We Went to a Marriage Therapist
Because one of us had a secret.
Welcome to The First Years of Marriage Newsletter! We talk about the conversations, challenges, and changes that begin once the honeymoon ends. Advice from experts, mistakes from me (Jen Glantz), and things you’re going to want to know as you continue to ask yourself this question - “I’m married, so now what?”
50 percent of married couples have gone to marriage counseling
Adam and I weren’t even married yet when I asked him to see a marriage therapist with me…
…but we were supposed to be married.
The pandemic had canceled our wedding plans more times than I could count on my hands and I was bored.
That boredom turned into long days of thinking long and twisted thoughts.
Is our relationship ready for the big leagues?
Is our relationship going to be a home run?
Is our relationship as strong as I tell everyone it is?
“How are you and Adam doing?”
Friends always ask that and I always just say:
“Better than ever!” with the enthusiasm of twelve exclamation points, because that is what you are supposed to say, right?
So much of being in a relationship feels like saying what you are supposed to say for fear that if you don’t, people will judge you, or you might over-judge yourself.
Hundreds of people, over the past 7 years, have hired me to be their bridesmaid. Part of having me around is having a pair of unbiased ears to listen to the person tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Because the truth is, strangers tell strangers things they are too scared to tell anyone else.
I’ll never forget the bride who answered my question of:
“How are you and the groom doing?”
With the kind of response that made my body tickle.
I had never heard someone be so blunt, so honest.
I loved it.
“We are getting better. We’re in couple’s therapy.”
“Couple’s therapy? But you’re not even married.”
“So? It’s been a game changer,” she said in a way that was hard to not believe. “More people should do it. More people should do it before they even get married.”
More people should…
More people should..
More people should…
" Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays." — Henny Youngman, English-American comedian and musician
There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship.
[Repeat that out loud as you scroll through Instagram later today and your brain forgets that]
Every single relationship has challenges, problems, disagreements, things to fix, ways to grow, fights from years ago that stick around like an unwanted house guest.
More people should do it…
Sitting down with a professional to get help, strategies, advice, or professional ears, might be worth it.
For me, chatting with a marriage therapist before getting married was to load up on things Adam and I can pay more attention to, work on, and think about, before we entered that next phase in our relationship.
So when I ask Adam if he’ll go see a marriage therapist with me, it takes him some time to say yes.
What you should know about Adam, as you get to know Jen + Adam, is that he lives and breathes positivity. He is the most optimistic human I know.
I am the opposite.
“I’ll go if she can tell us the secret to a happy and long-lasting marriage,” Adam says, because of course Adam would say such a sweet and beautiful thing.
We met with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, a marriage therapist with fifteen years of experience, over Zoom. We didn’t come prepared with too many questions. We just asked her to share the things all couples should spend more time working on to improve their relationship.
Below is a little bit of what we learned and what’s on our relationship to-do list.
What the Experts Have to Say:
About 80 percent of therapists in private practice offer couples therapy
Learn How to Pivot & Enjoy the moment
Dr. Bobby recommend that couples work on learning how to pivot, quickly, when plans change (hello to all the couples who had the pandemic cancel their wedding) and remember to stick together during those stressful moments. Plus, learning how to handle your emotions (and understand them), stay in the present, and identify realistic solutions can help a couple move on from problems or fights faster.
Appreciate Your Partner
Dr. Bobby emphasized the need for ongoing connection and partner appreciation. She even recommended that Adam and I take a love language test so we can both identify how we like to be appreciated. We took it (and like the scattered partner I am, I forgot our results - whatever, he forgot them too) and so I’m using this as a moment to take it again :)
Speak Your Mind
Dr. Bobby shared that something we should work on, together, is being able to have calm convos where we can really share our deep thoughts, needs, and feeling while they are prevalent. If not, we can hold back and sometimes even get resentful.
Be There…Just Be There
Dr. Bobby spoke to us about why it’s so important to learn how to create a safe space for us to really be there for each other and not always with a solution to a problem, but with a desire to listen and learn from the other person - especially during hard times. There’s something powerful about knowing your partner is there for you when you’re not feeling your best and you’re not looking for help, you’re looking for the space to let out your feelings without any judgement.
Perhaps the biggest reminder Dr. Bobby gave us was that in marriage, or in any relationship, it’s always about finding ways to work together. Seems obvious, right? But it’s really something we often forget when we’re deep in an argument.
More Resources to Hug Hello
“I do, now what?”Know this…
People who participate in couples counseling participate for an average of 12 sessions, with 66 % of participants improving in 20 sessions or less.
Finally, before we ended the call with Dr. Bobby, we asked her the question that meant the most to Adam:
“What is the secret to a long-lasting and happy marriage?”
I grabbed my pen and scribbled her answer on a napkin, almost desperate to consume her advice, as if it were a love potion or a magical spell. For a person like me who is usually so reluctant to listen to anyone’s advice, I felt a sudden pull to take her tips seriously and embrace them. She’s not only an expert but she has worked with thousands of couples over the last fifteen years at all stages in their relationship.
What scares me the most about marriage is the unknown, the what-ifs, the number of relationships that simply fail. But perhaps sulking in the words of Dr. Bobby and taking her secret to a happy marriage seriously is just what I need to ease into such a big next step in life.
“The secret to a long-lasting relationship is learning to challenge each other, growing individually, and never forgetting to focus on those little moments.”
Later, I ask Adam why it was so important to ask that question to Dr. Bobby.
“Because I wanted you to hear it from someone else.”
“That all this marriage stuff isn’t about how much changes. Maybe it’s just about how much we believe in us and all we already do to make our relationship great?”
“Did you know that what she said would be the secret?”
“No! But I did know it wasn’t going to be something negative and scary. I knew it was going to be what we already knew.”
After meeting with so many experts, I’m starting to believe that Adam is right. Marriage isn’t just what everyone tries to tell you it’s going to be. Every expert out there will have a different version of stuff you need to know and need to do, and perhaps it’s good to check in with them, but in the end, there’s no real 100% foolproof secret.
Every couple is different, and what makes one couple make it and another couple not make it is one million tiny, little things that would take forever to learn. We don’t have that much time, and plus, I’m no good at tracking things on Excel like Sheila.
So I guess I truly believe that the real secret to a long-lasting marriage is for both people to try to continue to work on themselves, work with each other, and remember it all just takes work.
That’s just another day as a human being, and some days we’re superstars at doing it, and other days we’re a mess.
So maybe the secret is forgiveness or understanding?
Maybe the secret is learning to be nice to ourselves and each other?
Ah! I bet the true secret is always having pizza in the freezer as a pick-me-up for the other person.
Or maybe there’s just no secret at all?
Yeah, I guess the secret is there’s just no secret at all.
And I love that. I really love that.
Love you (for as long as we both shall live),
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Your help in sharing this is tremendous. So thank you, friend, thank you.