We recently went for marriage counselling.
Some friends raised their eyebrows when they heard the word “counselling” and I found I had to quickly explain that while we don’t have major problems in our marriage, we wanted to work on our weak areas and have a plan for our growth.
Our coach was Winifred Ling, who is based at Promises at Novena Medical Centre.
Overall, our experience was comfortable; nothing too intimidating or intrusive.
During our first session with her, we played a simple game. She gave us a stack of questions like “What do you admire in your partner” and “What is your biggest worry at present?”
We took turns answering some of the questions and tried not to laugh while doing so. It was actually quite an insightful exercise as we don’t often get the opportunity to think about such things, much less share with our partner about them.
Over the three sessions we had with her, we each discovered a couple of things.
One, my hubby realised that he wasn’t sure how to support me through my grieving (my godmother has a terminal illness). While he had been through loss of his own, the context was different and his way of dealing with difficult emotions was to park it somewhere and move on with life.
Two, I realised that there had been times when I would silently sweep my struggles under the carpet instead of opening up to him and asking for support. When times are hard, I am more inclined to stay silent than to cry out for help.
Perpetual problems vs temporary problems
We also learnt that there are perpetual problems (problems where there are no real solutions for) and temporary problems (problems that can be resolved). Many of us are not aware of this but it could well be the reason why we sometimes argue over the same thing.
Perpetual problems are usually linked to very fundamental values and aspects of our personality. For example, to him, money is something to be saved for a rainy day, while to me, we also need to enjoy money for the here and now. So disagreements linked to finances can sometimes boil down to this fundamental difference in the way we perceive money.
Or he may be neat and organised in the home, while I have a higher tolerance for mess. Rather than insist that the other person changes their ways, we need to find ways to cope with such differences, or come to a middle ground.
Winifred also guided us to practising healthier ways to communicate during conflicts and deal with our differences.
She also helped us see that we bring different strengths into the marriage, as well as different weaknesses.
The dream behind the conflict
The best part for me was when she made us re-do a conflict situation using a simple principle: Behind every conflict lies differing dreams.
Often the dream is linked to some of our own experiences growing up, or just something we value, like freedom, creativity, or stability. We don’t often express this dream but it silently drives our behaviour, and sometimes, it makes us hold fast to our position and it becomes a struggle to let go of whatever it is we want to achieve.
It can be very frustrating for both parties during such a stalemate, because we don’t articulate and understand each other’s dream and vision behind the conflict.
This was the biggest ah-ha moment for me. Not only did it help me in my own self-awareness, it also helped me understand his perspective and why he behaves the way he does.
Marriage is for a lifetime. It is worth investing in.
In conclusion, my thoughts are: Marriage counselling isn’t such a scary experience. It is actually very helpful to have a professional guide sit beside you and facilitate the digging deep and unveiling process (similar to peeling an onion, and yes some tears will flow too).
Many couples will think, “We don’t need it,” and place it on low priority…until something blows up in the marriage. Just like we go for regular health checks, it is totally worthwhile to invest in your marriage for the long haul by going for a marriage checkup.
Problems and issues will be unearthed, and new strategies and ideas will be learned and applied. Your marriage and family will thank you.
Special for readers
Winifred is offering a 10% discount for the first session to all my readers. (U.P. $300 for a 1.5 hour session). To make an appointment, call 6397-7309 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out her credentials here.
PS. Winifred was kind enough to offer us pro-bono counselling sessions as she wanted to raise more awareness in the community of such marriage coaching services. I utterly enjoyed the sessions and was thankful my husband was brave enough to join me! Thanks Winifred!