I believe that two reasonably intelligent people can work out any issue they know about or can “see”. It’s the one’s they cannot see that make the marriage counselor necessary.
Often, I meet with couples who say they fight over the same two or three issues endlessly without resolution. I’ll ask what one of the issues is and get an answer like ” He wants me to cook every night.” Then they tell me that they have tried each cooking on three or four nights a week with the same endless argument. So I’ll ask, “Don’t you sometimes talk through this issue and think it is solved, but then get back into the same argument again?” They say yes, still puzzled. “So, you resolve it and then one of you starts the argument again?” Yes.
What is happening is that the event of cooking is triggering or setting off a memory from the past when cooking was an unhappy event, either what he or she was doing or somebody else. Neither can remember the event but one of them has that memory stored in the unconscious mind as a feeling, not a visual memory. Think of it as the old jukebox–maybe before your time–when the patron put a nickel in the slot and punched the button corresponding with the song he or she wanted to hear. What came out of the speaker was not the band playing the song but the sound of the song and the nostalgic feeling of love of which that song reminded the patron.
A couple fights about some issue and one “punches the other’s hot button” located in the unconscious mind of the other. It’s not the current issue, but a feeling from an old issue. The couple has no way of knowing how to find the cause of that fight. That’s where a counselor like me comes in. For 33 years I’ve been learning to recognize a large variety of “hot buttons” and can identify them when clients fight about current issues.
I also have learned to recognize personality conflicts that come from current issues.
Another skill I impart is coaxing or coaching one or the other to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said. Hundreds of marriage manuals say to do this, but getting up the courage to do so doesn’t come from a book, but from a live, present coach.
Married couples know how utterly difficult and scary it is to bring up a subject having to do with sex, love, intimacy and other feelings that get choked in their throats. When I’m there, I coax those words out of their mouths.
What do big, bad, macho men fear the most? They fear their wives. They fear “that look” of disapproval like their mothers used to give them or words loaded with disappointment. They hate it when their wives cry or get too emotional. When I’m there, I help those men say what they need to say in soft ways they need to say them.
We counselors study and are trained for years, 12 in my case, before entering Private Practice. We love learning about people. That love for me began when I was 10 and is still going strong. I love being able to give clients hope and peace of mind in our first session and a better marriage than they had before over the relatively brief series of sessions. Is marriage counseling necessary? Yes. Do it.