“Nothing dies harder than a bad idea.” Julia Cameron
Stacey has been struggling in her marriage for years, specifically the last two years. She feels lonely and empty. She feels unseen and unappreciated.
So, she did what most of us might do; she asked her husband if he’d be willing to go to marriage counseling with her.
Here’s why that rarely works:
When you ask your spouse to go to marriage counseling with you, what he hears you saying is, “There’s something wrong with you and we need someone to fix it.” No one wants to be fixed. No one wants to feel like there’s something wrong with them. So, he only has two options:
- Defend himself (as most men do and as Stacey’s husband did) and don’t admit there’s a problem or something that he cannot handle on his own…, or
- Crumble and admit that there’s something wrong and that he needs someone else to fix it for him, which is incredibly disempowering and can be emasculating.
Here’s a few more reasons why it’s a bad idea:
Because the marriage counselor is placed in the role of the middleman in the relationship, almost inevitably he or she will resonate with one partner more than the other. That leaves the other spouse feeling unheard and outnumbered. Then, they shut down and don’t want to keep going to the sessions. The relationship then continues to worsen and you either throw-in the towel because you now think you have tried everything and it didn’t work or you stay stuck in the same painful patterns together for many more years.
Lastly, in marriage counseling, you’re working on the relationship: that all-important space that exists between you and your husband. You’re rarely working on yourselves individually, and instead, spending most of your time on communication and gaining a better understanding of one another. But if you don’t start with personal growth and development for yourself, you won’t heal what brought you to this place and you won’t have real clarity. Plus if the marriage doesn’t last, you’ll taking all that pain and all those unhealed wounds with you into the next relationship as baggage, because you never got to it in marriage counseling.
What to Do Instead
Okay, so asking your husband to go to marriage counseling with you may not be your best idea. But you need to do something, because the way it’s been going certainly hasn’t been working. Here’s a better idea:
If you genuinely feel like you need help and support….get help and support.
If you feel like you need more tools to help you honor your needs and improve communication, then go to a teacher who can equip you with those insights and tools.
If you need a guide to help you find your answer for your life and your heart, hire someone who knows the way.
And of course, if your husband needs tools and support, he should absolutely get that for himself as well.
When you’re both feeling whole, happy and more emotionally healthy as individuals, the relationship between the two of you will automatically change. And if, at that time, you still want that space between you to grow and develop even more, then that’s a great time to go to marriage counseling together.