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Does Couples Therapy Work? What You Need To Know

Marriage

'Tis the season for weddings and all the stress that comes with planning for the big day. But what happens when the day ends and the marriage really begins?


I've noticed that although we do a lot to prepare for the wedding ceremony, not as much effort is put into preparing for the actual marriage? However, mental health and marriage health are both important. You really can't have one without the other.

Traditionally, topics like these have been taboo and approached with some resistance, especially in the African American community. However, consider a few reasons why counseling is good for not only you, but your marriage as well.

1. Every marriage is different. There’s no one solution for every marriage.

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"Marriage is the collision of two histories, but you have to be willing to create your own history." In other words, my husband Eric is used to doing things a certain way and I am used to doing things a certain way based on what we both witnessed and experienced in our homes while growing up.

Hence, we had to find a happy medium that could work for us.

Everyone has different annoyances and pet peeves. Some people go back and forth about the toilet seat, how the toilet paper roll is placed, or how to load the dishwasher. On the other hand, other couples may have more complicated concerns like communicating effectively, discussing finances, having children, or divvying up household or work responsibilities. It varies from couple to couple; not to mention, personalities differ from person to person.

Hence, what may work for another couple may not apply to or work for your relationship. As much as I love my in-loves (in-laws) and as much as I can learn from them having been married for 40+ years, I also understand that our marriage will not and cannot be exactly like theirs. Moreover, just because your parents or your family and friends never went to counseling doesn't mean it's not worth a try for you. Counseling can help couples discover and figure out methods and tools that can be applied specifically for your marriage.

2. Counseling can help prevent single issues from becoming marital issues.  

Let's be honest – all of us have issues. At a conference a while back, I heard someone say, "You don't have marriage issues, you have single issues." Simply stated - what we go through affects how we go through life. So, sometimes the situation you're facing is really an underlying issue from your single life that's being projected onto your marriage and showing up as a marital issue.

For instance, some couples may think they're arguing about having children, when in actuality the husband or wife is actually hesitant or unsure about having children because their parents neglected them, or because of something that happened to them when they were a child. An argument that appears to be about finances or saving money could really be the residue from someone who is afraid of being broke because they experienced poverty and had to struggle most of their life, or they were never taught how to successfully manage their finances.

I remember early on when Eric and I used to have disagreements and major blow-outs. He thought abruptly leaving the house during an argument was totally acceptable. For him, it was a great way great way to manage his anger and refrain from saying something really hurtful ...so he thought. While his intentions appeared to be pure and logical, he didn't understand how it stirred up feelings of abandonment and actually showcased his lack of ability to control his anger. Hence, once we got to know each other more through counseling, he vowed to never do that again. Even now, when we have a disagreement, he may take some time alone and go to another room, but no longer will he just up and leave me.

Also, I used to get so mad if he didn't do something that he said he was going to do…no matter how big or small the task. However, through self-reflection and counseling as well, I realized that was really a trigger for me because my biological father (who was never a part of my life) would always do the same thing. It was as if my "dad" would make promises just to break them and in turn, break my heart. Hence, when Eric would do it, I often lashed out on him without even knowing the true root of my frustration. Now, I'm much more cognizant of it and try to be more mindful of how I react towards him.

By acknowledging things like this and being self-aware, you're better able to identify and manage certain triggers that you may not have been aware of previously. You're less likely to "major in the minor" because you're no longer allowing small things to turn into big arguments…which in turn, can result in a more peaceful, healthier, and happier marriage.

3. Counseling can serve as an unbiased mediator.

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I remember when we first got married, neither one of us really knew how to handle confrontation. We knew how to communicate but we didn't always know how to communicate effectively. Eric has his way of dealing with things and I had my way, but those methods often clashed. Nevertheless, we had to learn how to talk to each other.

We've had to learn how to "fight fair" and what it means to fight harder for each other than against each other.

For example, we have embraced the idea that hitting below the belt with our words is unacceptable and something we will strive to avoid. Now, do we get it right all the time? Absolutely not, but I can honestly say that as we approach year eleven, we've come a long way compared to our first year.

Bringing in an unbiased, outside, trusted opinion can help calm the waters, as well as provide a different perspective and possible resolution that may not otherwise would have been considered.

4. Counseling is another form of self-care. 

As women, we often fill up our calendars and schedules with things for everybody else, but then we forget about ourselves. Counseling can simply be another way to ensure we make time for our own self-care.

If you've ever received a physical massage, then you know just how great they feel. For me, counseling is similar because instead of getting a physical massage, it's like I'm getting a mental massage. Plus, you get to talk and share whatever you're thinking and feeling with someone other than your spouse (something I'm sure my spouse appreciates because I can talk a lot) and without feeling like you're going to be judged.

Counseling has truly been an eye-opening and healing experience for me personally, and I hope it's helped to make me an even better wife.

Featured image by Getty Images

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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