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I recently shared an article, (Relationship 911: What I Learned from Marriage Counseling) related to my "lessons learned" from counseling seven years ago, and thought it would be interesting to ask my husband what he learned from these same sessions (and share with his permission!).
He said at the time, he was reluctant to go, but today has fond memories of our counselor; he said the counselor "brought the zen to counseling" for many reasons. He asked difficult and thought-provoking questions. He nodded, listened, waited in silence for us to talk without interjecting his philosophy. My husband said it was worth going through several therapists to find this one person whom he trusted, and felt challenged by. Primarily, my husband said he did not feel singled-out as the person who is doing "everything wrong and needs to change and improve", as he feels most therapists do with guys.
Here are the top 5 lessons learned from my husband (that he still uses and finds relevant today):
1. Don't drone on trying to replay the "he-said-she-said" in a disagreement. The only reason to do this is to prove either who's right, or who has a better memory. Neither are worth the end result, as someone loses and no one is closer to a resolution. The argument will resurface again, and this may be where chronic unresolved issues come from.
2. Take time to find the right therapist. My husband had been to a few counselors with a previous relationship, and he disliked every single one of them. Either they sided with "her", or told him "lame psycho-babble" with generic phrases such as, "I'm giving you tools to succeed...". He either felt like he was just talking to some guy at the bar who repeated cliches, or to someone who liked to hear themselves talk without really listening and getting to know him. He felt boxed into a a stereotypical "male" role that did not fit.
3. Communicate openly. Don't hold in your thoughts and feelings; learn to trust the other person.