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We Finally Agreed on Couples Therapy — It Was Not What We Expected
by Brittany Dandy
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October 22, 2019

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We Finally Agreed on Couples Therapy — It Was Not What We Expected

After months, they finally agreed on a therapist. But the resulting session wasn’t what they expected. Here is what they learned.

Trying to land the right therapist can be difficult. For my husband and me, it has been an ongoing journey that, honestly, never quite worked out the way we planned or imagined. However, through our willingness to seek help, practice empathy, and ask each other difficult questions, we’ve learned some pretty valuable relationship therapy lessons along the way. 

Talk about your therapy expectations early-on in your relationship

Credit: @brittanycdandy

Once my husband and I decided to get married, I intuitively thought clinical therapy was the next step. My husband-to-be, however, had never really considered it. We talked about the pros and cons of both traditional psychotherapy and spiritual counseling for months. We debated about why I thought spiritual counseling, without complementary clinical therapy, seemed one-sided and left tons of room for bias. We also addressed why he felt allowing total strangers to weigh in on the nuances of our personal life seemed thoughtless and intrusive. 

Related: Black Women Need Therapy, Too

I quickly realized that the therapy talk may have been worth a convo before the ring, just to help set and manage both of our expectations. We came from different schools of thought and working through our differences took time and intention.

Consider your partner’s comfort and offer to compromise

After months of conversation, we agreed on spiritual therapy, led by a pretty progressive pastor in Brooklyn. Neither of us had spent a ton of time in church growing up, but we were both spiritual people who enjoyed a good sermon now and then. I also rationalized that “some” counseling must be better than none. In the end it was also important to acknowledge my husband’s need to take baby steps into this unfamiliar area of intimacy. Maybe if this went well he’d be open to taking therapy a step further. We were both compromising which is 80% of what marriage is about.

It was important to acknowledge my husband’s need to take baby steps into this unfamiliar area of intimacy.

Don’t allow your fear of judgement to get in the way of your growth and experience 

Credit: @brittanycdandy

My husband and I showed up to church apprehensive and uncertain of what to expect. It turns out, we had signed up for group marriage counseling. At first, this was a relief, because it took some of the pressure off of us as individuals. But then it seemed to add pressure to us as a couple. We immediately tensed up and became wary of everyone in the space, assuming they could see all of our flaws. Wondering, what would people think of us and our tendency to side-eye the hell out of each other when we disagree mid-conversation or the uncomfortable and obvious silence that lingers between us when we start to shut down? 

Related: LeToya Luckett Talks Marriage, Prayer and Therapy

Luckily the tense feeling of judgment ended as soon we met our counselor. He reassured us that it was a safe space and allowed everyone to voice their hesitations and concerns. Turns out, we all had a few things in common: none of us wanted to be judged for our shortcomings (obviously), and we all wanted our marriages to grow.  Collectively, we decided to pack away our egos and work on leveling up.

Collectively, we decided to pack away our egos and work on leveling up. 

Leave room for grace, practice understanding, and be patient with change

Credit: @brittanycdandy

By the end of the session, we were emotionally exhausted, and honestly excited that it was over. It felt good to talk things out with each other and to share with other couples. However, the ebbs and flows of the day were taxing. On the way home, we began to recap the questions asked and our answers. The more we talked, the more in-depth dive we took, asking “why” and questioning where certain feelings derived. We struggled to find understanding and find common ground, but listened all the same.

Before leaving the group, we’d been asked to write a list of expectations to share later. We read them silently on our commute and said nothing. It was a long train ride home. 

Note your learnings, revisit your “why,” and focus on the present

Weeks later, after emotions died down, we were able to revisit a lot of what we had learned about each other on the day of counseling. None of the feelings we’d shared that day were new; however, they had been presented in a new way and from a fresh perspective. Sure we’d disagree on most of the scenario questions that we discussed as a group, but at least looking back, we knew why. 

That day we learned that choosing to enter uncharted and uncomfortable territory together, with the goal of discovering each other, mattered more than if we agreed on what would happen moving forward. Although we didn’t leave feeling like #RelationshipGoals, we did leave different.

Related: How Therapy Helps Me Find My Flow

It hadn’t been the typical therapy session like the one that I’d imagined, full of clinical answers to all of my pressing questions, and it wasn’t the intimate, private session that my husband would have preferred. However, it turned out to be exactly what we needed at the time — a new way to welcome growth and honestly into our marriage. 

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