Things I Learned at Marriage Counseling

To be clear, I think my husband learned a lot about me as well, but below are a few things I learned (and/or accepted) about him/us at our first joint appointment last Thursday. I figured I’d share them here in case anyone else who reads this blog is struggling and might identify with a few of the points and find it helpful. Overall it was a really great therapy session, and we have a follow-up one scheduled in January after the holidays. I’m so thankful that we are both willing to try this together!

  • He really does want to try to make this work. Three weeks ago he very calmly told me that he was done and that he wanted a divorce. A lot of other ugly, hurtful things were also said, but it was all said very calmly and in a matter-of-fact way, and that was super scary to me. It was much more impactful than when insults & threats are hurled in loud voices in the heat of the moment, you know? I honestly didn’t know if he (or I) even wanted to try to fix things after that. After this meeting, though, I know that we both are willing to do our best to try to get back to a place where we are happy and fulfilled by our marriage.
  • He was pissed that I was so upset when he-who-shall-not-be-named won the election. Not because he wanted him to win, but because he felt like I cared more about the outcome of the election than our marriage. Ouch. That was a perception I had zero idea existed in his mind, and it was a good reminder to me that I need to be as vocally passionate about our marriage as I am about my political beliefs.
  • He can’t sleep when I’m out and about with friends. As much as that frustrates me because for-the-love-of-God-just-sleep-and-quit-worrying… it’s his reality, and I need to accept that. He needs to learn that it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get my “me” time with friends, but I need to quit getting mad at him and trying to change his worrying/sleeping habits as much as he needs to trust that I’m okay when I’m out and about.
  • We both feel like failures as parents a huge majority of the time right now, and that is definitely affecting our marriage in both negative & positive ways. We are shorter with each other and quick to anger and frustrated and exhausted…but we can also commiserate about it, and it’s nice to know that we both feel the same way about parenting lately and are on this lifeboat together.
  • He feels like our incredibly challenging (almost) 3 year old is the way he is because of how we are with each other in front of him, and that breaks my heart. Stella was calmer and quieter and quick to follow direction at this age (at a time when we were calmer & more loving in our marriage), and Harvey is loud and rough and quick to anger and throws horrid fits. I feel badly that he blames himself (us) so much for our son being so tough right now. There is probably some truth to it, but I also think we have just forgotten some of what Stella was like at this age, and 2-3 year old boys are just damn hard a lot of the time. It was good for me to realize how much guilt he carries because of this, though, and to make an effort to reinforce to him what a good Dad he is and to treat him with more kindness, love, and respect, especially in front of the kids.
  • I need to express to him more calmly and routinely what my resentments are. He was truly flabbergasted (ignorant?) when I explained to him how hard the following scenario is for me. I work until 5:25, am home at 5:30 to relieve the Nanny, and am instantly cooking dinner and parenting until the kids go to bed. Then he wants me to go to bed with him immediately to watch a show and fall asleep together as “quality time” together. I get ZERO “me” time all week long in our current scenario, and yet it never occurred to him to ask if I wanted him to be home by 5:30 some random night so that I could meet a friend for a drink after work like he often does.
  • It was really nice to spend 1h15 simply talking to each other in a calm, loving manner…and it’s been a long ass time since we have done that. He is currently working on a job that is 1h30 away, so in some ways we are seeing less of each other. However, we have now been talking on the phone most mornings for a few minutes just to touch base since he leaves before I wake up, and that has been SO nice. We definitely need to recommit to making time to really TALK to each other every day without distractions.

IMG_3677We definitely covered a lot more topics than I’ve written about here, but these are the “stand out” topics I wanted to write down so that I could come back to this post some day when we are struggling with them again. Marriage is hard, y’all, but I so want to make this work. <3


  1. I agree: marriage is hard. My husband and went to marriage counseling almost three years back, and the 5-6 sessions we attended were HUGELY helpful. We still have our moments of conflict, but we are better able to work through them now.

    I’m so glad to hear you feel you are getting something out of this.

  2. Thank you so much for your honesty on this topic. I appreciate each post about your marriage struggles, and I think they will help a lot of people. I am very happy to hear that therapy was productive!

  3. In reference to your 3 year old issues… You are not solo on this. I really firmly believe there is such a thing as second child syndrome, where your 2nd is WAY harder to parent and manage. It might very well be that we are just that much busier, but I will tell you my Lucy is really difficult and because of her miserable attitude at times, Jordan and I will in turn fight… So not the right thing to do, but she just changes everyone’s mood in the house, with her moods.
    Hang in there. You guys are doing the right thing by reaching out for support. Keep the lines of communication open.
    Thinking of you and praying that this will lead to happier times ahead for you both.

    1. I agree – #2 is very different. Our #2 had meltdowns of epic proportions. Everything about him was different than #1. I kept thinking, something was wrong with him. 🙂 #2’s are just their own people and do things their own way. Those terrible/difficult moments become fewer and farther between. When times are really hard, stop and ask them, if they need a hug, if they say no, give them one anyways…..hugs seem to help everyone, at least they did for us.

