Re: MC made my marriage worse than before counseling
I have a few thoughts on this subject.
The first: The idea behind marriage counselling, as I see it, is to provide a safe place and good prompting so each partner can discuss how they really feel, and what their real needs are in order to move forward and heal.
Some couples do this naturally. In a healthy relationship, both partners are willing to swallow some pride or forgo thinking about their own feelings for a moment, to focus on their partner. But most people are not self-secure enough to do this is all situations, so we end up on the defensive, rather than looking evenly at both sides—even when we think we're being fair.
People have a tendency to think they're in the right, or at least be unwilling to admit they're in the wrong, when it's not even relevant who's right or wrong. There might be someone who's right and someone who's wrong, but there's always more to the story as well.
For example: Someone gave an example here about their husband cheating, and a counselor telling them to feel their husband's pain.
Even though the husband is clearly in the wrong in that situation, context aside, I think this is the right approach for a counselor to take. Why? Because the husband needs to be in a safe environment, free of judgement, to be able to talk openly about his thoughts and feelings on the subject. Otherwise the situation would be entirely an attack on him.
And shouldn't the real reason for counselling be to fix things? Shouldn't you want to stop the cheating? You can't do that without input from both people, and if someone resorted to cheating because of relationship problems (not saying this implies the other person is at fault; it doesn't), then that person needs to be able to speak as well.
I think it says something that a cheater would be willing to go to marriage counselling to begin with, when there's a possibility of it being all about attacking and blaming them. Perhaps they wanted to go through that to feel like they'd been properly punished, or perhaps there were other relationship issues they wanted to address but didn't feel they could. Personally, I think that when someone cheats in a relationship, it's often a cry for help, similar to cutting one's wrists. It means something is wrong in their life, and the person just wants out of this situation.
If you're not willing to try to empathize and really understand the root of the problems in your marriage, then the only reason you're seeing a marriage counselor is so you can feel properly vindicated when you get divorced.
The second: I've been to counselling for personal matters, and it has never once helped short-term. All the benefits I've received from it have come in over the long term.
So from that perspective, if there are real emotional issues to be dealt with in one or both people, there still needs to be a short-term solution in place to provide understanding by those who have to deal with the effects of those issues.
If one person has a fear of abandonment, for example, based on issues from childhood, it needs to be addressed in a short-term way so their partner can simply be aware of the problem. Healing takes a lot longer, but awareness is helpful.
This is very useful. Thank you for writing it.
I think many relationships fall on very basic things, which is why books are often useful. It is often fairly common sense, but people make common sense all the time.