The box of tissues made me laugh.
They were the first thing I noticed when we walked into the marriage counsellor’s office that day. That neat box of tissues, sitting in the middle of the table, between the water jug and two glasses.
I suppressed a chuckle. Does he think we’re going to end up in tears? I wondered silently.
It seemed almost presumptuous to me, like someone ordering you a coffee with skim milk and no sugar, without asking how you take it.
But despite my (small-minded) amusement over the tissue box, I was a bundle of nerves.
As we drove in together, it suddenly hit me that we would be talking about personal things – very personal things – in front of a complete stranger. And while we agreed upon a couple of topics that we would keep just between us, we would still be opening the doors on our marriage and inviting comment from someone else. Were we doing the right thing?
We had decided to seek marriage counselling not because we had hit some kind of crisis point and divorce was looming but because we got to the point where we thought some outside help might be useful. A couple of issues were coming up repeatedly but every time we tried to work through them, we found ourselves going round in circles.
It was like there was a funny noise coming from under the bonnet and, rather than waiting for a break down, we decided to take it in for a tune up.
As nervous as I was initially, our counsellor’s kind and understanding demeanour soon won me over. The biggest thing was that he was unshockable. I would confess some horrible thing I had said or done and brace myself for the reaction. But there was none. There was only an understanding nod or a “yes, that’s very common,” and then the practical ideas for handling it better next time.
And soon, we were chatting and sharing like old friends, the three of us. The counsellor would often have my husband and I face each other in chairs and have “practice discussions” with each other. It was somewhat mechanical, but the idea was to practise these new, more productive methods of discussion. The counsellor would silently observe us, only interjecting with suggestions if we seemed to get stuck.
While I thought the scariest thing would be openness and vulnerability with a complete stranger, it turns out what I was really scared of was openness and vulnerability with my husband. I’ve always found it hard to open up to him and talk about my thoughts and feelings but our visit with the counsellor really drove home the importance of doing so, despite my discomfort. (And the good news is – the more I practise, the less discomfort I feel about it!)
MOPS blog writer