In my fifteen years of providing marriage and couples counseling, I have seen many individuals struggle to stay in a relationship and keep in touch with the loving feelings and commitment that began that bond. As we all know, very few relationships are blessed with nothing but smooth sailing. Sometimes it seems that the couples who initially love each other the most are fated to have the biggest challenges thrown in their paths.
As a counselor, I have been so honored when people come to me in their time of trouble and share, with honesty and vulnerability, the things that have blocked the fountainhead of romance and desire. I have been proud to use all of my skills to help my clients resolve old traumas, dispense with belief systems that are no longer useful, forgive one another and develop a strong foundation of trust and flexibility that could carry them forward.
Some of my clients make it out of the dark and others fall by the wayside. When you work with people who are married or in committed relationships, you have to let them be the ultimate judge of whether their spouse or lover is worth the struggle it might take to keep going, living as “us” rather than “me.” But you never stop feeling a little sorry when a romance dies, if only because all efforts to connect have failed. We can’t always do what it takes to fulfill that potential. Sometimes it’s simply not possible. But when a couple succeeds, despite a feeling of shame or discouragement, in the face of any practical or rational reason why it would be easier to let go, I celebrate along with them because they have triumphed over their challenges and negativity.
The following is a statement from one of my most challenging endeavors, which I hope will become a true inspiration for others.
First I want to give you a little background on this client. They have been together for 9 years. During most of these years they faced multiple challenges: depression, financial shortfalls and family conflict. At times, I wasn’t sure they would make it. And then I would get another phone call and they would return again with more challenges—and new resolve to sort it all out. Yesterday when I read the following, I was deeply moved and even exalted by their journey. All I want to say is this:
If there is love, acceptance, compassion, trust, and respect in a relationship, that bond can triumph and endure. The key is willingness, commitment, and a desire to continue even through the rough spots, knowing the bright and easy times will come again.
I hope that the following excerpt, printed with their permission and the name changed, will help more couples see the possibility of having a lifetime marriage.
“Happy Official Second Wedding Anniversary to my companion and ultimately my best friend, Melanie. It took us quite a while to seal the deal. I’m grateful every day, month, and year that we were able to overcome our pride and truly start building ‘Us.’ One thing that I have come to understand is that you are not responsible for your spouse’s feelings and thoughts on improvement, success, and happiness. However, your responsibility resides in providing the catalyst for action by supporting and embracing not just your partner’s strengths, but your partner’s weaknesses as well.
“On this mountain we call life; you have been there for me time and time again. In the beginning you encouraged me to stop contemplating the perfect plan and just execute the first steps. You supported me when I was discouraged and exhausted. My stubbornness would discredit you when the climb became too steep or was unsafe, and you insisted on detouring down a separate path. I would blame you when we were completely lost, not sure where to go. Even when I felt that all resources were drained, you still found the strength to motivate us to keep moving forward. We have been able to achieve remarkable things. You always knew that together, we are able to accomplish anything. You make me a better man every day. I love you always and FOREVER!”
Isn’t that an amazing love letter? This man is so clear that his wife has unshakable faith in him, and in return, he adores her strength and intelligence. If each of us who has someone we love were to stop and write a letter expressing our deepest feelings about what cemented the bond between us, even if we only did that once a year, we might tap into something equally beautiful and achieve a new level of insight about the blessings that enrich our lives.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your own relationship to strengthen your commitment and what made the difference?