Tag Archives: relationships

Get Out of the Bleachers, and Into Love!

I was in session a while back with a client when he said something that I immediately wrote down after our session. He had been working through personal, family, social, and romantic relationships, and eventually started seeing himself and others in very different ways than has been the case most of his life. The results have been tremendous, and it’s never been more evident than when he said the following, speaking of the truth he’s learned about his own relationships.

“If you aren’t yourself in a relationship, you end up watching your false self get all the love, while the real you is still alone and watching from the bleachers.”

People Like Shiny Stuff Until They Realize It’s Fake

What if you found out your beautiful diamond ring was a fake? You probably wouldn’t think it was quite as amazing anymore. But if you knew all along it was a cubic zirconium and just wanted it to look pretty, whatever it was made of, you’d feel better about it.

For those of you who aren’t into diamond rings, think of it this way…You’re looking to buy a home.  You have an idea of what you’re looking for, and you search Zillow day and night looking for the home of your dreams. You end up buying what looks like the perfect home, but your inspector misses a few important things that the seller did not disclose, and you end up having to make costly repairs a couple years after taking ownership of the home. Yikes! Nobody likes being on the wrong end of a bait and switch deal! But if you knew about the needed repairs up front, you could have still bought the home (probably at a lower price) and moved in knowing it was going to be a journey to fully turn it into the home of your dreams.

Don’t Bait and Switch Your Partner

Unfortunately, this is how many people end up feeling in their relationships. You date someone and put your best foot forward for weeks, months, or years. You put up with behaviors you have no desire to tolerate in the long term. You let your physical boundaries get pushed around. You say yes when you want to say no. You do all of these things because you want the relationship to continue. You accept your partner’s flaws without sharing your own. You make sure to show off your best qualities and try to minimize your weaknesses, avoiding any chances that they’ll see the real you and head for the hills. You tell yourself, “If I don’t complain, maybe they’ll stick around longer than the last person.”

Then you get married, let your hair down, let your flaws show, start naming all your complaints, and your partner, rightfully so, is not pleased. What happened to the woman who couldn’t get enough of him in the bedroom? What happened to the guy who loved staying home for candle light dinner and a romantic comedy? Why don’t you go on dates anymore? Where did this temper come from?

When partners finally feel safe (often after marriage contracts get signed), they tend to let their true colors show. Sometimes all at once, sometimes gradually. But safety in commitment tends to breed authenticity, for better or worse.

The problem comes when we think we got something that we didn’t. We feel tricked, misled, cheated. Better to just be who we are from the beginning!

Be Loved For Who You Are

Remember, if you are authentic and show as much of your true self as possible at all times, when you get love in return, it’s for the real you. It’s not for the fake self that you put out there to meet the other person’s expectations. Wouldn’t you rather be loved for who you are? Someone who truly cares about you (not just what you can do for them) will accept you as you are and walk with you as you continue to grow.

You never end up with the same person you married, even if you never get divorced. We all change over the years as we learn about ourselves, the world, and our partners. You won’t stay the same. Neither will they. We are molded by our experiences and by those we surround ourselves with. Expect change, and help it to be in a positive direction. Be authentically you, knowing that how that looks may change over the years. As long as you stay authentic, your partner will get to go along for the ride with you as you grow together.

How’s Your Authenticity?

If this seems pretty daunting, you’re not alone. I help people all the time in my practice to work through the things that are holding them back from being authentic in their relationships. Fears, insecurities, old hurts, and the like all get in the way of people experiencing amazing and authentic relationships. If this sounds like you, it might be helpful to talk to someone who can help you work through any barriers to authentic relationships you might be experiencing.

It’s hard to be loved for who you are if your partner doesn’t really know the real you. A good place to start is taking a good look in the mirror and figuring out whether the person you see is the person your friends, family, and romantic partner see as well. Then you can decide whether you want to do things differently to be more authentic, get out of the bleachers, and get in the game!

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

Should You Pay for Your Adult Child’s Therapy?

My wife and I were able to spend some quality time last night with a few other couples, each of whom was grateful to spend a night away from tending to multiple young children [huge shout out to all you amazing grandparents out there!]. During our time together, one of the couples was sharing the story of their relationship, their struggles, their celebrations, and the things that have gotten them through to this point.

