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There were three of us in the windowless room with its faded yellow walls. We were sitting in a triangle, my husband closest to the door, I in the farthest corner of the room, and the man whom I had specifically sought out, smiling serenely across the table from both of us.

It was my idea to be here. After yet another heated discussion with my husband about the same issue we’ve been discussing for the past 10 years, something in me just broke. “I can’t do this anymore,” I said out loud to no one in particular. “We need help.”

And so there we were, with the man whom I had placed all my hopes in, who on paper seemed much older than the person sitting across from me now. How could he help us when he looked like he just graduated college? He wasn’t even wearing a wedding ring, I observed. It was too late now though to turn back. We had already made the 10-minute drive.

RELATED: Couples Therapy Saved Our Marriage

And so, it began. He asked my husband to leave the room first. He wanted to talk to us separately, just as they do suspects in a criminal investigation. Questions were asked to gauge whether there was anything dangerous happening in the relationship–abuse, violence, neglect, etc. When those concerns were put to rest, he asked me to rate our marriage. I had to stop and think. It probably started out as a 10, but it wasn’t a 10 anymore.

“Six?” I answered hesitantly. I didn’t know. No one had ever asked me that before. Was that the right number to pick? We were doing better than the halfway point, but not that great, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Six seemed a safe bet. I wondered if my husband would say the same, or if he would give us a lower rating.

What else would my husband say about me behind closed doors? Would he mention how my amygdala took control of my brain, and my body went into fight or flight mode during arguments? Would he tell him how loud I often yelled and screamed in a futile effort to be heard? My stomach was in knots, and I silently cursed myself for this predicament I had willingly placed myself in.

The young man watched me intently while trying not to watch me. I noticed him observing my hands the whole time I spoke; they were rapidly moving, trying to keep up with the words tumbling out my mouth in an attempt to condense 13 years of marriage in a matter of 15 minutes. When I asked Dr. Google about this later, I learned that anxious people tend to move their hands a lot when they speak. So, I’m an anxious person.

When we were all three back in the room again, I could see my husband was drained. He had likely reached his daily word limit. I too was exhausted from talking. But the man with the young face prodded us to talk to each other and not about each other. To look at each other and say how we truly felt.

In the early years of our relationship, this was so effortless to do, but now it was the most uncomfortable thing, especially in front of a stranger. Where was that young woman who would write little notes to her husband about how much she appreciated him? Where was that beaming bride who had proclaimed to a room full of people just how much she loved him? Where had she disappeared, and who was this jaded woman who had replaced her? This woman who found it difficult to be vulnerable with a man whom she had just two nights ago shared her innermost parts with?

RELATED: We Stopped Trying To Have the Perfect Marriage and it Changed Everything

It was only day one. All our problems were still there, and I honestly didn’t know how things would unfold at the end of all of this, but as I stepped out, hand-in-hand with my husband and felt the warm rays of the sun touch my face, I knew my decision to come to the windowless room with its faded yellow walls was the right one.

Because although my husband and I had spent the past 90 minutes talking about what pained us, it was very evident that we still wanted to be married–to each other. And that we still loved and cared for each other–deeply.

We just needed to find a different way–a better way–than the way we were currently handling life’s stressors. We needed to understand each other’s perspectives. We needed to embrace each other’s strengths and not fight tooth and nail against them. And, we needed to accept each other’s weaknesses and not see the other as a “broken” person in need of “fixing.”

We needed to strengthen our connection so that we could be better equipped to face the inevitable challenges that will arise in marriage. As the therapist gently reminded me, we weren’t in therapy because our marriage had failed (as I had initially thought); we were in therapy because we wanted a better marriage. Isn’t that a beautiful thing to strive for?

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