This week’s lesson in marriage counseling: on the importance of individual counseling for couples’ counseling.
It’s often a surprise to couples how important or necessary concurrent individual counseling can be.
There are a least two reasons for this.
1) the hurts and unresolved issues of our individual pasts impact our marriage. Especially when you notice you’ve been stuck in a recurring conflict or pattern.
2) the effect of the hurts of the present; it’s hard to process the grief and regret of what has happened in the conflicted marriage with the one who has been the source of that hurt.
Your spouse doesn’t even necessarily have to be unsafe or for there to be a lack of trust, sometimes being hurt and having unmet needs can make it too hard to contain the intense emotions of your spouse who is also hurt and discouraged. We sometimes say things we don’t mean or believe in grief and it can cause a lot of fear and pain for your spouse to hear those things when trust is fragile or they are not feeling hopeful and confident about themselves or the state of the marriage.
When we first come together, often our brokenness and empty places compliment the broken places and emptiness in our loved one. It feels good to be together because it feels like everything fits together like a missing puzzle piece or hand fitting in a perfectly custom fit glove.
But with time, the movement of life, growth, change, stress, that brokenness, those differences and unresolved issues become jagged, sharp edges that saw and grate against each other.
And we can get caught in a cycle of how we react to how much that hurts, with what we do and say, causing more hurt.
And how messy and complicated that gets is really hard to do in one couples’ counseling hour a week.