The wife, Melanie, recounted the difficulties faced in her childhood when her parents divorced, spent a few years apart, and then ultimately remarried. She also talked about the fears and insecurities that lingered after these experiences, as well as the many things that have kept her going and growing.

For several years, Melanie’s husband has been her rock. Her group of supportive friends and her faith community round out the supports many of us might similarly turn to in hard times. In addition to these people, however, she mentioned a support that many of us don’t often think to turn to: therapy.

Melanie shared how her experience in therapy helped her identify strengths to deal with fears, and find new ways to think about events so that they wouldn’t have as much power over her life and relationships.

Investing in Outcomes

But that’s not what struck me most last night. Perhaps the most unusual thing I heard last night was about how her therapy was paid for. Melanie’s therapy was paid for by her parents. And while it’s not entirely unusual for parents to pay for their child to go to therapy, it’s far less common for adults than for minors. But the thing that really jumped out at me was why her parents offered to pay for counseling.

They said that they felt responsible to help Melanie find healing from the damage that they caused through her witnessing their tumultuous relationship. What!? It was so touching to hear about how her parents, who had found healing for their own relationship, were willing to help their daughter pick up the pieces of a broken childhood to live a full and healthy adult life. They didn’t have to, but they showed humility and generosity and decided to help.

Melanie is an amazing mom, thoughtful friend, and deeply cares for everyone around her. I am personally grateful for her parents’ insight and eagerness to not only secure the health of their own marriage bond, but also to invest in Melanie, who continues to positively impact people like me.

What Are You Saving For?

Many parents spend a great deal of time worrying about how to help their kids pay for college. And yes, college can be pretty expensive. As as college professor, who spent 10 years in college and graduate school racking up loans, I can testify to what a tremendous stressor that can be on a student and their future family.

That said, if you are a parent and are starting to think about helping your kids pay for college, can I make one suggestion? In addition to talking to your financial advisor about starting a separate savings account or a tax-sheltered insurance/investment policy, start thinking about therapy. Paying for therapy may be a more meaningful gift than all the birthday and Christmas presents you ever give them combined!

But My Kids Are All Grown Up!

Whether your kid is 6 months old, 6 years old, or 6 minutes past his or her welcome in your house as an adult, I encourage you to consider thinking about whether your kid(s) might benefit from therapy at some point, and whether you’d be willing to help them out with that. If you don’t think you can afford both, at least help them to select a college with a great counseling center with easily accessible and free/inexpensive therapy for students.

Therapy often carries with it an unfortunate stigma. I tell my clients all the time that there’s nothing magical about therapy. Yes, I’ve spent 6 years in graduate training, several years teaching and researching what works best to help people, and have thousands of hours of experience helping people cope more effectively and improve their lives and relationships. But after all that, at its most basic, therapy is just two people in a room together, talking about life.

Be Part of the Healing

No parent is perfect. We’ve all had moments we wish we could take back. If you think your child needs healing from any parent-inflicted wounds, you’ve got an opportunity to be part of the repair process. And remember, we’re never too old to start healing.

If you happen to know that your child (even an adult child) is going through some rough times, whether they’re a minor or an adult, consider whether you might be able to pay for some professional help. That gesture alone may go a long way in healing ruptures in your relationship if you sense that you’ve caused them some grief over the years.

For families who have undergone particularly traumatic experiences, paying for therapy may even turn out to be a much greater investment in the child’s life than paying for college. After all, what good is a degree if they’re not emotionally and relationally healthy enough to use it!? And if you help them access both, all the better!

Be Awesome, Stay Humble!

I don’t know Melanie’s parents, but I’m grateful for their example. To all you hard-working parents out there, I salute you in your efforts to do one of the most thankless jobs on the planet. Here’s to doing our best to maximize the good, minimize the harm done, humbly and vulnerably admit when we have fallen short, and do what we can to help our kids find healing and repair moving forward.

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

There’s No Such Thing As Soulmates!

Will I ever find THE ONE?

If you’re looking for an article to give you some hope that there’s that one person out there that’s destined to be the love of your life, you should probably stop reading now. My goal here is to help you understand how there is simply no one out there who is your “one.” But not only that, I hope to empower you to get out there and find A one and MAKE them your one. Fairy tales don’t exist, and there’s no prince charming, damsel in distress, love at first sight, or any other Disney princess nonsense going on in the real world. (To be fair to Disney, their movies have generally played to the mainstream cultural mood of America in some ways, and they’ve made moves toward more egalitarian, even power-female, plots in recent “princess” films.).

