Updated: May 5
"My husband refuses to go to counseling." We hear this phrase quite frequently. If these words ring true for you, don't despair -- there's still hope. If you know that your marriage needs help and your husband is digging in his heels, there's usually a reason. Let us give you some clarity with four common concerns that go through a man's mind about counseling:
He may misunderstand what counseling is. He thinks he will have to just sit and talk about all his feelings, entering into this overly emotional situation.
He doesn't like the cost, and he thinks it will be a waste of money.
He thinks it's a set-up to be thrown under the bus. It's just a way to confront him with everything he's doing wrong.
This last one may be surprising -- he thinks needing counseling means that he's inadequate. He feels that he should be able to fix things on his own; seeking help seems to prove that he can't.
As the wife, your first step is changing your perspective of your husband's response. It's not a personal attack or a rejection of you. It's not that he doesn't want to fix your marriage, because he most likely does. It's more often that he's dealing with one, or all, of these faulty beliefs. When you can get a glimpse into how he might be feeling, you can enter in with empathy.
So, how do you best present your case for counseling? We can help with that, too. Assuming -- which we don't often recommend you do in your marriage, but we're going to give it a shot here, because this situation does deserve an educated guess -- that your husband is dealing with these common misperceptions, we want you to voice truth that counters what he may be thinking.
First of all, be clear with your desire for a good outcome. Tell him what your hope for counseling is: "Honey, I know you don't want to go to counseling, but I would really like to, because [this is where you speak truth and clarify your intentions]. I want us to be happier. I want to fight less and yell less. I want us to be a good example for the kids." You can also add in a bonus, "I don't like the way I treat you and how I act sometimes. I'd like to work on myself in our marriage too."
When you have this conversation, don't worry about what he does wrong or how he treats you; that's not the point. The point is to help combat the shame or defensiveness he might be feeling that is preventing him from seeking help. Can you see how he might be able to get on board when you take some ownership too?
Here's a couple more ways to bring truth into the conversation: "I know it costs money but I think our marriage is worth it. I don't know for sure if it will work, but I'd be willing to spend the money, just for a shot of us having a better marriage," or "I know that I am part of the problem, too, and I just want us to do all we can to make our marriage better. I know you're not happy right now, and I'd like for you to be. I'd really love for you to go with me."
Now, you've really stated your case. You've shared your feelings without manipulation, finding fault, or adding pressure. You're simply asking for what you want in the least threatening way to your husband, who likely has valid concerns.
After you've shared your heart, if he still says no, then the best thing you can do for your marriage is to go by yourself. Yes, marriage counseling can still be done, and often quite successfully, with just one spouse. Honestly, we often find that the husband does eventually get on board, if anything, out of sheer curiosity or, perhaps, to come in and tell us his side. Then, once he's in the office, he can find out that it's really nothing like what he was thinking it would be.
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