By Jill Woolworth, LMFT
If you found a lump on your body, would you wait more than a few days before you sought medical advice? If your child had symptoms of an illness for two weeks, would you just hope they went away?
Sadly, this is what many couples do when their marriage is sick. They think or say: “Maybe s/he will change. If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist. Why would we air our dirty laundry in front of someone else? We’re smart—if we can’t work it out, we shouldn’t be together. We’ll stick it out until the kids are grown. Most married people are unhappy. It’s not my problem—it’s his or hers. “
Imagine if we took the same approach to lumps on our bodies. No doctor wants to be an oncologist who sees only Stage Four cancer patients, but statistically 90% of couples wait that long before seeking counseling or coaching. By then marital pain has metastasized into Stage Four Marriage Cancer. The odds are worse. Blame and shame are thickly layered.
I offer every pre-marital couple a free “check-up” during the first year of marriage. Over sixteen years, only two couples have taken me up on the offer. Why? Is it fear, naiveté, or pride? Marriage check-ups are as important as regular physical exams.
There is a proven correlation between physical and marital health. Longtime married couples have fewer illnesses, a lower experience of stress, higher incomes and longer lives. Divorce is more stressful than the death of a spouse.
Marriage is a shared life. If your spouse develops a physical lump, you would insist that he or she see a doctor. Do the same for your marriage. For the sake of your health, your children’s health, the health of your marriage and generations to come, check out marriage lumps when they are small. It may take only one visit a year.
Marriage counselors see things you can’t see and help you untangle patterns you don’t understand the way a doctor can diagnose and treat a lump. It may be benign or it may not be. If you don’t like the first counselor or his/her opinion, get a second opinion just as you would for a medical issue.
Consider a sports analogy. As a culture, we hire personal trainers to tone our bodies and spend hundreds of dollars to get coached in sports we love. Why not for marriage coaching? What’s more important to you, your abs, your golf swing or your marriage?
Most people don’t die with achievement and monetary regrets. Regrets are usually about unresolved relationships. Marriage is at the top of the list. Give yourself a better chance of a good outcome by seeking support early. Your coach is waiting.
Jill Woolworth, MA, LMFT