To begin with, it bothered me that Marriage Counselor Woman (affectionately referred to hereafter as MCW) wasn't actually affiliated with the church at all. She was just some random woman who works at a secular counseling office, and for all we knew she probably wasn't Catholic (it's not that I think marital therapists have to be religious to help you...it just seemed odd to me. You know...since it was for the church and all).
Yeah, not so much.
Once we actually had the appointment, things DID NOT get better. The problems may have been partially caused by the two years I spent working in a couple's therapy lab as a Psyc major. During that time I learned a whole lot about techniques counselors employ and therapy strategies, and during the appointment, I felt like I could guess everything MCW was about to say. Not a good quality in someone you're throwing wads of cash at.
But don't worry, not every word out of MCW's mouth was predicted! There were a few...well, unexpected things. Here's an example:
MCW: J, what's one thing that bothers you about Katie?
J: Ummm...well, when she thinks she's right, it's really hard to get her to change her mind.
MCW: So she's stubborn?
J: No I wouldn't say she's stubborn, she's just really confident in her opinions, and I am too. Usually we agree on things, but when we don't it sometimes gets frustrating.
MCW: So you're both stubborn?
J: I don't think we're stubborn, we're just strong people...neither one of us wants to be walked all over or taken advantage of.
MCW: Some people would call that stubborn.
J: Okay, well if you want to call it that then sure, we're stubborn.
MCW: Okay, so Katie - J says you're stubborn. Do you think he is too?
Me: I do think we're both strong in our opinions...
(and it continued like this for a while...)
Now we frequently tease each other about our supposed stubbornness (stubborness? stubbornity?). Teehee.
J and I didn't feel like anything we discussed with her was new, helpful, or worthwhile. We did a lot of talking about things J and I had already discussed multiple times (you know, things that we've worked out and figured out without the help of a counselor). It was like we had to prove to her that we were actually functioning like a normal couple. I thought it was a waste of time and money. J thought it was just a necessary means to an end. Neither of us thought it was productive or positive. We got sooo much more out of discussing our FOCCUS test on our own than we did out of this appointment.
Just in case you weren't convinced of MCW's genius yet, here's another fun episode:
MCW asked us for an example of a conflict we've had in the last few weeks. At the time, we were moving into J's new apartment, so we mentioned that there had been a few disagreements over what should go where, what to buy to put on the wall above the couch, etc.
Now these weren't huge issues, and we've since then worked them all out just fine. But, we got a giant lecture from MCW about how accepting a person also means accepting their stuff and their tastes (duh). And then, MCW (genius that she is) suggested that we rotate who has control over the decorating of the guest room and flip it every 6 months. Can you imagine?!?
"Alright J, it's been 6 months! Time to go get my stuff out of the storage unit we're wasting money on! Time to waste a few hours of our life yet again by redecorating this stupid guest room! Muahaha, now it's MINE!!!" I mean seriously, wouldn't that cause undue stress and resentment every six months? Can't we just find some guest room decor we agree on and move on with our lives?
Anyone who knows us would know her solution would never in a million years work for us. We take pride in building a life that's ours, and we'd be miserable if we were constantly going Okay, now mine! Okay now yours. Okay now mine! etc. I don't really know how it would work for anyone, come to think of it, but for us - definitely not. There were so many other episodes of this nature during our appointment, and I kind of wanted to just tell Miss MCW she was being ridiculous. But I didn't.
On top of everything else, the lovely MCW made sure to be absolutely clear with me that she wanted the $100 payment in cash. I don't know if she's had problems with bouncing checks, or if she's just avoiding reporting it for tax purposes, but I seriously didn't like how persistent she was about making sure I had the money in cash. It was odd.
In the end, we paid our money and got our letter of approval stating that in her professional opinion there were no significant issues with our relationship, and we were allowed to move on in the process. Apparently some couples have to meet with her multiple times before she "approves" them to continue! Thank God we got out the first time! Haha.
Unfortunately, the whole marriage counselor thing wasn't a good experience for us. I do think premarital counseling can be valuable, but if you're going to do it you should take the time to find a counselor who has been recommended and has a good reputation, not someone who was just randomly selected like Marriage Counselor Woman. Additionally, you should consider having more than just a one-hour session with him/her. I felt like most of our appointment was wasted because she didn't really know us, and couldn't provide anything helpful because of that.
Next up in Part IV, we plan our wedding ceremony!
Previously in this series:
Part I - The Process
Part II - The FOCCUS test