We’ve got great physical chemistry…

If you’ve been searching for “the one” for a while with no luck, it’s probably because love (at least lasting love) is not about luck, serendipity, fortune, or destiny. According to the majority of the scholarly research available on couples, it’s about commitment, trust, and sacrifice. It’s also not about physical intimacy. If the physical “chemistry” happens to be good from the start, great. But let me emphasize that physical chemistry is something that can be worked on and improved far more easily than personality issues and worldview conflicts (differences in the personal value lenses through which we see and interpret the world around us).

Passion in Paris, or consistent commitment?

What we are often led to believe by Hollywood, and ABC’s “The Bachelor,” is that near death experiences and passionate physical encounters are the main ingredients of great love. But what Hollywood often fails to portray in these epic romances is the depth of devotion and sacrifice required to maintain that chemistry over the long term. Even the 90’s NBC sitcom, “Friends,” takes a humorous approach to the subject, and largely equates soulmates to someone attractive with whom you share primary interests.

Most of the “love at first sight” stories fail to show the complex and nuanced process of growing together over several years. In entertainment romances, love is seldom earned by working at building and maintaining a friendship based on trust and mutual self-less action. Instead, one partner covers the bedroom in a thousand rose petals, sells a business and moves across the country, plans a romantic weekend in Paris, etc., and the characters “fall” for each other. These sweeping gestures and fancy vacations lead to passionate emotional connection that has little chance of lasting without the key ingredient of commitment.

Should marriage be so difficult?

I recently heard a marriage therapist say, “If your marriage is difficult, you’re doing it wrong.” I think I understand where they were coming from, but I would hate to sugar coat anything about marriage. It’s hard work. No, it shouldn’t always be difficult, but there will be difficult moments. There should be fun, and it should outweigh the bad times, but most of our daily lives together are not epic, harrowing, dramatic, exciting, or anything else that many people look for in soulmate love. Much of life is ordinary and detail-oriented. It’s meal-planning, budgeting, working, raising children, scheduling, etc. The business of daily life.

If you need constant excitement in your relationship, you’re likely heading for a break-up. No relationship can offer constant fun. If you start to say to yourself, or your partner, “We never have any fun anymore,” that’s okay! Talk about it! Ask for what you need and want. Discuss what you’re willing to sacrifice to make positive changes to the relationship. Show your partner what you’re willing to give up in the schedule to make time for new adventures. For example, how willing are you to help your partner with their daily tasks to make their life easier and create availability in their schedule for the fun time you crave?

Soulmates are not found. They are made.

You pick a person, just about any person, and as long as there is mutual commitment to trust and sacrifice for each other, the relationship has a great chance of surviving and thriving for the long haul. We all grow and change together. The soulmate you find today may be somewhat different in a year, and possibly very different in ten years.

What if s/he changes over time?

Few people change dramatically overnight. Growth takes time, and what matters is growing together. You might find your soulmate at the grocery store, or at a club, church, school, or office. You just won’t know it’s them yet. Even if you feel a strong connection right away, this is short-term emotional excitement. This represents attraction, aroused interest, novelty, and curiosity, but not love. Find a person you like now, and help them to grow over time, loving and sacrificing for them to help them reach their full potential as a person and partner. As they do the same for you, they solidify their place as your soulmate.

I love him/her, but it feels like it’s not working anymore…

If you’re already in a committed relationship and it’s not feeling like a soulmate situation, this doesn’t mean you picked the wrong person. It means you’ve both got some work ahead of you to become the soulmate each other deserves. Relationships are a team game, and you have to play WITH and FOR your teammate. You’re bound to lose the game of love when you start playing only for yourself. Be the partner you want your partner to become. You can’t change them. You can only change yourself, and appeal to their love for you in requesting that they also make some changes. Show love and ask for it in return. Be open about your needs and desires. And when they follow through, even on the small things, give them credit!

Should we just tough it out?

If it’s still difficult, get help. Talk to a psychologist, a therapist, a pastor, or maybe for starters, a happy long-term couple that you know and trust. Relationships are not meant to be lived in isolation, but in supportive community. If your partner changes, you’ll probably need to make changes as well. You can’t find a soulmate. But you can be one, and help your partner become one too.

