Hello. I’m your Hello. I’m your

Relationship Sherpa: I’m Your Guide, but It’s Your Work

Hiker couple standing on top of the mountainHello.

I’m your relationship Sherpa.

I’m here to help you and your partner scale the mountain of relationship or marital happiness.

My business card actually says “marriage and family counselor,” but I don’t think that accurately describes what I do. I don’t “counsel” as in tell you what to do. I don’t have magic solutions to your problems, and I can’t “fix” the issues you’re trying to address. I also don’t bring you into my office to let you complain ad nauseam; blame your partner; or yell at, berate, or insult each other (no matter how used to that you might be).

What I do is guide you on a steady ascent. I’ll show you what, in my experience and professional opinion, is the best path up (although there is generally more than one way). I’ll offer ideas on how you might make the trek a little easier. I’ll encourage you when you get tired, and provide moral support when needed. In fact, I’ll help you in any way I can—but the one thing I can’t do is climb the mountain for you.

Ultimately, you and your partner will need to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, sweating and pushing through the tough parts with all the effort you can muster. I’ll be right there with you, but it’s still your climb. If you’re not willing to put in the time and energy, even the best Sherpa can’t do much for you. But I will do everything in my power to keep you from falling down the slope.

People don’t usually go for a stroll up the Himalayas. They climb, they claw, they sometimes slip and fall—but those who really want it and are willing to push for it do have a good chance of success. I’ve seen it many times over in relationship contexts, and I can assure you it’s quite worth the effort, despite the difficulty—or rather, if I may let you in on a little secret, because of the difficulty.

It’s not an easy climb. That’s why you got a Sherpa. We’re experts in this kind of thing. I can catch you when you slip, offer light when it gets dark, and point the way when you’re not sure where to go. I’ve been to the top with many climbers, and I try to camp out pretty high on the mountain myself. But the truth is, there’s an important way in which I am not like a Sherpa: I wasn’t born at a high altitude. I had to work my way up there, just like you—so I know what it’s like. I think that makes me an even better candidate to accompany you on the journey. I know what it’s like to be at the bottom, and how hard it can be to make progress toward the top.

In fact, I would say you ought to expect it to be hard. People don’t usually go for a stroll up the Himalayas. They climb, they claw, they sometimes slip and fall—but those who really want it and are willing to push for it do have a good chance of success. I’ve seen it many times over in relationship contexts, and I can assure you it’s quite worth the effort, despite the difficulty—or rather, if I may let you in on a little secret, because of the difficulty. Nothing is as dear to a person as that which they had to struggle for.

Yes, it can be a hard climb to the peak of relationship or marital happiness. One of the few guarantees I can offer is that it’s a good feeling up there at the summit. There is nothing on earth like the view from that altitude, the comfort of a solid, loving relationship. You can make it to the top, and I know you will love it once you’re there.

So join me, won’t you? I’m hanging out at base camp, sipping some warm tea, waiting for the next couple who want to make a go of it. Look for the guy with the velvety black hat and the little goatee on his chin. I’m ready when you are.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • harold

    November 22nd, 2016 at 8:52 AM

    Unfortunately I find that there are far too many people who would prefer to let others do all the heavy lifting for them and then they just take all the credit for doing the work.
    Yeah those are the people who really annoy me.

  • Regan

    November 22nd, 2016 at 11:23 AM

    I have tried and tried to get my husband to try some form of couples counseling but he really is so adamantly opposed to it. Like there is something in him that thinks that we shouldn’t have to ask for any help, that if we are committed then we ought to be able to solve all of our problems on our own.

    I agree to some point but only because I know that we will be doing all the toughest work. But I don’t think that it i wrong to admit that having someone lead us in the right direction would be a bad thing.

  • Raffi Bilek

    November 22nd, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    I can understand your husband’s point of view. At the same time, he probably would not say that about everything in life. If you are at a new job, do you learn how to do it or do you just figure it out on your own? Marriage is a new job for everyone – nobody got a manual at the wedding. Why should we assume we know how to do it right without any guidance?

