When a man wants to go to therapy, that's a warning sign you DON'T want to ignore.
When couples arrive on my doorstep for couples counseling, a wife sometimes surprises me by saying, "He's been trying to get me into marriage counseling for years and I refused. I just didn't think we needed it."
Usually, it's women who want to get their husband to read all those books and realize that he can't do feelings.
Let this be a warning to you — Men don't usually want to darken the door of counseling. If he's requesting it, believe in his sincerity. He's serious. Don't blow him off.
By the time you decide to come in, your marriage may have accumulated scar tissue. And as scar tissue increases, the chances of healing the relationship decrease.
Needing help from a couples therapist isn't a bad thing. If you have left over trauma from childhood, you bring that fallout into your marriage. Unhealed abandonment issues or abuse from previous relationships or earlier experiences lead to tunnel vision in your current marriage. The more intense the deprivation, the more difficulties you'll have trusting and loving in the present.
You may not expect more from a relationship. But if he does ... count your lucky stars!
If he's asking for couples counseling , there is likely very legitimate reasons why. Here are three reasons men often give:
1. Your anger and reactivity drive him nuts. Your short fuse and explosive rage leaves your spouse withdrawing, so as not to incite further uproar. Perhaps you grew up with this behavior and it feels normal. But, you likely didn't marry a partner with a similar family custom of expressing frustration.
Some men do not feel comfortable fighting with women. They fear they'll end up getting physical, which could end the marriage. So, when you pop off, they distance themselves
Often a man feels a sense of helplessness, unwilling to match your rage approach, yet frustrated by your unwillingness to address conflict with calm respect. He may begin to wonder if you love him. No matter how sincere your apologies are the next day, the damage from repeated episodes pile up. Your promises to contain your resentment feel empty.
Underneath your vitriol lies yearning that needs expression in a softer way so that your partner can hear you. Caustic attacks for not getting what you want seldom lead to responses of love and care.
Your inability to curtail your anger and impulse to demand (and have things your way) seem narcissistic to your husband.
Drop down and connect to your values. Do you want your partner to remember you as having focused solely on your needs? Does it matter that he feels he cannot get your attention without making you enraged?
2. Your constant anxiety keeps you from coming alive with him. Fearfulness makes you hesitant to engage in all of the activities that your beloved wants to do with you. If you find yourself turning down his invitations to go to a party, he may feel disappointment that you resist fun and don't want to hang out with his buddies or take that trip to Hawaii that he's dreamed about.
The fear that seems subtle to you, has more power and impact on him than you realize. You may not even recognize that you curtail your mutual activities by always wanting to stay home. Yet, with the help of some therapy you can step up to the plate and tackle that concern, letting joy back into your partnership. Confronting this anxiety, with the support of a therapist, gives you courage to work through what holds you back. You feel more confident in the bond between you (as a couple) if you show up for the life that you both share.
3. Your excessive drinking or drug abuse leaves him feeling lonely. Everybody loves a good time. Having a cocktail can draw the two of you closer, as you share and relax into an evening. However, when you over indulge regularly, your partner may want you to get help simply because he feels he's losing you. Your love affair with the bottle destroys the harmony between you and your husband. When drunk or high, you withdraw or become belligerent — not remembering what happened the night before.
Trust me, when your partner tries to get your attention around this issue, he wants to save the marriage and your role as a good parent. In the beginning, his confrontations are sugarcoated with a touch of gentleness. But pay attention if he keeps nudging.
Seek help just because he asks you to, even if you don't believe you have a problem. A professional can help you discern if you're dealing with problem drinking, addiction or a broader concern in the relationship itself.
Dealing with this issue when your partner expresses his dismay is important. If you wait too long, your denial may cause you to wait until you've lost your chance.
How Therapy Helps
If your dear one has asked you to consider some marriage counseling or if he's asked you to read this article, treat this as a wakeup call. Very few of us can see ourselves with the degree of accuracy we need.
I remember when my wife and I went to marriage counseling, I convinced myself that I carried the weight of caring in our relationship. I felt my wife didn't understand me. In couples counseling, I learned to recognize the ways that behind the scenes my wife committed herself to attending to the details in our relationship. The therapist helped me see my own sense of entitlement.
Therapy gives couples new tools to hear each other, without needing to overreact or misunderstand each other anymore.
Rest assured, if your partner wants to get your attention and asks you to seek help with him, you will do well to take heed. He may have real trouble articulating his concerns in a way that you can truly hear them.
With help, you can find ways to engage with your intimate other for levels of satisfaction that you have only begun to dream of.
Dr. Walkup helps couples grow their relationship into becoming the bond they have yearned for. For an appointment in Westchester or New York City, call him at 914 548 8645 or go to his website at Dr-Jim.com.