 

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

Are you a marriage consumer?

One of the leading causes of death for marriages is consumerism. We get so caught up in consuming our spouse that we lose track of what it means to serve them. We forget the original vows we told each other, and we start thinking about ourselves first.

When my wife and I got married, we exchanged vows and promised each other the following: I want you in my life, to have and to hold, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others (i.e. don’t be intimate with other people!), as long as we both shall live, as long as you meet all my needs first.

Okay, maybe not that last part. But isn’t that what we end up doing all too often in our relationships? We start out with the rose colored glasses on, thinking only of our partner’s happiness and security. We give of our time, energy, and affection regardless of how tired we are or how much we are looking forward to doing something else at the time. Our partners know they are our top priority. But then things change.

We get into routines. We get busy. Maybe we have kids. Few things can get in the way of a couple’s relationship more than those adorable little bundles of joy. In fact, research tells us that often the lowest point in terms of satisfaction in most marriages is in the child-rearing years. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as we often let it get.

What’s the problem here? It’s not actually the kids. It’s not the number of hours you or your spouse are working. It’s not money. Granted, those things can often be difficult to deal with. But what I remind many of my couples is that there are plenty of marriages out there where both partners are happy and their situation is objectively more despairingly difficult than most couples’ situations. So what is different for those happy couples? What is the problem, really?

What I’ve learned from reading the scientific literature on relationships and from the couples I’ve worked with, is that the biggest problem facing married couples is not what stressors are in their lives, but whether they face them together. Are you and your partner connected in such a way that you both feel safe and secure in the marriage no matter what happens outside of your relationship?

If you lost a job, a home, a child, would your relationship survive? Would you draw each other closer in that time of need? Would you reach for one another? When one of you is tired and having a difficult time meeting the other’s needs, does the other understandingly pick up the slack? Or is there resentment? Bitterness? Frustration and withdrawal?

If happiness in your marriage is based on consuming your spouse like a product, you’re in for a disappointing and lonely time when you and/or your partner hit a rough patch in life. If you’ve secretly added the “as long as you meet all my needs first” section to your vows, it’s going to be hard to do your part in the relationship when they are unable to fulfill theirs.

The bottom line is that we cannot be consumers of our marriages. We must instead be investors in our marriages. We must be entrepreneurs and constantly invest, sometimes in new and creative ways, in our marriages.

This may not be easy for you, especially if this is not what was modeled in your home growing up. But what needs to happen is for you and your spouse to begin to truly live up to your vows to put each other first. Even when it’s not fun or easy. In sickness and in health. When money is overflowing and when you’re scraping pennies for mac-n-cheese dinners. When you’re happy and when you’re not. There are no contingencies in successful marriages.

To be successful in this, you need to cultivate the safety and security that are the foundation of healthy communication. Consuming your spouse only puts pressure on them and drains them. Investing in their happiness, their success, and their emotional health puts them in a much better position to be able to meet your needs. Be an investor in your marriage, not a consumer of it.

 

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

Investing in your Marriage

You’ve probably heard the maxim, “It takes money to make money.”

Unfortunately, even if you’ve been gifted the initial setup from a friend or website dating service, most of the future investments will need to be your own. Yes, it may be financial ($$ for dates, $$ for gas to visit your partner, maybe eventually $$ for rings, etc.), but certainly not always.

Your partner, depending on their particular love language and attachment needs, may need some very specific things that you’re not aware of and may not feel prepared to give depending on your own background and needs.

What does relationship investing look like?

Investing may take the form of seeking the advice of a trusted friend/couple, family member, pastor, or therapist. Some resources will be free, while others may cost you a great deal of money.

The question it always comes down to is this: How committed are you to keeping the promise you made to your partner?

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to save your relationship? Will you go to the moon and back to show him/her that they matter? Will you give up the vacation time you planned with a friend to stay with them and work on the relationship? Will you reduce your hours at work to spend more time at home with your family? Will you attend therapy with someone that is not just convenient or cheap, but you’ve decided may actually be a good fit or comes highly recommended?

How does this play out in real life?