  • Regan

    November 22nd, 2016 at 2:02 PM

    Well of course I completely agree with you but he is so obstinate! I am afraid that after too long of this drawing a line in the sand we are just going to find ourselves on opposing sides one time too many.

  • Raffi Bilek

    November 22nd, 2016 at 7:44 PM

    Maybe. Have you tried going to a couples counselor on your own? Often that can be helpful in getting a change in the system even without the other party present. Although I do have a knack for getting reluctant partners into the office. Not sure if you’re in my area (Baltimore) or would be interested in “meeting” online, but I’d be happy to see if I can’t help you out with this.

  • Bella

    November 23rd, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    We all need a sherpa and a guiding hand from time to time, but the problem is that many of us fail to see that until it is a little too late. Not that I am looking for help be fore I actually need it, but I always know to whom I can turn when I need that guidance

  • prentiss

    November 24th, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    It always helps when both partners in the relationship are wiling to do the hard work together. It is like being a part of a mountain climbing team. Everyone has their role but there is no way that you will make it to the top without others pushing you there./
    Now that doesn’t mean that you can rely on them alone. You have to do your part of the work too, and I think that this is where a lot of us fail, we feel weak and we want to be able to depend on someone to do the hardest work for us but make very few of our own contributions.
    I would be willing to gamble that there are very few teams anywhere that are successful when only one person is doing all of the heavy lifting.

  • Lora

    November 25th, 2016 at 7:07 AM

    What you do is the hard work of getting couples on the same page and seeing the reality of what their situation actually is. I think that too many times we try to look at life through rose colored glasses and while that keeps us from viewing the tough stuff it does not allow us to see when there is actually work that has to be done. You show people the way, though it is their responsibility to navigate their own path and journey.

  • Sierra

    November 26th, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    You will never appreciate as much the things that someone else does for you as you do the hard work that you find that you have been able to accomplish yourself and for yourself.

  • stella

    November 26th, 2016 at 10:57 AM

    Unfortunately there are people who think that if they throw enough money at someone or something then the problems should automatically go away without them having to do more than that.

    I understand that they are probably very sadly mistaken when they come to realize that this is not going to be the way out of these types of problems at all.

  • cody

    November 27th, 2016 at 7:32 AM

    Thinking about those real hiking sherpas though in the Himalayas how many climbers do you think would ever be able to reach those summits without help from them? I am sure that there are many who would say oh yeah I could have done that on my own but the reality is that most of us are always going to need someone else to bring us to the summit.

  • Raffi B

    November 27th, 2016 at 4:34 PM

    I think therapy is a good thing for EVERYBODY! And guidance for marriage is also a real necessity. If people get good premarital education/counseling, it’s possible they could make it to the summit without needing therapy later on. But without any kind of guidance… it’s not like marriage comes with an instruction manual!

  • Belle

    November 28th, 2016 at 4:19 PM

    I agree- we could all use someone to hold our hand through the hard times every now and then

  • dOuGlAs

    November 29th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    It’s sort of like cheating on a test
    Yeah you might make a better grade but do you really feel good about it?
    that’s how I would feel if i knew that i was only in something for the help but not really being all in and willing to do the tough work that lies ahead.
    I want more than just the end, I want the process of reaching that end too.

  • Lee

    January 7th, 2022 at 9:52 AM

    We had a bad experience in couple therapy. My husband and I both changed for the worse. We were both having individual and couple therapy intermittently. Both our counselors diminished our love and respect for each other in individual therapy. I noticed my husband started to give up quickly in our disagreements. And there was a look and feeling of “I’m done”, that was never there before even in the worst of our fights. He did not see the negative effect on our marriage but somehow I did, and suggested we stop. It’s been a year and things have improved slowly somewhat but it’s taking time. I’m not as attached to my husband as I use to be and really miss that feeling. I really hope we can both reverse the damage these therapist did to us. Do your homework before going to a counselor. People like this should have their license removed.

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