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Relationship Realness: Couples Therapy

Wow. This feels heavy but in a good way if that makes any sense. Jason and I started couples therapy last month to sort out our issues before we make all the big decisions around marriage, living together full time and raising kids. After talking to all of my close friends in what I consider nourishing relationships, it was clear that therapy would be a very wise choice for us.

This is not my first experience with couples therapy. Part of me feels slightly embarrassed by that, like because I have been in therapy with a boyfriend before I should have everything figured out. The reality is that my life is completely different than it was last time I was in therapy with my boyfriend. Kids, houses and big time commitments we’re not in the picture like they are today. The reality is that I still have some serious healing to do in this relationship with Jason and we both need help navigating it.

Deciding to get support has been very helpful thus far. It’s amazing how much more awareness I have just in six weeks. It’s also been a super emotional time for us, particularly for me. Last week I was reminded that I needed to be extra gentle and kind to myself going through all of this because I am processing SO much. It’s kind of unreal how much is surfacing.

I started therapy towards the end of elementary school. My parents were going through a painful divorce and I am grateful they sent me therapy to talk to someone. Dr. Hill was my first psychologist and she was incredible. Looking back on that time with her I see how much I needed it. Sometimes I wonder if I continued to see her during high school, if I would have gone off the deep end with alcohol and drugs. At this point it doesn’t matter, what is important is that early on I got a message that having someone in your corner is really important.

Years later I went to therapy with my college boyfriend. It was my first sober romantic relationship and needless to say I needed all the help I could get. It was great for us on so many levels. I was also in therapy with my Mom at the time. As you can imagine, lots of processing was taking place! Those early years of my recovery gave me a solid foundation for talking about my feelings and learning to take care of myself.

Over the last 20+ years I’ve been in and out of therapy and it’s been so helpful for me. As scary as it is at times, and as much sadness as I am moving though, I am glad Jason and I care enough about each other to really see this through. I have a strong feeling that if we can get through this therapy together, we can get through so much.

One thing that has been coming up in my relationship with Jason is the need for planned, quality time. It sounds very basic. However, this type of quality time together isn’t something that comes very naturally to me, it is something I have to be conscious of and sometimes work towards.

Jason and I live together half of the time and our schedules change from week to week. I’ve been putting our quality time on the back burner in favor of my work. What has been surfacing for me is that keeping work front and center hasn’t been about trying improve my business, it has been about avoiding intimacy with Jason. What I recognized is that all these pre-therapy big discussions about buying houses and having kids was getting overwhelming. My old faithful mode for dealing with tough emotions when things get hard is to take a few steps back and put all my energy into something else. Today my practice is to sit with the discomfort, face it head on and coordinate with Jason to plan out our schedules ahead of time.

When it comes to having uncomfortable feelings in relationships (read: INTIMACY). I am a born runner. I also spent years of my life in relationships with people that never called my bluff or asked me to show up and be present for them. Jason has asked me to really step up and grow together and while it sounded good to me in theory I am becoming aware on a new level just how challenging it has been for me. My default to get really busy isn’t cutting it and I am committed to learning to be in a relationship in a new way.

Staying still.

Taking care of my self.

Showing up.

Speaking up about my feelings.

Letting go of my past.

Awakening to the present.

Over the weekend I went up to stay at his house in Ventura. We had a good visit, dealt with some emotions and now I feel refreshed and excited about our next homework assignment.

Today I am feeling grateful that we are moving through all of this as partners and that it feels like a true partnership. Getting real with each other in the company of a therapist is huge. Allowing someone who cares about us to be a witness to our love and guide us through the uncertainty we have been facing feels very healthy and grown up. I am looking forward to deeper levels of healing, creating a stronger connection and also having fun along the way.

