Bonnie and Keith had long been the envy of every couple in their friend circle. An item since they met in a freshman composition class, both had built successful careers – Bonnie as the CFO of a growing company and Keith as the principal of a highly regarded suburban middle school. Their kids inherited their parents’ drive, with both on track to attend elite universities. Their home was beautiful. And their marriage was almost over.
It wasn’t that Bonnie and Keith had fallen out of love or disliked each other. Both had been so busy forging their careers and trying to be perfect parents they had failed to nurture their relationship. Most of their conversations these days involved coordinating the kids’ schedules, which were just as packed as their own. As Bonnie jetted off to fix an issue at her company’s West Coast office, Keith struggled to balance two athletic events and a choir concert. He was usually asleep by 10, while she sat next to him, ignoring his quiet snores as she wrapped up emails and tried to relax her brain.
Sitting next to their pastor at a volleyball game, Keith wondered aloud what life would be like after the kids went off to school. It wasn’t the first time the two had discussed his worries about the marriage, and the pastor again suggested couples’ counseling. Keith smiled and asked, “Just how would we do that? I work an 80-hour week and Bonnie’s always racing here and there. Finding a free hour every week? Impossible.” The pastor looked at him and replied, “I have an idea.”
He suggested Keith and Bonnie consider a marriage intensive. Instead of trying to commit to months of weekly sessions with a counselor, they would only need to set aside two or three days free of events and frantic phone calls. During that time, they would work with a team of counselors, focusing their complete attention on their marriage. There would be joint sessions, followed by breakouts in which they could take deeper dives individually. With no weeklong gaps between sessions, every issue would remain fresh in their minds. Instead of “tabling” topics for future conversations, they would confront the issues interfering with their relationship. And, by the end of the second day, they would have a path forward – whether together or separately.
It took a couple months for both to clear their calendars at the same time. Both arrived at the site eager to get moving and nervous about the process. Their counselors quickly helped them explore the big issues in their marriage. The conversations were difficult and roadblocks arose, but as they listened to each other, they began to see what brought them together in the first place. Frustration and more than a few tears started giving way to friendly laughter.
The two days didn’t solve all the issues, but it confirmed their mutual desire to stay together and continue working on the rough spots. Both agreed to prioritize future work with the counselors and came up with plans for carving out more time together. Keith had been preparing one of the assistant principals to become his eventual successor, and he realized she could take over some of his responsibilities. Bonnie promised to shift more of her work to her team.
The counselors ended the intensive by complimenting the couple on their progress. “You managed to reach a place that usually takes a good five or sixth months’ worth of weekly sessions,” one noted. He explained that the traditional 50-minute session isn’t right for everyone, and strategies like marriage intensives and longer sessions allow counselors to tailor therapy to each individual’s unique needs.
That’s why Care to Change offers intensives for couples and people who have experienced significant trauma – it can be a faster way to achieve meaningful progress. We can arrange longer sessions, too. If you believe you could benefit from this type of counseling, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss the options available to you.
Teresa Haskins is one of Care to Change’s professional team members. A pastor’s wife and therapist, she has worked with teens, young married couples, and parents.