I do a lot of couples counseling work, and one of the things I can tell right off the bat is whether or not a couple is coming in “too late.” Now as a counselor, I should have nothing but the utmost confidence in my clients’ ability to get better, no matter what the odds. However, when you’re dealing with more than one person in session, its not just as easy as changing one person’s method of thinking. In couples work, I’m dealing with two people’s history, fears, insecurities and issues.
Now what do I mean by “too late?” A couple is Too Late when they’ve already done a number of things to break down the communication and overall good feelings that come from the relationship. As a result, their work in session isn’t very motivated, and most of the time they already know that they are checked out of the relationship. Still, they come in, hoping that they will be able to work out the issues between them and move on to a new level in their lives.
So how can you know if you’re marriage is “Too Late?” Here are some indicators below:
1. You start using the word “divorce” like its the word “the.” More often than not, couples who are already talking about divorce have already thrown this idea around in their head a few times. This word comes up in almost every argument, and it becomes clear that you fear it, and you toy with the idea of it.
2. You use the words, Nothing, Everything, Always and Never. These are just bad words to use in general. If someone is always getting on your nerves or trying to make you angry, then they are never, by definition, breathing, working, eating or anything else other than making you angry. By using absolutes, you start to think in absolutes, and you allow yourself to Think in a pattern of absolutes. This is bad JuJu Magumbo. Using Often, Usually, Sometimes, Rarely, and other words that describe what you mean are probably better, because they give you and your spouse a chance to reduce the number of times these things happen.
3. You want your relationship to change, but you don’t want to change yourself. Steve McCready posted this concept in Twitter, and he and I had a conversation about it. Basically what it means is that you believe that you are so set in your ways, that you can’t possibly change now. If you did, well, then you wouldn’t be you, now would you? The thing is, you can change Actions in your life without changing who you are. And whether you know it or not, you actually change over time without even realizing it. As a result, those changes can affect your relationship in ways that perhaps you didn’t intend. Either way, in order for a relationship to work, you have to be willing to make changes.
4. Arguing is the only communication you have. If all you do is argue, then there is something wrong with A. How you communicate to your spouse, and B. How you respond to their communication. If you can’t communicate like grown-ups, then you’re probably not going to act like grown-ups. As a result, you can’t change the dynamic because all there is to it is bad communication.
So what do you do if you’re Too Late? First, figure out what you want in a counselor, and then find a counselor. You need someone to referee, and you have to find someone who is going to be able to keep you both in line, be impartial, and also show empathy for both sides of the situation. Next, decide you want to make it work. If you don’t want to make it work, guess what? It won’t work. Decide that you’re not going to become a statistic, put a helmet on, and get ready to work hard.
Finally, have faith in your spouse’s ability to change. Whether they’ve hurt you lots, or maybe just a little, you have to start somewhere. Having faith in both your ability and your spouse’s ability to improve will give your marriage the edge it needs to succeed. You don’t know if you’re going to fail unless you try. However, if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.