Monday, December 15, 2008

Counseling shouldn't stop after marriage

I asked a newlywed pal how her marriage was going. She said it was good, but hard. "Because we're both stubborn, and we're older," she explained. (They're in their mid-to-late 30s). It takes work to meld two strong, independent lives.

So the newlymarrieds have decided to keep seeing the person they met for pre-marriage counseling. They don't go often, only when they have a problem they feel they need an objective opinion on. And my friend says it has helped a lot.

I think that going to a counselor is a great idea. More people are marrying later in life -- I have a friend who married for the first time when she was 41. It's not easy to change your life from one where you have your space the way you want it, and your daily schedule the way you want it, to sharing it with another person. Some compromises may be simple; others, not so much. So talking out your issues with a third party who has no stake in the outcome can be a good thing.

Also, the counseling doesn't have to end once newlywed issues have worked themselves out. I heard a recent radio interview with caustic actor-comedian Denis Leary. He's been married for 26 years. He was talking about his new book, "Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid," and offered men advice on marriage counseling:

"Number one: Do it," he said. "You're not gonna find a guy who's more anti-therapy or anti any kind of counseling than me. I'm a stubborn, pigheaded Irishman and that's sort of in my DNA. And it takes me a long time to learn a lesson."

After going through three counselors in about six weeks, Leary said, "We finally went to a male marriage counselor, and it dawned on me -- 'Oh, I'm completely - I'm totally wrong. And emotionally unavailable.' Goes right back to that Irish-Catholic upbringing. Once I figured out I'm wrong, and emotionally unavailable, we started to make some progress.

"I gotta tell you, the male, the man shrink, that's the way to go," Leary continued. "It's a person, a man, who gets paid to sit in a room and listen to women complain about what's wrong with men. It's the female version of hiring a prostitute. ... and it works. Sitting in that room with that guy -- I guess it was because he was finally a guy I listened to him -- I started to realize yeah, you know what? I am not right about most things. I am sometimes right about things in sports and show biz, because I'm a sports fan and I work in show business, but in terms of raising children and making a marriage work, I'm 0 for 7 million. That's my batting average. But I've learned how to learn from the man shrink."

So there you go. If he can learn, can't we all?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

bravo on this topic, for sure! If more people did this after marriage; never stopping the talking with an objective 'guide' or listener to 'fuss' or be honest and laugh or be less serious even at times with the newly married couple what a plus it would be in those marriages with so much freed up energy and time. So many wait until the marriage is dead and then they decide to go to counseling; either as a "I tried everything and now it is over" or let's fix this too late to fix marriage. Continuing to go is just an added security for a couple who are working on their marriage and want all the help they can with staying married. I agree agree agree!