The “It takes money to make money” principle is almost never more true in a relationship than in the following two ways:

1- You consistently invest time, energy, and financial resources in your relationship and partner. This helps you avoid counseling and divorce attorney fees down the road, and you are more likely to have a successful/healthy/happy marriage for years to come.

2- One or both of you have not done #1 above as well as you could have, and you are now living separate from each other, spending unnecessary sums of money on two homes. You spend more on gas and food, electricity, heating, and everything else that would be contained to one bill if together. By investing in quality counseling for, say, 10-20 sessions, you stand to not only have a relationship that is thriving again, or maybe even for the first time, but also to save thousands of dollars over the course of months or years of separation.

The “Ouch” factor in counseling

People often hear what therapy costs and literally say, “Ouch!” I practice in Huntington Beach, California, and apartment rent ranges from around $1500 to $2500/month (though this is for a pretty standard, smaller, non-luxury apt.). Five months of weekly therapy with me costs couples less than two months of rent at a pretty average apartment in Huntington Beach.

Many will still see the cost of therapy and hesitate, but I’d encourage you to consider the costs of not coming to therapy, even in the short term. Long term you’re looking at tremendous costs in the thousands of dollars (rent, attorneys, etc.). Short term, you’re looking at seldom feeling happy, loved, fulfilled, worthy, cared-for, prioritized, valued, special, trusting, and secure.

Add this to the anxiety and stress that is experienced by couples in distress brought on not only by each other, but the social pressures of keeping up appearances with children friends, church members, colleagues, family members, and others, and these costs begin to feel more burdensome than a withering bank account. (See also this related article).

Investing vs. the relationship lottery

The bottom line is this: Either your relationship is worth saving and investing in, or it isn’t. I hope you’ll pardon me here, but there’s no way to successfully half-ass your relationship. You either spend the time, energy, and money to maintain and build it, or you choose to let it crumble. Sometimes slowly, sometimes in an avalanche of disrepair.

It’s your call to make. Well…you and your partner. I believe that any relationship with two highly motivated partners can succeed with the right guidance. If you’re ready to invest in your relationship, there’s no better time than today. Make the phone call or send that email you’ve been putting off. The longer you wait, the more it costs you. Start investing now!

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

Are you in a Hokey Pokey marriage?

Are you in a Hokey Pokey marriage?

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, at least one with nerdy white folks like me, you’ve probably at least watched people do the Hokey Pokey. This awkward, ultra-cheesy “dance” (a generous term for sure) involves standing in a circle goofing around with other friends and relatives you haven’t seen since the last wedding. Dancers are told to “put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and you shake it all about.” If you can leave all self-respect at home you’ve got a decent chance at having some fun.

What’s the Hokey Pokey Marriage Syndrome all about?

The sad truth about a lot of the couples I work with in therapy is that they suffer from what I call Hokey Pokey Marriage Syndrome. All too often couples wait to enter therapy until they are at their breaking (up) point. They are on the brink of divorce and may no longer be living together at the time they call to start counseling. There are obviously many problems that can bring a couple to this edge. One of them is Hokey Pokey Marriage Syndrome.

Couples experiencing HPMS have at least one partner who is contemplating ending the relationship. They may only be 1% out the door, but they’ve started leaving in their mind already. They’ve started thinking beyond the relationship. They wonder what it may be like if they leave. They begin planning ahead, looking at apartments, setting aside money, and anything else they think might help make a transition to single living easier if that time actually comes someday.

What’s the harm in planning ahead?

You might wonder how a little planning ahead can be dangerous. In reality, for the individual, it may actually be a smart move. It sets them up to be better prepared than their partner for single life when they eventually leave. The problem, however, is the mental state of this partner with one foot out the door. They are already thinking as an individual as opposed to a committed partner in a relationship. It may be helpful for the individual member of the relationship to plan ahead. Unfortunately, if they do, they’ve essentially committed relationship suicide. By “putting one foot out” they have already stopped doing everything they can to save the relationship they’re already in.

What is tempting you to put one foot out?

It’s convenient to forget certain parts of our vows when we are unhappy. Your partner may be doing a lot of things to make your life miserable. Maybe he’s a poor communicator. Maybe she’s not taking care of your “needs.” Maybe he changed his mind about wanting kids. Or she wants to go back to work instead of staying home with the kids. Maybe your partner has an addiction that’s wreaking havoc in your marriage and family life.

