It was a cold morning when Sara and Robert walked into my office and sat down. I had been practicing as a licensed couples counselor for a little over a year. I was full of optimism about the power of therapy to help couples do better together. I still am a believer. But something changed that morning. I became aware of a force that kept getting in the way of nearly every couple I would see over the next fifteen years. Ultimately, it drove me to leave my job as a therapist and start Elephant Talk.
Towards the end of that first session with Sara and Robert I asked them a question, “Who else do you talk with about these issues?” They sat silently looking stunned. I gently asked the question in a different way, “Are there individual friends or other couples that you can share some of the challenges associated with being married?” Again, there were looks of disbelief on their faces. Finally, Robert spoke, “No way. Are you kidding? Absolutely not. We don’t talk about this with anyone. Nor would we want to. Who would want to hear us air our dirty laundry?”
This answer would be repeated again and again in some form with each couple I asked. What I began to discover is that couples are isolated when it comes to dealing with issues in their relationships. What’s even harder to fathom, is that those issues are, for the most part, very normal!
Consider the cost of a dialogue that has no outside information, data, sharing, or oxygen. I experienced couples who were suffocating from the stigma associated with attempting to be happier. Feeling pathologized as “abnormal” in a world that celebrates, and even worships, this romantic notion of “happily ever after,” couples struggling had little choice but to suffer in silence or turn on each other.
At times it made me want to scream, “You’re just not that unique! Stop killing the potential for the two of you to get through this by refusing to talk more about this with yourselves, your friends, and other couples.” As a husband of thirteen years, I’ve experienced over and over the benefit of speaking up about real love – the sacred AND the profane, the beauty AND the challenge.
Ultimately, I was not seeing results by my encouraging couples to have more courageous conversations. So, I created Elephant Talk, a place where couples share with one another all the things associated with Real Love. We need a more honest and real dialogue with ourselves, with our partners, and with one another that reflects ALL of what it means to be in an intimate relationship.