What Marriage Counseling Conveniently Ignores
Without an honest reckoning when it comes to gender inequity and unpaid labor, therapy can only go so far
I’ve got all the tools. I’ve got intentional dialogues and “I statements” and shared pools of meaning. I respect the tools. I often forget the tools when I need them most, but they help sometimes.
I’m not ashamed to tell you that my partner and I see a marriage counselor because anyone who is, or has been, married knows damn well that marriage can be damn hard. If you want to get off autopilot and stop sweeping shit under the rug, or if you want to stop rolling your eyes and muttering not-so-kind things under your breath, or if you want to stop getting trapped in vicious arguments that dredge up what happened last month and last spring and six years ago, it really helps to have the guidance of a neutral third party.
Unlike your friend or sister, this third party is not going to simply validate your perspective and tell you you’re right, as much as you might want them to.
I have a lot of respect for the art and science of marriage counseling, but there is a but. While all couples, not to mention all human relationships, can undoubtedly benefit from improved communication skills, we don’t communicate in a vacuum. All communication happens within a social context.
We can do all the dialoguing and deep listening that we want — and for about 70 percent of couples, this stuff reportedly helps — but we cannot overlook the fact that in the United States, about 69 percent of divorces amongst heterosexual couples are initiated by women, and that number rises to a staggering 90 percent for college-educated women.
Why is this? Is it because women are inherently more “difficult?” Is it because we hold our partners to impossible standards?
Nope and nope.
It’s because in 2023, the vast majority of heterosexual couples have yet to achieve gender equity in their homes. These inequities come into even sharper focus for heterosexual couples with children. Even amongst same-sex couples with children, similar inequities emerge between the partner who serves as the primary caretaker (i.e. the traditionally feminine…