Self, Heartbreak

If He’s Abusing You In Any Way, Couples Counseling WON’T Work

Photo: David Prado Perucha/Shutter Stock
If He’s Abusive To You In Any Way Couples Therapy WON’T Work

You want to fix your relationship. He wants to control and dominate.

By the time the abused woman finds therapy she can be in a state of shock and hopelessness.

You believe that your abusive boyfriend or husband shares your reality of wanting a loving relationship. You drag him to couples therapy, hoping that he will recognize his hurtful behavior, repent and work on the negative aspects of his personality.

Surprisingly couples counseling is not recommended for the abusive relationship.

It is said to be inappropriate for at least these 4 reasons:

1. When the abused partner attends couples counseling, it implies that she shares in the responsibility for the abuse.

2. It does not address the core issue — which is the abuse.

3. It helps abusers justify blaming their partners giving them more excuses for being violent.

4. Exposing the abuser in couples counseling may anger him and escalate his abuse of his partner.

In other words: His abuse is not the couple’s problem, it is his problem. He needs to work on it in a specialized program for abusers. 

He may submit to therapy to appease you or the court, but the abuser’s goal is always to control and dominate his partner.

He may temporarily placate you by participating in therapy, but abusers don’t want to change, because to do so they will have to relinquish their chronic need for domination and self-importance; and thereby, forfeit their ill-gained feelings of power and superiority.

Finding a qualified therapist is crucial in counseling an abusive personality.

The uninformed therapist may buy into an abuser’s charming, affable façade.

Narcissistic, sociopathic, abusive personalities can adapt quickly to the therapy process. They can be charming and engaging, they will appear interested and concerned and they offer logical explanations that manipulate, deceive and gain the support of the unsuspecting or inexperienced therapist.

When the therapist fails to identify that they are dealing with a couple in which one of the partners is an abusive personality, the counseling process can undermine the non-abusive partner’s interests while abetting the abuser.

A therapist may treat the partners as equals and assume that they share the blame for their conflicts. The therapist may focus on validating the feelings of both partners in their desire to restore harmony to the relationship, overlooking the reality that the boyfriend or husband is a pathological liar who privately abuses his girlfriend or wife.

The names in the following story have been changed to protect the guilty ...

Dr. Amory, a 30-year-old psychologist, was transparently impressed with my fiancé David’s triple degree in medicine, psychology and law, along with his lofty community status.

I tried desperately to explain to Dr. Amory the complexity of his covert verbal abuse. I was openly upset during our sessions. He was extremely composed and agreeable and he did not admit to any of his wrong-doings.

Two months into our couples counseling, I divulged his latest verbal assault on me. Surprisingly, Dr. Amory didn’t comment on his heinous actions; she instead, hammered me about my motives and behavior as if I were the defective partner.

I confronted her, saying, “I feel like you’re picking on me — you’ve not said a word to him about his hurtful behavior.”

To my astonishment, she replied, “That’s because you’re the only one who is unhappy.”

That was my last visit to Dr. Got-Her-Head-Up-Her-Ass.

In failing to expose the abuser, the therapist makes it easy for the abuser to minimize his abuse and blame his girlfriend or wife.

The therapist may tell the women she is “too sensitive” and that she needs to learn to stand up for herself, giving the abuser more ammunition against his partner. 

If you cross, question or challenge an abuser, he will take it out on you.

Exposing the abuser in couples counseling can escalate his abuse. After a counseling session he may retaliate against you for revealing information that embarrassed him and threaten his ego. The abused partner is twice victimized. First by her abusive boyfriend or husband, compounded by the therapist who empowered her abuser.

One woman reported being beaten in the parking lot of the community mental health center where she had just been in a counseling session with her husband. 

Evidence suggests that individual therapy makes some abusive personalities worse.

The abuser who is coerced to attend individual counseling will often use his private sessions to his advantage.  Without his partner present to dispute him, the abuser can easily portray her as the alcoholic, deceptive, brow-beating partner. He will use his counseling sessions to learn about psychological principles to outwit the therapist, dissect your vulnerabilities, and further confound, demean and control you.

The therapist, who does not interview the abuser’s partner, may unknowingly support and ill-advise the abuser, making it easier for him to mistreat you.

I told David if we were ever going to be together again he would have to attend individual therapy, and he enrolled in a weekend recovery program.

When he returned home he was brewing with hostility and resentment towards me. He was armed with psychological ammo, allegations and deflection. He accused me of “emotional blackmail” and “false memory” and “frustration-aggression” behavior.

No doubt, he had spent his recovery weekend gaining the sympathy, support and misguided advice of his therapist.

The real problem is: the longer you stay with an abusive man, the more immune he becomes to your threats and tears.

The less he expresses remorse for his hurtful behavior, the less he worries about losing you and the relationship — and the more destructive he becomes.

Are you trapped in a relationship with an abusive man? It’s time to get your life back. Based on true events, Nancy's best-selling trilogy God, Please Fix Me! can help you start making decisions that are right for you. Email for a complimentary 15-minute Life Coach consultation. Learn more at Nancy Nichols Life Coach Program.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.