In a dark corner of the house that is your relationship there is a box. It’s always been there. You don’t talk about it. You know this box contains truths and revelations. You might not know the contents of the box specifically, but you suspect that whatever is in there will either destroy or transform your relationship, and that once you let it out it will not be put back in. You leave the box in the corner.
Over the years you do your best to manage your life and your relationship in the ways that are familiar to you, in the ways you know. Every now and then the box calls to you, sometimes in dreams, maybe if you’ve had a couple drinks, and while you might fantasize about the box briefly, you always do your best to put it out of your mind again.
But a time comes in most relationships when the pain of more-of-the-same begins to tip the scale against the fear of what is in the box, or as Anais Nin poetically states – “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. This is the crucible – your initiation – and there’s no going back.
Let’s face it, couples therapy is scary. It’s intimidating. It’s unknown. It is the box that you can not put a lid on once it is opened. The contents, once revealed, will demand something of you, a change, and this will not be reversed, not without consequences of its own. I have seen people try to slam the box closed with denial, dissociation, substances, and so on. But it doesn’t work, not fully, not without costs. When you stuff the contents of the box back in, it seems to bring a part of you with it, but you must contort yourself terribly to fit. Or if you close the box and escape it, it seeps out and haunts you.
So yes, couples therapy is scary. No one chooses it until they accumulate a certain combination of desperation and courage, which is what it takes to open this box that will not be closed. Fortunately, we tend not to open this box, or even to acknowledge its existence, until we have sufficient capacity to comprehend its contents. There’s a kind of grace, a perfect balance in this.
It irks me to see people – therapists, relationship experts – speak lightly of this box in the corner, as though they know its contents, as though it is a simple matter to say “Oh, that box. I know what’s in there. I have a theory that explains that box perfectly.” There is no unified theory of boxes, no guaranteed path or outcome, no box in which to put the box.
Your relationship asks tremendous things of you, and it delivers in turn, but first the contents of this box must be revealed. You will know when it is time.
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