I struggled with conflict in relationships and avoided sharing my true feelings.
When my current partner asked me to go to couples therapy I panicked, thinking we were failing.
I wanted to be a better partner, so I agreed to go — and now we're stronger than ever.
When I think about the worst thing that could happen between me and my boyfriend, I can conjure up dozens of out-there scenarios: We're riding in a hot-air balloon that suddenly pops, or maybe we're having a date night at an ice-skating rink when we tragically get run over by a Zamboni.
Of course, I've also come up with ways to get myself out of these situations. I may be panicky, but I'm also resourceful.
But none of this doomsday planning could have prepared me for the scariest thing to happen in my current relationship. It was more terrifying than fighting off a grizzly bear with switchblades for claws, or accidentally opening a portal to the underworld and warding off evil Victorian ghost children.
My boyfriend suggested couples counseling.
I haven't handled hardships in relationships well
When my high-school boyfriend broke up with me before he left for college, I was so numb that I jumped off his second-story balcony and into his pool to feel something.
Years later I found myself in the same emotional state, except no balcony was in sight. At 23, I was at an impasse with my boyfriend at the time. Our sex life was nonexistent. Frankly, I was just tired of being the resident bottom of the relationship.
While we could've had an open dialogue about what needed work, the idea of sharing those thoughts and insecurities petrified me.
When that partner asked me to see a couple's counselor, I pressed the eject button as fast as possible. It marked the end of our relationship.
During a fight, my current partner asked for couples therapy
My current partner and I are more communicative, and I'm less likely to avoid conflict. But as with any relationship, we have some hiccups.
When it comes to housekeeping and scheduling, we argue circuitously. He says one thing, I get defensive, I say another thing, he gets defensive. It kind of feels like a tennis match — but while he serves with a tennis racket, I serve with a Wii remote.
We were lying on the couch one night, and the water began to boil. He said one thing, and I got defensive. Then he asked me a hair-raising question: "Maybe we should consider couples counseling?"
That eject button looked as enticing as ever. I knew what pressing it would do. I wouldn't have to face any ounce of honesty or share my fears with my partner. I wouldn't have to sit on a crusty leather futon and talk to a therapist named Bernice.
I sobbed like a misunderstood teenager in an A24 film.
"What's wrong?" he asked me.
I got real. To me, couples counseling meant defeat. It meant we weren't working. What if we realized we're not meant for each other? What if we never get married? What if one of us doesn't want kids anymore? What if our therapist turns out to be my mother in disguise and as she throws off her lace-front wig she screams at me for not being a better partner?
My boyfriend smiled. "Couple's counseling is totally normal," he said. It didn't feel that way to me, but I chose to believe him, because our relationship is different from those I had in the past. He told me people do this all the time. Sometimes it takes an objective third party to help address the things we can't do on our own.
I didn't want to press the eject button anymore. The desire to be a better partner washed over the urge to escape. I wanted that for myself, and I wanted that for him.
The judgment and fear of failure evaporated
Weirdly enough, saying yes to this type of therapy felt like a badge of honor.
I started to tell friends in relationships about our epiphany. Many said that they'd done the same or that they were also starting the process. Every preconceived notion I had about couples counseling faded away.
As we start therapy, we want to communicate better and work through our problems together. We're closer than ever.
The internal chatter disappeared. I'm not failing; I'm growing up.
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