  4. Marriage is REALLY hard. So is parenting. I know it’s easy for me to say not to beat yourself up over all of this–because I do it, too, A LOT–but don’t beat yourself up over this. Most people won’t even bother to go to counseling. You’re already taking a huge step.

  5. So, our worst times were before Bryson was born (I was pregnant with him) and our best times were after he turned 6 months old to now…. And that kid wears us both down every single day with his whining, fits, tears, screaming, etc. Harv is just harv… It’s not you guys causing the 85% of the things he does that makes you crazy. I sat that because I’m sure my yelling encourages my kids to yell… But Matthew doesn’t scream like Bryson does. So, I’m probably causing 15% of brysons difficult behavior.

    Bravo to C for going! Brian refused to go. I’m so pleased for you two!!!!

  6. talesofatwinmombie · · Reply

    Thanks for sharing something so personal. A friend of mine is going through a really rough patch in her marriage and some of what you wrote I feel like I can share with her. She has been struggling with whether her marriage is worth fighting for or not and some other issues.

  7. Thank you for sharing. Being open, honest and communicative in marriage can be so, so, so hard. It seems easier to just keep it all in and NOT talk about it. Good for you both for doing the hard work.

  8. Glad the therapy session was good and helpful. One point from me Age 2-…..boys who have lots of energy is hard. Believe me. And 2 kids about 3 years apart sucks. And it’s all really really hard. Abiding with you.

  9. I am always taken slightly aback by how open and honest you are in this blog, JJ. It’s a wonderful thing, actually. The thing is, pretty much everyone has the same struggles, whether with kids or marriage or jobs or work or play…so it is refreshing for those of us who tend to clam up when trouble strikes to read about someone else willing to share. There is something powerful about feeling like you’re not struggling alone in whatever is happening at any given time in one’s life.

    I always used to wish I could put my 30-something brain into my high school/college body…there are certainly things I would do differently – but you just don’t know that until you’ve lived through these times.

    Now I find myself wishing I could put my 61 year old brain into your 34 year old body…just in a corner…so you could draw on a little hard won wisdom…because of course I want you and your husband to be together forever and ever Amen. You posted an article or blog or whatever it was on FB where the woman wrote something like “the way to not get divorced is to stay married”. I thought that was utterly profound. You could get divorced, but when push comes to shove, in your particular case, you would each just have a whole new set of problems to deal with. So I try very hard not to worry. I just pray for love and respect in your life – in the lives of all my kids – because love really is the answer in the very broadest sense. I am very proud of both of you for trying hard, no matter what happens. Que sera sera. 🙂 Every little ‘ting is gonna be alright!

    Love you forever. Like you for always.

  10. Stephanie · · Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I have mentioned here before that my husband and I are going through a rough patch right now and unfortunately, the “d” word has been thrown around. I’m not sure if either of us meant it or if things just escalated to the point where there was nothing else to say, think, or do besides think about getting out, walking away, starting new, and leaving our problems behind. While I think our problems are different than yours, I find similarities and great insight in what you posted. And I really appreciate the honesty and wisdom that your mom provided in her post and agree with what she says…splitting up doesn’t allow us to leave our problems behind but brings on new and different problems. I personally need to remember that as we try to work through the issues in our marriage. I applaud both of you for seeking therapy. Right now, my husband and I are in therapy (individually) because of our circumstances, but we have talked about couples therapy in the future and after hearing how well your first session went, I feel hopeful.

  11. I admire you for being so open and honest here in this post (and always). I didn’t realize things had gotten to this point and I am so glad to read that the marriage counseling was a positive experience and that you’re going again. I have often thought that it is something we could benefit from because it sometimes feels like we’re saying the same things over and over but not actually hearing each other. And I know a lot of that is on me – I’m so damn stubborn!! It would be good to have such a calm, quiet hour to talk and really hear each other.

    Also, almost 3 year old boys are HARD. Mine certainly is. He screams and throws tantrums and takes off his clothes in protest. I think it’s especially shocking/impressive/frustrating when you had a relatively mild-mannered girl first (Sofia was not all that mild really, but in comparison she was a saint). I often find myself saying things like, “When Sofia was this age, she was already walking everywhere and not in the stroller, but there is no way Andy will walk along with me without running every which way.” I guess it’s just in their nature and we have to be patient. (What will H and A be like together!?!?!)

    1. Hm…. I hadn’t even thought about bringing a stroller to Spain for Harv, but now I’m wondering if we should. It will be interesting seeing them together. 😉

      1. I think it depends on how much he’ll walk. I do still put Andy in the ergo on a fairly regular basis (although he’s a bit over the limit…) so maybe a carrier would work? Otherwise, when we go out sans stroller Andy usually ends up on N’s shoulders or my back.

        1. Hm… something to think about. Might just go the piggy back route.

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