With few exceptions (i.e. physically or sexually assaulting you or your kids, having an adulterous affair), I’m a big believer that as long as both parties are fully committed to working on the relationship, any marriage can be saved. Even in those exceptionally troubled relationships, fully committed partners have a decent shot at turning things around. It’s the “fully committed” part that seems to often be the most difficult for partners in today’s immediate gratification, all about me (think “selfie”) culture. It’s hard to be fully committed to a relationship when we’re so committed to making ourselves happy first.

Is happiness such a bad thing?

The commitment to your own happiness first is an easy way to justify putting a foot out the door and starting to think beyond the relationship. It’s just not what you or your partner signed up for. And having that “me first” mentality is almost a guarantee that your relationship will not work out. If you want your relationship to not only survive, but thrive, you need to be thinking about your partner first.* Your partner also needs to be thinking of you first, but you can’t control that. If you want your relationship to last, you’ve got to keep both feet in, fully committed to making it work. Otherwise, you’ll likely fall victim to Hokey Pokey Marriage Syndrome and sabotage your chances of being happy in the relationship you already have. You can’t think about your relationship the way you did when you were dating. It’s different now. It’s not about you. It’s about your marriage.

Do you and your partner have Hokey Pokey Marriage Syndrome?

Do you have one foot in and one foot out? Have you started thinking beyond your relationship? Have you noticed your partner displaying some of the above signs of HPMS? If so, it’s time to talk to someone. It really would be best to talk to a couples counselor before you get to this point, but you can only be where you are. For some guidance on what to consider before choosing a marriage counselor, click here. Get some help now, before it’s too tempting to take a foot out and you start living for yourself instead of your partner and your relationship. That’s really the only way to make things work long-term. And if you both live for each other, you’ll probably end up happy too. Maybe even happy enough to do the Hokey Pokey.

 

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

 

*In putting your partner first, it’s important to remember that you need to keep firm boundaries in place to protect yourself from harm. Leaving for an apartment or a parent/friend’s house for a while may be the best way to stay safe while holding out hope for reconciliation with your partner as they go through a change process on their own. Looking to serve your partner and seeking their happiness before your own should not come at the expense of your safety. It also definitely does not mean you need to serve as a doormat for your spouse. Standing up for your basic human rights and dignity is different from looking for temporary happiness at the expense of long-term relationship success. If you are in a relationship that involves domestic violence, couples counseling is probably not the best option right now. Individual therapy would likely be a better first step.

Teaching your partner how to respect you is one of many important steps toward a healthy relationship. On your way to getting both feet back in the dance, you’ll each learn how to communicate in ways that are safe and empowering for both partners. This will help you both move toward respectful discussion of any inequities in your relationship that may be getting in the way of fully realizing the future of this most important relationship in your life.

How Much Should You Pay for Marriage Counseling?

If you’ve been considering seeing a marriage counselor I want you to ask yourself the following: “How much does my marriage mean to me and what am I willing to do to save it?”

You may have just thought about things like, “stop smoking,” “change my job,” “move to ______.” What if, for starters, it were simply, “go to counseling and pay ___ dollars.” How would that sound?

Not that you can buy your way into or out of a truly healthy, attached relationship, but sometimes a time commitment and a credit card are what it takes to get the healing process going. It’s certainly what typically starts and ends relationships (think Friday night at 7:45 and $43 for movie tickets, popcorn, and 64oz of Diet Coke) (or, much costlier and less lighthearted, 2 days in court and $15,000 in legal fees for a contested divorce).

What is the price on your relationship?

We all put a price on our relationships. What’s yours? What are you willing to pay to get back or even improve upon the amazing relationship you used to have with your loved one? What would it be worth to you if not only were you able to stand being around them again, but you actually craved that time?

What if your spouse wanted to leave you? Maybe you’re there right now. What would you pay to get them back? Would you quit your job? Pay a $10,000 “I’m sorry, please forgive me” fine? Give up poker on Tuesday and Friday nights for a year? Everybody’s got a price.

I know this because I am a marriage counselor. I know this because there are regularly people who call me and talk about how their marriage is in trouble and counseling is their last hope. Then they typically do one of two things. They either hear my fee and say “When is the soonest we can come in?” or they occasionally ask if I have a sliding scale or accept insurance.

