“Counselling? Are you joking? Counseling for what? Why do you want to discuss private matters in front of a stranger? We don’t need that and everything’s fine. Stop panicking and making a mountain out of a molehill.” Sounds familiar? Well, this is what a wife had to hear when she was urging her husband to accompany her for a marriage counseling session.
And unfortunately this is what most of the wives have to hear (perhaps not the same words but something along the same lines) when they feel their marriage is getting strained due to different kinds of pressures, and they need counseling as part of the action plans to get the marriage back on track.
It is a well-known fact that men don’t ask for directions when they are lost, so how can you expect men to ask for guidance and directions when the marriage seems to have gone off track?
Why is it so difficult for the male species to ask for help? According to Linda Sapadin, a psychologist, it is due to “three major operating principles of the typical male mind:
- Men prefer to learn by doing, not by being told what to do… Hence, if a man is lost, asking for directions is like admitting defeat.
- Men want to win… They want to be effective. They will soldier on alone if need be…
- Men want to be strong…Men don’t want to be told what to do. Read a self-help book? Nah, it will just make him feel vulnerable. It will tell him what he’s doing wrong. It will tell him how to do things differently. Who needs this? He’s gotten along fine in life. Why change? Better to just suck it up, let her complaints roll off his back, let time pass and things will get better by themselves. Or so he hopes.”
So when it feels like your marriage is about to hit the rocks and you still are hanging on to the last thread to make it work, but your stubborn husband does not want to budge, how do you get him to listen and go for marriage counseling?
Before we tackle the how, let us first look at the why.
Why is your husband refusing to go for marriage counseling?
So you have decided that you need marriage counseling due to any or a few of these issues:
- Communications issues
- Trust issues
- Stagnant relationship
- Sexual issues
- Resentment in the relationship
- You’re unable to resolve your differences
- You’re living more like roommates
Your husband, however, decides things are fine as they are and that he couldn’t care less about marriage counseling. And here are a few of the reasons why:
- As mentioned above most of the time men do not like to admit or acknowledge that they are not able to fix something or that they don’t know something.
- He might have experienced counseling earlier and did not find it useful or was not too impressed by it, or may not even have liked it.
- Some men do not like to go for counseling because they do not want to give up controlling their partner and the relationship. They fear that if they go for counseling they will have to give up the control.
- He does not want to be blamed for anything going wrong in the relationship.
- He is too embarrassed to talk about marriage issues in front of a third person and an unknown person at that. Issues to which he could be contributing, and he does not want to hear it.
- He does not want to wash any “dirty laundry in public” and believes that issues should be resolved between him and his and wife without involving anyone else.
- He simply does not believe that the relationship needs working on and thinks that the wife is making a big deal out of nothing. It will sort out itself.
- He feels that everything in the relationship is as it should be therefore if the wife thinks something is wrong she is the one who needs counseling.
Now, despite all these reasons, some of which can make you annoyed, do not give up. You know when your marriage has reached a stalemate, and you can start by going for therapy and counseling yourself while trying to convince your partner simultaneously to attend couples counseling sessions.
How to convince your husband to go for marriage counseling?
- Find an opportune moment: Since your husband is resistant to the idea of counseling, you mentioning it repeatedly at any time may irritate and annoy him. So, find an opportune time, like when you are having a sweet moment and are getting along.
Grab this chance to tell him how much you love these moments and how you would love to cherish these kinds of moments, and further experience more such moments with him as you value this relationship a lot. Chances are he will be receptive to listen to you.
- Open up and be vulnerable: At the opportune moment allow yourself to be vulnerable and tell him of your fears in the relationship and how the two of you might not be able to figure it out on your own since you both are emotionally involved in the relationship. Explain to him, how having an unbiased third person’s perspective on the whole matter can change things for you.
“When you open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable, you come from a place of authenticity and power that cannot be ignored.
Make sure though, that you are allowing yourself to be vulnerable and not fearful and frustrated. Vulnerability means opening up your heart and going forward despite the fear and the feeling of looking silly, whereas any decision arising out of fear and frustration can put unwanted pressure into the relationship and bring in conflict and ego games. When you are vulnerable, your husband may still choose to ignore your request, but you would have tried your best and given it all you’ve got to save the relationship. So, you have nothing to lose.
- Let your husband know that you too played a part in the problem: When you open up in your vulnerability and tell him you are aware of how you contributed to the problems in the relationship, his fear that he may be criticized during the counselling sessions could dissipate.
Understand he could be feeling that if he attends the sessions with you he may be pulled up or criticized by both you and the therapist for his part in creating the problem. Tell him you are not interested in blame games or pointing fingers
When you own up to your part in the problem he will feel more confident about attending the therapies and sessions since you are truly looking to resolve the issues since this relationship is a priority for you. He will understand that you want to treat him better than before.
- Explain to him what the counseling is about: Make it clear to him that counseling is about learning tools and skills to make the relationship fulfilling, and exciting again. So, both of you will be learning and not just him or you. Explain to him that counseling will help you connect with each other in a more intimately fulfilling way. And that is why you are so enthusiastic about it.
- Listen to what he has to say: When he starts to share his point of view, do not interrupt him, instead really listen. If he still says he does not want to go find out why. Take a moment to really understand things from his perspective by standing in his shoes. If he still says things like ‘it will improve on its own’ and ‘that going for counseling is a waste of time or money’, then explain it to him this way: “If you have a cavity in your tooth and you do not get it treated or filled up immediately by a dentist, the hole simply keeps growing bigger and bigger and painful. Finally, the tooth needs to be pulled out or you need to go in for a time, energy, and money consuming root canal treatment. Similarly, I think the daily arguments we have, or the days we fall silent and do not speak to each other signal of gaps in the relationship which can be noticed by someone on the outside, someone who is not within the picture like us. We both are too emotionally involved to get a clear perspective of things. The counselor can help us to step out and see the bigger picture. Do attend just one session and see what you feel. That way the counselor hears both sides of the story and not just my side.”
- Jot down a list of questions you may have for the counselor: Show this list to your husband and ask him for his inputs. He may feel encouraged to discuss it with you. You can ask him create his own list.
If none of the above techniques work and your husband is absolutely unwilling to go for marriage counseling, consider the following options:
- Opting for online marriage counselling (Platforms such as askmile.com are exclusively devoted to marriage counseling. You can choose a counselor of your choice here to guide you through this period in your life.)
- Attending a couples retreat or a marriage seminar
- Attending an online relationship course
- Going for date nights (in fact make date nights a priority)
- Reading self-help books together. I especially recommend people read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book is based on the premise that every individual has his/her own love language which is one of the 5 love languages of:
- receiving gifts
- quality time
- words of affirmation (appreciation)
- acts of service (devotion)
- and physical touch
Once you know your own love language and that of your husband’s you can learn to “speak” each other’s love language, since you now understand each other better. People have had amazing results by following the advice given in the book.
At the end of the day, it takes two to make a relationship work. The foundation of the relationship rests on how much effort and time both of you invest to emotionally bond.
Conflicts always happen and separation is not always the right decision, barring a few cases. A happy marriage simply does not happen just because you fell in love initially, rather a happy marriage is a result of how you keep replenishing that love and help each other grow along the way.