Finding your life partner can be one of the most liberating experiences in the world, even more so when you are equipped with the best tools to navigate through past traumas, disagreements and frictions when they arise.
I met my partner four years ago at a time when I had officially given up on finding love that would sweep me off my feet; but then my tall, nerdy chocolate pudding swiped right on me, it was a match and we never looked back. I had found “my person” and our honeymoon phase lasted for about two years. Our love was so easy and our lives meshed immediately that it was very hard to imagine that our life together would ever be anything more than pure love, peace and joy! But the day did come when our blissful honeymoon season was eventually impacted by the realities of life and our humanity and let me tell you something when it happened it didn’t just drizzle it poured!
We got to a point in our relationship where we realised that even though we had found the perfect partner in each other; we as individuals are not perfect (This may be an obvious statement but you kind of forget that your partner isn’t perfect when you’re wrapped up in your love bubble). I think that was the hardest part for me; having to reduce my Angel on earth back to a mortal who had their own struggles and their own past traumas to work through just like I did.
There came a point where we knew that the only way we could move to the next level of our relationship was to seek professional help. Now that we’ve gone through a year of counselling with sessions that dealt with childhood traumas, cultural differences and communication challenges; I can’t imagine where we would be if we hadn’t given ourselves a chance to explore this option. We are two humans who came from different backgrounds and schools of thought and to grow as a couple, we needed to unlearn old habits that didn’t serve us and adopt new ones to create a better life together. I reached out to two couples who have also chosen therapy as an option to find out what their experience was like and what advice they would give to couples considering therapy.
Couple #1: Palesa and Jabulani met at church in 2011 and started dating in 2013, they have been married for 4 years
Q. How did you decide that counselling/ therapy might be a good option for you?
Our first counselling session was before marriage. The reason we chose to go for professional help was so that we could discuss important things that we needed to know about each other, things like financial records and other factors that can potentially destroy a marriage. For us, counselling was an important factor in getting to know each other deeper and understanding things about marriage that people don’t usually tell you before getting married.
Q. Were you both immediately on board with getting outside help for your relationship or was there some form of resistance in the beginning?
Thankfully we were both onboard from the get-go.
Q. How long were you in counselling/therapy and would you consider doing it again in future?
We were in therapy for 5 months, and yes we would consider it, should the need arise.
Q. At what point in the relationship do you think couples should consider getting Counselling/therapy?
All couples should consider counselling the day they decide to get married, even after marriage it is still important to go for counselling.
Q. What was the biggest lesson you learned from the experience?
The biggest lesson we learnt was that communication with your partner is important along with being kind, transparent and patient with each other.
Q. What advice would you give to a couple who thinks they might need therapy but don’t know where to start?
Just look for a professional, you’ll learn a lot and it will help you build a beautiful & healthy marriage.
Couple #2: Sizwe and Zandi met on a dating app, they have been married for a year and have been together for 4.5 years.
Q. What role did counselling/therapy have in the growth of your relationship?
Getting a coach helped us to listen to each other. The exercises we did ensure that we listened to hear each other and not just to respond. That’s helped with our communication, as we now make sure that we give each other the space to speak without feeling rushed.
Q. Did you experience days where a session left you feeling worse than you did when you walked into the session? If yes, how did you push through those moments and pluck up the courage to return for another session?
Yes, we continued because we wanted to honour our commitment to the process and for us to at least achieve the outcome of what we started.
Q. Do you think couples should only consider therapy when they start experiencing difficulties in their relationships, or would it be beneficial to do it even when they are at a happy place?
I think therapy or coaching shouldn’t only be employed when a couple has problems. It can be used to help grow a relationship or to help couples understand certain things about each other. We sought a coach to help us figure out the plans we have for our family; our careers, retirement and our vision as a family.
Q. What is one of the best tools you got from counselling/therapy that helped better your relationship which you didn’t know before?
Defining our vision as a unit and writing it down. That was a powerful exercise, as this ensures that we always know where we’re headed, it serves as some sort of road map.
Q. What did you learn about yourself and how you show up in your relationship through counselling/therapy?
We realised that we have different expectations for the conversations we have. One of us wants to start acting immediately and the other wants time to ponder on what was said before acting. That’s led us to be patient and kinder with each other.
In closing, I am yet to meet anyone who feels like any form of counselling did not improve their life or relationship. I agree that sometimes it may be painful and confronting and for other people, the unfortunate experience of being matched with the wrong counsellor or therapist may put them off completely, but I would certainly encourage you to try again and thank yourself later! I would be remiss if I did not share the two books that our counsellor shared with us to read or listen to on our healing journey; they have both changed our lives individually and collectively and I’m confident that they will change yours too! Whether you’re single, looking or committed, please give yourself these gifts: ‘Nonviolent Communication’ by Marshall Rosenberg and ‘Getting The Love You Want’ by Harville Hendrix.