I picked this quote from one of my favorite women, Marianne Williamson. It felt like the perfect fit to what we’ve been going through and a reminder that this isn’t just about us. By taking the time to work through our stuff Jason and I become an example to others of how couples can communicate and show up for each other. Our vibration is raised and it radiates out. When we love ourselves we heal each other and the world.

xoa

11 Comments

  • Ashley

    Ashley – I love reading about your journey. 14 years sober, pushing through the discomfort/allowing the growth in order to welcome this next HUGE phase. It is so helpful to read this. I really admire and appreciate that you do your best to practice what you preach.

    Keep it up.
    Ashley

    • ashley

      Hey Ashley! So great to hear from you. I really appreciate your kind words. Knowing that these shares are supporting you makes me happy. Very grateful our paths have crossed! Wishing you a wonderful night. Lots of love, xoa

  • I have been in couples therapy. I am a therapist.. married 29 years, 2 great kids. Good for you! And thanks for sharing the journey!

    • ashley

      Hey Deb, great to hear your experience in this area. I love learning from the women who have been through it too. It’s so life affirming. Wishing you a wonderful rest of the week and thanks for being here! xoa

  • oops email address correction!

  • julia

    Thanks for your honesty and being so open, ashley. Too many people pretend they have the perfect relationship whereas we all face difficult times and challenges. Some are willing to tackle it right before it turns into a big storm, that can be impossible to navigate through – like you and jason did. It’s not only smart but also brave to go to couples therapy BEFORE things start to get messy. Me and my partner decided to get help early on, too. He has two kids from a past relationship and showing up not only for him, but also for them has been a huge challenge (and still is). A lot of times, i wanted to hide and live the single life i was used to. If you love someone and want to build a strong foundation, that’s not really an option anymore. It’s painful and hard facing these facts and getting to understand why hiding sometimes seem so much easier. You’re strong, ashley and i’m sure, you and jason will power through this. Would love to hear how your relationship continues. It’s an ongoing process and don’t worry, small things can already make a huge difference, you don’t have to change all at once (makes it less scarier, in my opinion). Love and light to you, julia

    • ashley

      Hello Julia, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I loved reading every word, it brings much comfort to me. I appreciate your honesty a great deal. I was feeling intuitively that going to therapy now was important, we both were. It’s wonderful to hear you and your partner made the same choice. You are right, we can’t hide, we have to show up! And looking at why I want to check out IS the work. It doesn’t feel good but I believe 100% that it is worth it, your experience confirms that. Small steps, I really needed that reminder tonight too, thank you. Wishing you a beautiful rest of the week and sending love your way. xoa

  • Ashley, thank you for this post and for sharing so openly. Therapy is something my husband and I bring up frequently but haven’t made the step to actually bring into our lives. We went as boyfriend/girlfriend 6+ years ago and that experience brought profound growth for us both. I tapped into my own emotional depth, capacity and awareness of parts of myself I had been neglecting, ignoring or wasn’t even aware existed! Your own insight into what your time with Jason reminds me just how great the experience was for me and my partner. Thank you! Wishing you both contained healing, growth, and connection. I’m inspired by your doing the work and sitting with the discomfort to reveal how you can heal and support yourself. ❤️❤️❤️

    • ashley

      Hello dear Kelly, it is wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your experience with therapy before marriage. It’s affirming to learn how much it supported you and how much you were able to grow. That is huge. I’m finding there are parts of myself I thought I was finished working through which I know in some ways sounds odd since our spiritual work is never really finished. Needless to say it’s been such and eye and heart opening experience for us both and I am grateful for it. I appreciate you taking the time to share, your words mean a great deal to me and I am so happy to be in community with you. Sending lots of love to you. xoa

  • i love you sweet woman
    for showing up
    for yourself
    for jason
    for us, your friends
    what a gift
    that heart
    your light
    stunning, really
    thank you.

    • ashley

      Sweet Maura,
      What a joy to hear from you. Your words bring such comfort and light to us both and I am so very grateful for you. Thank you for showing up at the perfect time and for continuing to be a huge support and spirit sister in my life. Adoring you and sending love this morning. xoa

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