Will my insurance cover marriage counseling?

Most insurance carriers don’t cover your relationship. I seldom see any that will pay for couples therapy, but there are rare carriers out there who may cover it for the right deductible. Generally speaking though, treatment for your marriage is not seen as what their industry calls a “medical necessity.” (Mental health parity laws have slowly begun to shift this trend, but there’s still room for change here!)

But let’s get back to what happens when people call. In my experience, the couples that jump in with both feet and essentially consider the financial cost of counseling something that they will take care of however they can tend to be committed to the counseling process and see dramatic change in their relationships.*

Whatever the reason for the differing levels of commitment, there’s no judgment on my part. I just make myself available to help save your marriage if that’s what you both want to do.

What should you pay for counseling?

So what should you pay for marriage counseling? What is a “good price to pay” for life-changing, empowering, relationship-saving counseling? Let me put it this way: Suppose you have brain cancer. What would you pay for a good neurosurgeon? Would you try to negotiate down his/her fee? Or would you simply tell your partner, don’t worry about the cost. We’ll figure it out.

Of course, you would likely ask around for a referral to the best oncologist/neurosurgeon people had heard of and go there as often as the doctor recommended, for as long as they recommended, and concern yourself with the cost after the treatment had taken place. Your primary concern would not be the drive or the fee, but rather, is this person going to provide me with the life-giving healing I need?

Another reasonable point to consider here is the cost of not saving your relationship. Citing Forbes, LegalZoom.com wrote about the average cost of divorce in various circumstances. The average cost of a “contested divorce” is between $15,000-$30,000. One year of marriage counseling (if it ends up going on for that long) is typically less than $10,000.

Certainly, finances are important. We should aim to be good stewards of our resources. But if we are poor stewards of our relationships, what we do with our money is of little consequence. Effective marriage counseling may cost you anywhere from approximately $100 to $300 per hour, but these numbers really are arbitrary. The therapist may be licensed, perhaps not. These details only matter if they help you feel more comfortable. They will not necessarily make your therapist better or worse.

There are plenty of high-priced therapists out there that will struggle to help you, and plenty of pre-licensed, inexpensive therapists that will change your relationship for the better in record time. Read. Watch. Call. Learn what you can, and take a leap. It’s mostly a matter of finding a therapist that’s a good fit for you and your partner.

What’s the bottom line?

So again, ask yourself, “How much does my marriage mean to me and what am I willing to do to save it?” If my marriage were in trouble I would not look for a marriage counselor on Groupon. I would not Google, “discount marriage counselor as close as possible to my house.” I’m all for using free benefits, but I’d probably not go to a counselor covered by my Employee Assistance Program for the small handful of sessions they cover.

I’d ask around. I’d check with my colleagues, friends, and family to see who they’ve gone to that was helpful. I’d look up therapists online and read what they’ve written, watch their videos, and call them to talk for a few minutes about how they can help save my marriage. I’d do whatever I could to make sure that the most important relationship with my favorite of the 7 billion people on this planet did not end prematurely.

And I sure as heck would not worry about whether they cost $75 per hour or $250 per hour. The right counselor is the right counselor. 40 years from now when my wife and I celebrate our 50th anniversary I won’t care at all whether it cost me a few thousand dollars more or less to keep my amazing wife in my life.

That’s the perspective I take on marriage. If it’s yours too, give me a call. Let’s get to work saving your marriage. Let’s do it today.

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.

 

*I recognize that there are many couples out there that truly cannot afford private pay therapy without a serious reduction in fee from the therapist. They’re probably working one or more minimum wage jobs and struggling to get by week to week. They don’t have an iPhone and are definitely not spending $4 on a latte every morning. If they would prefer not to pursue community mental health services and would rather pursue a private pay therapist, there are options. Many therapists build in low-fee or pro-bono slots into their practice. I have a small part-time practice and find other ways to contribute low-fee and pro-bono time in my professional activities and have chosen not to build such slots into my weekly client hours. An example relevant to this post is the work I do with missionary couples in Central America as a volunteer marriage counselor. It’s such an honor getting to serve those who have dedicated their lives to serving others. The fees I collect from my weekly clients allow me to fly down once a year and provide a small service to couples in need who otherwise wouldn’t see an American counselor for years at a time.