the real work doesn't happen in someone's office. It's at home, in the midst of a life with kids and chaos and craziness. In fact, counseling is sometimes a nice break from that craziness.