Lorna Hayim-Baker
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

When two people love each other is it true that they will always make each other happy? I do not think “happy” is a fitting adjective to use when discussing marital goals or one that describes a committed and loving relationship between two people that have said “I love you” to one another because happiness is a an incomplete and trivial measuring rod of life. Most mature people, whether married or not, don’t expect life only to be joyful. Happiness as the primary goal of a marriage/loving relationship can become its undoing, for it easily leads to self seeking, self centeredness and self indulgence.. That is why couples, young and old, seeking release from a marriage/relationship in trouble often cry out and say “I have a right to be happy”.

I see marriage or any two partners who are in a committed monogamous relationship as the creation of two imperfect people who are willing to make compromises, work out adjustments and control emotions, who care enough to bring patience, unselfishness, sacrifice, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness to each other. Thus the question to ask isn”t “Is love some kind of mystery, or how can we define love, and does love always make us happy”? The real question to ask if you are testing out the recipe of love is: “Are there still the commitment and the trust that will enable a couple to face life together even when love seems hidden and inaccessible?” If the answer is yes and the couple has the faith to say yes to each other and mean it, then there is hope that the couple will continue seeking shall find fulfillment. This is love at its absolute best.

And that of course, takes effort. Surely the rewards of a better relationship/marriage on the one hand, and the sorrow of the alternative on the other, should be motive enough. But sadly many people want to be hilariously happy and loved unconditionally regardless of each others blunders and that is just not possible.

I do a lot of marriage/couples counseling and I always go in with a positive attitude when that couple calls me and say they want to fix their marriage. During that first session I say “it seems to me that you should work harder in building or rebuilding your marriage/relationship instead of focusing on a favorable divorce settlement.” Many people do take the short cut and seek legal counsel after I educate them about the process of marriage/couples counseling. As a therapist, I enlist both partners so that we can navigate through their presenting problems and challenging issues which caused them to seek out therapy in the first place. Apparently something was causing one or both partners emotional pain or one partner feels betrayed by the other and depending on the initial consult I can give my clients an estimate of how many sessions they may need before we terminate therapy but I ask them not to hold me to it since everyone progresses at a different pace.

Lack of trust causes the couple to disconnect and this is a critical moment for couples to engage in marriage counseling. The counseled couple’s relationship has its unique tapestry that they alone share. I explain that the presenting problem may stain their tapestry and that stain does not go away; but in time it will blend into the background as a mere speck. The positive upcoming challenges and journeys will be handled by using new coping mechanisms which they have mastered during couples’ counseling and they now resolve and face challenges with dignity and grace. Those additional hurdles will be handled with grace and style so their personal tapestries will look quite different because the positives outweigh the negatives.

Now those stains from years gone by become mere specks in the background of their tapestry. In addition, this same couple will also have gone on many other journeys’ and will have learned to handle other crises, many of which will have been coped with well. Those successes are added to and become part of their present day personal tapestry that is representative of who they are today. Those successful additions occurred after coming to counseling for their first presenting problem which is when the first few stain became embedded in the tapestry of their marriage. Couple’s therapy addresses the first few stains and teaches the couple how to handle future challenging issues so they can avoid betrayal, gain trust, stay committed, show each other empathy and understanding; all of which allows the fabric/tapestry of their marriage to look very different. It seems as though the tapestry of their marriage has been reinvented because those first few stains become a mere speck and disappear into the background of their present marital tapestry and is no longer discernible.