For many people, marriage takes more than two people to make it work – it takes two spouses and a therapist. My husband and I attend sessions faithfully and I hate missing them because even if nothing else gets accomplished, I always leave feeling like our problems are totally normal.
If you haven’t been to therapy but would like to, or if you are struggling in your marriage, or if you just want to feel less alone in your troubles, these 12 men are sharing the best lessons they’ve learned in therapy sessions of their own.
12. It’s not you, it’s them. Really.
“I’ve had several awful relationships in my life, and they all shared the common thread of me feeling like I wasn’t enough for the girl I was pursuing. My therapist told me, straight up, that I was right. I wasn’t enough. But, that was because those girls were the wrong people for me to try and appease.
I gave them everything I had, and it wasn’t enough for them. But it will be for someone. That advice just hit me in the right place, at the right time, I guess, because it made a lot of sense.” – Matt, 35, Rhode Island
11. Mistakes are fine as long as you learn from them.
“My therapist told me that parenting is basically 18 years of learning from your mistakes. Maybe more. Obviously mistakes teach us things about ourselves, but parenting mistakes can teach us about ourselves and our kids. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, but the imperfections are like cracks that let the light in. The good stuff. Definitely his words, not mine.” – Scott, 35, North Carolina
10. Flip the way you think.
“I’m a big catastrophic thinker. My anxiety causes me to always defer to the thinking that goes something like: ‘What if this terrible, awful, unimaginable thing happens and it ruins my life?’ My therapist told me that ‘What if’ isn’t a bad thing, if you can balance it out with extraordinary positives.
Like, ‘What if this changes my life in the best way?’ Or, ‘What if this becomes one of my favorite memories?’ It’s helped me not to overthink everything, including parenting.” – TJ, 35, Pennsylvania
9. Learning how to walk away is vital.
“During my first six months of therapy, I learned my triggers. Specifically, I learned what made me exceptionally angry, upset, and uncomfortable. And so I learned when to excuse myself from situations that were bound to cause me stress or anxiety.
Doing so made me feel more in control of my life, and more independent. It’s definitely rubbed some people the wrong way, but those are the people who seemed to trigger me most frequently anyway. So, win-win.” – Kevin, 35, Indiana
8. I love the five minutes or less rule.
“One of my therapist’s rules is: if you can do something in five minutes or less, don’t put it off. So much of my stress isn’t actually big things, but little things that I let pile up and clutter my mind.
Tackling the little things as they come — paying a bill, sending an email — just keeps the assembly line moving smoother, and allows me to focus on the present much more clearly.” – Neil, 34, California
7. There’s no ‘always,’ and no ‘never.’
“I learned that those two words are proven to put people on the defensive, and make them want to prove you wrong. And, many times, they’re not true. If you think about it, one exception makes both of them untrue.
So, I try to avoid them as much as possible. Even if something feels like always or never, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re not the most accurate words to describe a situation.” – Mark, 29, Virginia
6. Take care of yourself first.
“It’s an old cliché, but it’s especially true as a parent. What you eat totally matters, because scarfing down crap will do nothing but leave you sluggish, cranky, sick, and unfit. And you can’t afford to be that way as a new parent, or a husband. It gets old real fast.” – William, 33, Ohio
5. Consider the other person.
“I’ve always had trouble with empathy. Not compassion, but the concept of really trying to feel what another person is feeling, or has felt. It’s very hard for me, but my therapist framed it in a way that made sense.
He listened to me talk about many of my struggles and challenges, and then explained very specifically how they shaped me in both positive and negative ways. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel like I’m much more able to consider a person as a whole, as opposed to just what’s standing in front of me.” – Evan, 32, Connecticut
4. Don’t let yourself off the hook.
“The older I get, the more I realize that nobody is watching me 24/7. When my therapist told me to hold myself accountable, I was like, ‘Yeah, no shit.’ But I don’t think I ever realized how little I actually did it. I’m trying to become a role model for my kids, and that means setting the example of good character.
If I hold myself accountable, even for the smallest things, like leaving dirty clothes on the floor, or leaving dishes in the sink, I’m showing them what it means to have integrity.” – Adam, 40, Texas
3. Regroup, then come back to it.
“I have a tendency to shut down whenever I get involved in confrontations. My brain just turns off, and I’m not really sure how to act. My therapist calls it ‘retreating’.
I’ve been working a lot more on what he calls ‘regrouping’, which is basically acknowledging the shut down instinct, but clarifying to whoever I’m arguing with that I just need time to regroup instead of just flatlining. It seems to help me feel a little more in control, which has really helped my overall confidence.” – Mike, 34, New Hampshire
2. The little things matter.
“As a parent, I’ve learned to take the victories when I can get them. Baby didn’t throw up? That’s a win. Baby slept for more than three hours? That’s a win, too. Dirty diaper was a false alarm? Huge win. You have to celebrate the little things and the progress in order to stay motivated.” – Seth, 31, New York
1. No one can read minds.
“I’m terrible when it comes to expecting people to read my mind. My wife, my friends, my family. They should just know what I’m thinking, what’s bothering me, and what I want, right? My therapist’s exact words were, ‘You’re not that fucking special.’ I think that jarred me enough, especially coming from an objective source, to reconsider my expectations.” – Tommy, 36, Ohio
I want to tuck all of these under my pillow for a rainy day!
Do you go to counseling? What are some things you’ve learned?
Let’s share some more in the comments!