Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times:
“It seems like we’re even more resistant to thinking about getting help for our relationship than we are for depression or anxiety,” said Brian D. Doss, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Miami. “There’s a strong disincentive to think about your relationship as being in trouble — that’s almost admitting failure by admitting that something isn’t right.”
Marriage counseling does not always work, of course — perhaps because it is so often delayed past the point of no return. One recent study of two types of therapy found that only about half the couples reported long-lasting improvements in their marriages.
So researchers have begun looking for ways (some of them online) to reach couples before a marriage goes off the rails.
One federally financed study is tracking 217 couples taking part in an annual “marriage checkup” that essentially offers preventive care, like an annual physical or a dental exam.
“You don’t wait to see the dentist until something hurts — you go for checkups on a regular basis,” said James V. Córdova, an associate professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who wrote “The Marriage Checkup” (Jason Aronson, 2009). “That’s the model we’re testing. If people were to bring their marriages in for a checkup on an annual basis, would that provide the same sort of benefit that a physical health checkup would provide?”
I’m mixed on this one. Having watched my first brief marriage implode, I know it takes two committed people to make those vows worth anything, not merely the desperate attempts of one half.
But the sweetie and I did try counseling a few times, and it taught us some useful lessons. Our therapist, Marc, was just what we needed: funny, warm — and tough. Whatever problem is poisoning a marriage, he sternly told us, each of us owns 50 percent of it, not the comforting fiction of, say, 15 percent or five percent. It’s so easy to finger-point and blame. “If only he”, “She always…”
Much harder to acknowledge and name the individual demons we each bring to the most intimate relationship in life.
We haven’t seen Marc in years but his lessons have stayed with us. In the old days, our fights were crazy — we’re stubborn, stuck in our ways, used to getting what we want. It’s been a decade now, so we know each other’s trigger points and when we’ve hit them, or are about to. We’re a lot better at apologizing, and quickly.
It’s not easy to soften and change. You have to want it.
Have you tried couples counseling? How did it turn out for you?
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