“We need to go talk to someone…” “…this has gone on too long we need help…” Men often dread these words. We are the masters of our domain, we don’t ask people for directions let alone how to do a relationship. This is the response many wives will get when they ask their husband to go to counseling.
There are, generally speaking, two types of people that call me when couples counseling is needed. A wife who is seeking it out because she is worried about the state of her marriage or a desperate husband who is on the verge of losing his wife. Why do people wait?
What I have found in my work with couples is that most couples seeking counseling are usually coming in about 2-5 years after the problem has started. They have usually tried everything they could think of to struggle through the issues. Couples try tolerance…ignoring…yelling…talking to friends. Nothing seems to work. It only seems to delay the inevitable struggles that come up. There are many reasons for people delaying counseling, yet one of the biggest factors is men's reluctance in accessing counseling services.
I can't tell you how many times I've worked with a couple where the woman practically dragged the man in or had just given him an ultimatum to do therapy or she's leaving. This shows the desperate state the relationship is in.
Now to be fair I don't enjoy having to do things I don't want to do. In fact many people don’t like to be told what to do. There are times though, that we need to do things that don’t make us comfortable because it’s the right thing to do. Relationships are supposed to be enjoyed, but they also take work. There are several reasons why people or men in particular don’t want to go to counseling.
They don't like feeling vulnerable
American society has created a false belief that men need to be tough. I don’t think it’s any accident that men tend to dominate fields in which there is stereotypical toughness. Parents teach little boys to “be tough…” “don’t cry…” These messages morph into a belief that being vulnerable is a bad thing.
Counseling feels like a failure
Men like to accomplish things. Being recognized for the things we have done well is valuable to us. It’s hard to acknowledge when we haven’t done well at something. Marriage is hard work and not being able to do it well can potentially be devastating.
Men feel forced by their partners
Feeling controlled by someone doesn’t feel great. Feeling controlled by someone who says they love you is even worse. When a spouse forces their partner into counseling by blackmail, leverage or another type of force it doesn’t usually go well.
Change is hard
Knowing you need to do something different and then actually doing it is difficult. Over and over a man may try to change and they may be successful at times, but end up back in the same place. They may have even tried counseling before and it didn’t work for them. They become hopeless thinking nothing will work.
Some men believe they have to be in control. Going to counseling puts them out of control. This is something that you likely won’t be able to change and in fact is probably a big reason that you both need to be in counseling in the first place.
You CAN do something
When you and your husband first married. You were swept off your feet and he would probably do anything for you. This slowly changed over time as life got in the way. What most likely didn’t change is at his core he still cares for you. Things can get better.
This is the key to getting him into counseling with you. Any and every time the conversation comes up you need to talk to him about how you are feeling about things. The folly people make is to point fingers, blame, and make excuses.
When you talk about how something makes you FEEL it is a way to take ownership while also giving your spouse the opportunity to believe that he has a part in this as well. Secondly, it also allows him to feel that he has some importance in your life again. Giving him this opportunity can change things up in a dramatic way.
Once he feels like he is needed by you this can be a turning point. This can be the thing that changes your marriage for the better and gets you both to a place where you once again feel in love.