After our daughter, Dorothy, was stillborn we wasted no time in finding a therapist. To be completely honest, it was fear that drove me to make the initial call. I was terrified of what would happen to myself, my husband, and our marriage if we did not seek help. I knew we did not have the strength to survive this without help.
So, once a week, we went to therapy.
At first, therapy was a real struggle. Our sessions involved retracing every step of our ordeal — it was exhausting. I struggled with having to revisit my own pain but watching Mike do the same was worse. We would return home from therapy and retreat to separate spaces. I worried that therapy was hurting us instead of healing us. I wanted to stop.
But, we kept going. Every week we showed up. We cried and shared and sometimes we even laughed. Our sessions left us emotionally and physically drained.
One day, after a particularly exhausting session, we did not disappear into separate rooms. Instead, we sat down on our own couch and we kept on talking.
As we became more committed to therapy, I noticed a deeper commitment to ourselves and our marriage. Our Tuesday nights were no longer just about going to therapy. The whole experience became an opportunity for our marriage.
On Monday nights we would curl up in bed and check in about the next day’s session. We started going to dinner before our appointments. When we got to therapy we would giggle as we donned our “therapy slippers” and played footsie in the waiting room. I found myself actually looking forward to our time together in that office.
I know it was fear that made the first phone call. I know that I wanted us to go because I thought we were weak. When I made the phone call, I wanted therapy to save me and to save my marriage. I needed us to survive.
Well, I learned a few things in those Tuesday sessions. First, I learned that I wasn’t weak–I was actually strong. Therapy is never intended to fix people. It is, however, intended to show people who they are. It is not a place to discover your weaknesses, it is a place to uncover your strength.
Second, couples therapy is not the place you go to save relationships. it is the place you go to learn that relationships change. It is an opportunity to build a relationship that is amenable to change.
Therapy doesn’t just allow a person or relationship to survive. It can be a place to thrive.