Q: I suggested to my husband that we go to marriage counseling to figure out how to deal with some problems with my mother-in-law. He was very much against it, but he went. When we got there, boy, did we talk about other things besides my mother-in-law, and our marriage is better now than ever. What advice would you give to people about going to counseling when they don't think they need it?
A: I've been doing this for over 20 years, and in the beginning people came to see me when their relationship was in major crisis. That still sometimes happens, but I am seeing a trend where, now that a lot of the societal taboo has been lifted, many couples want to build better intimacy before things get too hard. You were getting ahead of the problem. Maintaining a healthy relationship is the hardest job there is. Anyone who tells you a relationship shouldn't be work is an idiot. You have to nurture it like a living, breathing thing. You don't have to see a therapist constantly like Woody Allen, but if you go for a specific problem or goal, it can be extremely powerful. None of us come with a manual on how to communicate, how to get our needs met, how to deal with conflict. We just do what we saw growing up, which isn't necessarily the most functional or healthy thing. Therapy is a tool to learn how to be in a relationship.
Q: How do you deal with things like fertility drugs or hormones, which affect your relationship but which you don't have a lot of control over?
A: Every relationship is filled with your issues that affect your quality of life, your sexual intimacy and your emotional intimacy. You can't avoid them, but it's about how you navigate through them. Getting the right support as you're going through it is so important. It's similar to affairs. I don't endorse affairs, but I absolutely believe you can repair a relationship after one. More often than not, if you both are willing to do the work on your relationship when an affair has happened, you will come out the other end with a significantly better relationship than you would have had if that affair had never happened. The Chinese word for "crisis" is "opportunity" for a reason: All of these horrible, annoying things that can negatively affect you physically and emotionally in your life together and individually are all opportunities for a growth experience.
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