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The importance of marriage counseling: The Jay and Susan story


Most times when couples have been together for years, they would tell you how well they know each other, so why is marriage counselling so important for a successful marriage? Jay and I will be forever grateful we finally took that step.

As young couples are known to do, all hot and excited about each other right out of high school, we sailed easily into marriage. Societal pressures and known biblical teachings of ‘no sex before marriage’ catupulted us down the altar at 24 years of age. We were flying on wings of pure adrenaline. Here was another person who gave us their undivided attention, made us feel special, and went out of their way to ensure we were comfortable.

For the first two years, marriage was great, except for heavy handed mother-in-laws and know it all aunties we thought we were doing fine. We had one car, no children at the time, and we spent most of our waking hours together outside of work. But I must say living under one roof with someone 24/7 is quite different from being picked up at dates and having overnight rendezvous. As life crept in, we started being pulled in several directions. Fending for bills on our own without parental support, pressures from peers and other onlookers, pressure of completing our education; parents and other family members requesting grandchildren etc. etc. all took their toll.

We were not prepared in no shape or form for when the magic wore off. Every little thing the other person did irritated the other, and we became snappy and withdrawn from each other.

Don’t get me wrong, Jay still had the power to make my heart flutter and made be feel like his queen on occasion, but these days whenever there was a little discomfort, I was belligerently reminded that Jay was the head of the household and would suffer consequences if his words were not followed. We had several areas of conflict, things I guess that in all our exhuberation we did not take time to consciously discuss so we begun having unrealistic expectations of each other. When we dated, we did speak about what we wanted, but I guess we thought love would conquer all and nothing could get between us. No parameters were set before hand, and for the first time, we were confronted with issues that we could have better tackled if we did seek premarital counselling as was advised. Several licensed therapist was recommended as well as other pastors and elders.

Let’s face it, active listening is hard for the average person and without a mediator, we could not establish open and honest communication with each other. Jay and I begun to build walls that kept us locked into the marriage but also locked out from each other. Have you ever seen a garden maze, we were truly lost and couldn’t seem to find the right path to bring us back to each other. There is the idea that if you seek counselling something must be wrong with us, but we also knew that with the high rate of divorce the path that we were on, it would be our fate. Jay and I were both practicing christians but even our prayer life had begun to suffer. Influenced by well wishing friends, who were secretly wishing that it would end in disaster, we begun sharing our family struggles and created even futher division. One thing I have to say is that interefering mothers do intercede well, once they stop meddling and with the right counsellor, we explored several things that became important to our marriage. Thankfully we were of the same faith, so we didn’t have as much challenges, but we still had to decide about where God fit in this new structure. Whether he was just coming along for the ride, or whether we intended to give him a significant place as head of the household. The assembling of yourselves together had merit and helped us to keep God walking along with us each and every day.

Emotionally, we were both a wreck, and we had to spend a considerable amount of time comprehending each other’s emotional needs. Open and honest communication was hard because of the walls we had built and sometimes we lapsed into scoring points on each other. We were yoyoing because we were in a tug of war and each still deep down wanted to win instead of pulling for the same side. We were both extremely grateful that children were not part of this equation, it would have been ten times harder to resolve some of our issues. We now had a picture of where we saw ourselves ten yers from now and with that picture properly cemented even when our emotions take hold, we are able to stop, take a breath and reclaim that vision. Boy, yeah, I admit sometimes I do go to bed angry, but Jay is a sweet heart and he is trying as much as I to make sure we can be together.

With the counsellor’s help we compromised on how our career aspirations could be fulfilled so that we could grow personally and professionally. Because of finances, we appreciated that this was the time when self sacrifice was key for the betterment of our long term goals, each supporting where necessary. Having a decent savings really goes a long way and understand budgeting and finance as taught by our financial advisor helped to cement our marriage. Smooth sailing, no, but we were learning and growing to really be interdependent. With the rising cost of land and the hope to have children one day we now have a better understanding of what it will take. We currently live in a rental apartment and that in itself creates a financial strain. Financial advisors are worth their weight in gold, but add their bill to your budget. With his help, we decided to have both joint accounts and separate accounts, agreeing exactly how our revenue stream will be allotted. The fun stuff are bought from the separate accounts. Jay is the saver and he helps me to curb my spending. We women can think of a hundred thing the family needs and see no reason why we can’t get it. Jay looking long term ensured that all bills were paid on time; kept me to my budget for non-essentials each month and ensured we kept on target for the major expenditure like our home and children. Its tough, so I grit my teeth and get on with it. When I see the figures in our savings I have to say I am relieved and sleep much sounder that we have a financial plan. We even have an emergency fund and a retirement plan. Thank you Jay.

Who would have thought fighting about who would do the dishes could be so detrimental? And then the long time ideology that boys should do yard work and girls take care of the house in this day and age still had life? Believe me, become a new age wife and new age husband, because in this era where women are now an active part of the workforce and lead on some fronts, the new age man needs to learn to love to wash the dishes for his queen, and his queen needs to understand when he needs her to hold the level or paint the fence. Believe me, the allocation of household chores and duties can help you manage the stress level in your marriage.

The Birds and Bees story do not do justice to understanding sex and intimacy. The local pastor tries without making everyone blush, but if you want to keep that spark burning and having your partner longing to rush home, these sessions are A+ important to doing so. Jay and I spoke about many things that were significant to us in the marital bed when we were dating but I don’t think either of us were actively listening. And because the birds and bees story was so scanty, we had a lot to learn. With counselling, we have learned what it takes to make our sex life better. Jay can be quite expressive about his sexual needs and desires and he has turned up his affection and romance dial. Thank God we did and years on I can still be a blushing bride.

They say when you marry, you marry their family and friends, let me and Jay tell you about that. Oh dear, we had to learn to manage our time between one another and our respective families. They had to learn boundaries and understand that what God put together, they will not be allowed to pull it asunder. Don’t get me wrong, we love our families, within the right place, including the conversation about having and raising children. We divide the holidays among the two families, He has his boys’ night, I have my girls’ evenings and we sometimes get the whole gang together.

We have decided to have children, but we are finishing our tertiary education, having discussions with the bank about our home and have begun even thinking about which school we would like them to attend, I think we are growing despite daily challenges. As an introvert, I had to learn to talk openly about everything. Jay would get inside my head, and he allowed me to make suggestions about how we would help each other improve. Jay is definitely the head of the household, but I appreciate that my opinion is valued and that he understand without his ribs, his whole body system would collapse on itself ‘sigh’. Bless his heart, Jay has even shown willingness to apply for paternity leave when necessary. We believe that children live what they learn so we have agreed to ensure that we pass on our religious beliefs and traditions to our children, while spoiling them just a little.

This might not be significant, but Jay and I have created a mosaic. On it we have both written notes and placed pictures demonstrating how we will remain committed to the relationship; how we will openly respect and show trust. We have added two big elephant ears to remind us to continue to actively listen to each other’s concern and resolve them as soon as is practical. I have my little cool down corner Jay allows me to retreat to until we are ready to compromise and mend. Jay and I recommend pre-marital counselling and regular counselling. We have begun to have another ceremony to re-define our commitment to going forward together and we trust and pray with God’s help, that we will celebrate a 50th anniversary. Like every good thing, you have to work at it and continue to invest, and so we have recommitted ourselves to the task. Of course, you’ll make mistakes but as long as you can forgive and grow together by sharing emotions and feelings, the more your relationship is likely to flourish.