It’s no secret that making a marriage work is hard work, especially in this day and age. I've been with 'Toad' for 13 years and we've been married for almost nine of those. 

When my girlfriends talk to me about their marriage problems, or even some of you, the first thing I always say, is that you're not alone. I don’t know of a single couple that hasn't had issues in their marriage.

My husband and I are polar opposites of one another. It's no cliche when I say he is the calm to my storm or the normality to my crazy.

But, like all other couples we argue. We fight. We go to bed angry and we say things that purposely hurt the other person. In my 9 years of marriage, the one thing I have learned is that your marriage needs constant attention.

The biggest trial our marriage has ever faced, is having children. The stress, the lack of time, the sleep deprivation and the anxiety of having a life you are responsible for, are all perfect breeding grounds for your marriage falling apart.

It’s easy to lose one another in ALL of that noise. The truth is, your relationship with your partner should come first, ALWAYS.

The health of your relationship is the foundation of your children, not the other way around. Having our second born was the lowest time in my relationship with Toad. We both felt alienated and unappreciated.

The lack of intimacy led to a void between us that grew and we became detached and resentful.

The single best thing we did for our marriage, was counselling. In the Asian community counselling is a thing people do when they're getting divorced, but it shouldn't be.

Counselling helped us communicate and break negative habits. We learned to build a healthy relationship of trust, love and intimacy.

When we get married, nobody gives us a manual about how to make it work. We enjoy the honeymoon phase and when reality hits, we can’t cope. I know my marriage isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. What I also know is that sometimes my marriage needs help and there is no shame in acknowledging this. I know this isn't the norm in south Asian culture, but it should be.

Counselling is like a dirty secret that nobody in the Asian community talks about. It is seen as weakness, a blemish that needs to be covered up and concealed. The truth is I knew my marriage wasn't working and for months I chose to ignore it, thinking it would fix itself. I consider myself an intelligent woman, but that is probably the least wise thing I've ever done.

Many of you have asked how I knew I was ready for counselling? There's no epiphany here. For us, came the realisation that we needed help and the acknowledgement that whatever we were trying wasn't working.

Before starting we identified the things that were making us unhappy.

1. We constantly argued over the same things again and again. I honestly felt like there was a song on replay, except that I wasn't singing or dancing to it, instead I was running away from it.

2. Life became tit-for-tat. I know this sounds childish, but I think we went into this downward spiral of being so angry, so detached and so resentful, all the time. Instead of trying to make things work we kept score, which was neither helpful nor needed.

3. Criticism. Somewhere over the years, instead of telling each other we found certain behaviours a problem, we each told the other, they were the problem.

This built the illusion that if the other party fixed themselves, the problems would work themselves out. There are very few things that happen in a relationship that both parties are not responsible for.

4. We stonewalled. We emotionally shutdown and disconnected, subconsciously thinking it would avoid conflict. What it actually did was avoid any communication as we never really addressed the problem allowing all that hurt and anger to build up.

It takes a lot of courage to actually listen to what someone is saying, instead of hearing what we think they are saying. I could write a whole other post on the lessons I learned from counselling but suffice to say that the one thing I did learn was to listen.

Counselling was tough. It was raw, it was challenging and it was very much needed.

In the eastern culture, women are encouraged to stay strong and just deal with it. Deal with the pain because it’s just part on married life. When I speak to my elders about this topic, it’s interesting because they don't think of it as needing help.

 They just think of it as a part of life like you are supposed to feel crappy and it’s going to be hard. Talking about getting outside help for men at times means that they aren't "man" enough to deal with their problems and they don't like that people knowing their business. The question is at what lengths are you willing to go to save you marriage? Or do you just want to live in this pain for the rest of your life? 

I've been completely overwhelmed with how many of you have shared and engaged with my recent two posts. Counselling is not a one stop shop, it’s something to engage with whenever we feel it’s right.

When it came to using a service, I researched many. We needed the service to understand the intricacies associated with being a British Asian and above that, a British Muslim. For both Kam and I, our faith is a huge part of who we are and how we function so we needed our counsellor to understand this. 

I don't know how Sakoon came into my life, but Ayesha, our counsellor, just got it. She understood where we were coming from and where we BOTH wanted to be. There are also others, and

To finish these set of posts I will share with you what we learned through counselling:

𝟏. 𝐀𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲: By verbalising our issues and problems, we were forced to take account and admit our own shortcomings. Most of us are quick to point the finger but learning to take responsibility for your actions and words is fundamental to keeping your relationship healthy. Counselling taught us to look inwardly and address our own mistakes before we judged and blamed our partner.

𝟐. 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐤𝐞𝐲. Ayesha taught us effective techniques. She encouraged us to think about our needs, feelings and thoughts and get them clear in our head, before communicating these to one another. We learned to use "I statements" to stop a potentially vicious cycle of perpetual blame. For example, it is much more effective to say, "I feel hurt, unloved and distant when you do not listen to what I am saying," rather than, "I hate it when you don't listen to me". By doing this we were letting one another know, how are actions were affecting the other.

𝟑. 𝐋𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧,𝐃𝐨𝐧𝐭 𝐃𝐞𝐟𝐞𝐧𝐝. In any relationship there are two truths; yours and your partners. Whilst you may disagree with one another’s versions, it is important to listen, to not defend yourself nor to brush it aside. At first, it is uncomfortable listening, but Ayesha helped us embrace that discomfort to allow for progress to happen.

Dr Kiran Rahim is on Instagram @themunchingmedic