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- Why Won’t He Go To Marriage Counseling?
- Benefits Of Marriage Counseling (Even Without Your Husband)
- What To Take Away
- See What Other Readers Say (50+)
Here’s a common predicament we encounter daily – a wife is ready to get help, but says, “My husband won’t go to marriage counseling.”
Most people don’t start their marriages planning on needing marriage counseling. But for many couples -
- Financial issues
- Communication changes
and the busyness of life in general takes a toll on their marriage.
Eventually the connection you felt at the beginning can break down.
When this happens marriage counseling is helpful to get things back on track and strengthen the relationship.
But what happens when one partner (usually the husband) won’t go to marriage counseling?
At Guy Stuff we see this frequently.
A couple’s marriage is no longer what it used to be and one partner wants help, while the other wants to ignore it believing everything will eventually be alright. It rarely ever works out that way, however.
Why Won’t He Go To Marriage Counseling?
This is what Mary wants to know. Her marriage is suffering and she’s looking for help. Unfortunately, her husband doesn’t see things the same way.
Take a look at Mary’s question and my response to her.
HELP! My husband and I have 4 kids. Well, I have 4, he and I have 2 (you'll see why I made the separation). The reason I chose to contact you is because I am pulling my husband’s teeth (as we speak) to get counseling to happen! He does not believe in telling a stranger our problems, let alone paying a stranger to "fix" them. Simply put, we're on the verge of separation or possibly even divorce after 7 years married (ten together). Our issues range from financial (his primary complaint and excuse), to my older children (discipline, their Dad, etc.), his short temper/crappy attitude (my complaints). Things are out of control and the marriage has lost mutual respect and affection and been replaced with animosity and the cold shoulder. My husband won't go to marriage counseling. What do I do?" -Mary B.
Mary’s situation isn’t that unusual.
Many men assume they can handle all problems, even marital ones, on their own. Talking to a stranger can feel like a sign of weakness. Mary’s correct though, without help it’s not likely that things are going to get better, so counseling is a logical choice.
Below is my advice to her.
You're far from alone, Mary. Many women have husbands or boyfriends who refuse to go to counseling.
There are a lot of reasons why men don't want to go to counseling.
Among them are,
- Reluctance to admit they need help and can’t fix something on their own.
- Counseling means admitting there's a problem, and something needs to change - another thing some men don't want to acknowledge.
- Some men refuse to go to counseling as a way to control their partner and the relationship.
- Poor or unsuccessful past experiences with counseling.
Some wives suggest marriage counseling for years to no avail.
They ask their husbands to go over and over again, even find a "guy friendly" counselor like me, but they never end up going because every time they mention it, he refuses.
Just this week a wife contacted us to schedule an appointment for her and her husband, but when he refused to go she gave up.
Unfortunately, my husband will not come so I will not need the appointment time. Thank you and I'm sorry I wasted your time."
What wives need to understand is that you don't need him to go to counseling for you to go yourself or for your relationship to change. It may sound counterintuitive to attend marriage counseling solo, but it’s actually a very powerful step that can result in positive changes.
Here are some things that can happen when women come by themselves for marriage counseling:
- Some husbands decide to attend so they can tell their “side of the story" and set the record straight.
- Wives learn skills and gain tools they can use to change their relationship, and their relationship starts to change (see the article How to Save My Marriage - When I Can't Get My Husband to Change for a real-life example from Carrie).
- Women feel empowered to take better care of themselves and their children.
- A wife often learns that changes she’s able to make within herself make her a better partner and alleviate at least some of the problems within the marriage.
- Husbands often see the positive changes in their wives and decide they should at least try it out to see if counseling can help them too.
- Wives learn that marriage counseling doesn't require both partners in order for it to work.
So, what do you do when your husband, fiancée, or boyfriend won't go to counseling?
Go without him.
Benefits Of Marriage Counseling (Even Without Your Husband)
If you’ve been thinking about marriage counseling, there’s a reason. Waiting to get started, or for your husband to agree to come along, won’t make that (or those) reasons go away. Quite the contrary, in fact.
One of the biggest mistakes that couples make when it comes to marriage counseling is waiting too long.
Often marriage counseling is delayed because there’s an assumption that you need both partners to participate for marriage counseling to be effective. As I explained above, that’s not the case and there can be big benefits to seeking counseling as an individual rather than as a couple.
Below are just a few of the things you gain from attending marriage counseling on your own.
If you feel that you and your partner are in need of counseling, then you’re probably right. If you choose to wait until he agrees to go, however, you may be waiting a long time while your problems continue to escalate.
If that’s the case it’s very likely you’ll find yourself feeling resentful toward your partner. Making the choice to attend marriage counseling on your own at a minimum allows you to work through your own frustrations and examine your role in the problems you’re experiencing. And that’s progress that will improve your marriage.
We all know there’s his side, her side, and then the real story somewhere in the middle.
Whether your spouse attends counseling with you or not, a trained third party can help you put your problems as a couple in perspective, and that will allow you to make better decisions and handle issues more effectively.
This new perspective can also give you a deeper understanding of your partner’s mindset and how to best respond to him.
Becoming a leader
As you learn ways to handle things in a more productive manner you can lead by example when it comes to working on the issues in your marriage.
You’ll also feel more in control and be equipped with better tools for coping and overcoming the challenge of communicating.
Control over personal security and strength
All of the above means when there is strife in your relationship, you’ll be more confident in your ability to handle it.
This feeling of control, even if it’s just over your own approach and reactions, can result in a deep feeling of satisfaction and security. The more in control you feel, the stronger you'll become.
Breaking negative patterns
Individual counseling can help you identify and break any negative patterns or cycles you have that may be contributing to conflicts in your marriage.
Strengthening your marriage indirectly
As you work on your own issues and grow as an individual, it will positively influence your marriage. And when one partner makes positive changes, it often encourages the other partner to do the same.
Keep in mind that while there are numerous benefits to attending counseling alone, especially if your husband refuses to go to marriage counseling, when there are big problems in a marriage attending as a couple should be the eventual goal.
What To Take Away
Marriage counseling is a smart choice for all couples.
Even when things seem generally okay, learning new ways to communicate better and more effectively handle differences in opinions is always beneficial.
If you’ve gotten to the point, however, where you feel counseling is necessary for the survival of your relationship, don’t let the fact that your husband refuses to go to marriage counseling stop you.
- One of you getting help is better than neither of you getting it.
- When a wife attends marriage counseling on her own she can make positive changes within herself that can translate into positive changes within the marriage.
- Sometimes men just need to see the process started in order get on board and participate.
- Individual counseling can be a stepping stone to joint counseling and provide a solid foundation for later collaborative work.
- Attending counseling will help you develop more effective communication skills, manage emotions, and address personal issues that may be affecting the relationship.
If your husband won’t attend counseling you can still empower yourself and gain clarity through marriage counseling on your own. Your efforts will have a positive effect on you and in all likelihood your marriage too.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published March 5, 2010, updated on February 19, 2020, and has been updated again with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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