If your spouse is telling you "No way will I go to a therapist," all is not hopeless.
Start with awareness of three wo common mistakes. Avoid these lest you inadvertently push your spouse away. Pushing him further from you would yield the opposite of your intent to make the marriage better.
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- Do not question your spouse's commitment to the marriage.
- Do not start threatening divorce or even mention the d-word.
- Do not badger him with insistence or repeated requests.
Instead, ask for more information about your husband's concerns about therapy. Share your own underlying concerns to which therapy is one of many possible solutions. Then create a plan of action for fixing the marriage that is responsive both to his concerns and to yours.
Here's three cases of couples who came up with action plans that ultimately worked for them.
Case I: I'll get help myself
Jason refused to go with his wife Ariella to see a marriage counselor. Fourteen years and five children later, he still was refusing. Finally Ariella said to herself, "Something has to change." She found the name of an individual therapist, and went by herself to treatment.
Ariella told her therapist about Jason, how he was strikingly tall, handsome, smart, funny, athletic and earning a great income, but also controlling to the point that she felt by now totally suffocated by him. Her affection for Jason was gone. She was staying with him just for the sake of their children.
"That's narcissism you're dealing with," said the therapist.
Ariella checked out narcissism on the internet. That was Jason, fitting almost every item on every checklist she found.
But was the narcissism label helpful or hurtful? Actually, now that she had a word that summed up what made living with Jason so frustrating, Ariella felt all the more hopeless. Maybe there was nothing she could do to make their relationship better.
Worse, the websites mostly said that narcissists don't change in therapy.
Ariella continued in treatment. Her therapist said, "Therapy is to help you to learn and grow. If Jason is not willing to come in with you, he's at risk for getting left behind. But spending your time in treatment talking about what's wrong with him will get you nowhere. Your best hope is to learn to deal with Jason in new ways."
Ariella's therapist taught Ariella to speak up more assertively, hoping that standing her ground would up the odds that Jason would listen to her. For years Ariella had become increasingly silent about anything she wanted, given that Jason just disagreed with whatever concerns she expressed. So she tried the new assertiveness training at home.
Bad idea. Ariella's new assertiveness triggered Jason to escalate his anger. Now things were worse. In addition to feeling smothered, Ariella began had begun to feel scared. While Jason often said mean things to her, now for the first time she began to worry that Jason might, in a fit of rage, do something impulsively that could hurt her physically.
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