It often happens. A wife calls me in desperation. She has suggested marriage counseling to her husband “for years” – and the relationship has reached such a low point that she is not sure she can keep this up. And she is beginning to lose hope – or perhaps she already has.
“But what do I do? He won’t even consider meeting with anyone!”
It Makes Sense: The Last Thing He Wants to Do is to Talk to a Stranger About His Marriage
No matter how important the marriage is to the husband, he would often rather his fingernails be pulled out than walk into the counselor’s office.
Why? Because of what He believes or has heard about this “marriage counseling stuff.” And at this point, many times he has little hope that it will get any better.
Here are a number of myths that many husbands believe about marriage counseling. Most are completely false. Some have perhaps a grain of truth, but the myths are so overwhelming that reality is lost.
Myth #1: Marriage counseling is only for couples “in crises.”
It is true that many couples seek marriage counseling as the “last resort.” It is heartbreaking, though, when they are so angry with each other that little or no trust is left. They do not believe that their spouse really wants the relationship to work.
When it has reached this level of frequent or continuous conflict, the first goal is for the husband and wife to convince themselves and each other of their commitment to the marriage.
Truth #1: The BEST time to seek marriage counseling is when the husband and wife “still like each other.”
They still remember what it was like when they first fell in love. The excitement, the curiosity, and their dreams are still at least a distant memory. And they want to recover that commitment and feeling.
Often couples have learned to “forget it and move on” when they experience a conflict. But over time, these conflicts become more frequent and more intense.
So, the best time to identify and address the issues is before this “pattern” (see below) becomes so entrenched that it is difficult to change.
Myth #2: Only men who are weak ask for help.
Often men are taught from birth to “suck it up and handle it” for every challenge and problem they encounter. If he must ask for help from anyone, then it is a sign of being less than adequate.
Truth #2: All men seek advice and help when they want to become the best at something.
If a man wants to become the best quarterback, or pitcher, or golfer, he seeks advice and help from someone that has many of the answers. All of us need a coach. We still must do the work – and our willingness to do the work is what makes us strong.
For most men, this “relationship thing” is not something that comes naturally. And men spend their entire lives trying their best NOT to experience emotions that are painful or uncomfortable.
For a man, the marriage relationship is one more challenge – a challenge where he needs coaching to provide for him the skills to be the best husband and father he can become.
Myth #3: I will hear one more person tell me that everything is my fault, and I need to change.
This myth is often the view of the wife. He has not “met my needs” for a number of years – so of course when she suggests coming to counseling, he refuses. “Why spend money to listen to one more person tell me that I am wrong, wrong, wrong…?”
This myth could not be the farther from the truth! For most couples in crises – or even for those who are simply tired of arguing – a pattern has developed over the years that has become so familiar. Both the husband and the wife fall into it without even being aware of what is happening. It seems so “normal.”
In most marriages, this pattern drives one, or both of them, into irritation or anger with almost no notice. One, or both of them, are remembering all of the other conflicts that were never really resolved.
Think for a moment: How often does a couple become intensely angry with each other – sometimes to the point of not talking for days? But neither can remember what actually started it. What they do remember is the anger – and the hurt.
Truth #3: Neither is at fault. It is “the pattern” that is destroying the relationship.
Both the husband and the wife need to begin to understand that they are trapped by this pattern.
Both – and neither – are “at fault.” The goal of the first session(s) is to help them understand that they are not each other’s enemy. When they said, “I Do,” they were committing to a lifetime together. They loved each other and meant it.
The pattern they have developed is the enemy that we need to identify and then defend against.
Myth #4: Counseling provides another list of things I need to do.
It is true, that some types of counseling focus on behavior. Sometimes the phrase that is used is, “Fake it until you make it.” In other words, begin behaving differently and then the feelings will begin to return.
Although this is successful in the short-term, behavior alone does not last. And then the couple begins to feel even more hopeless.
Truth #4: The remedy involves a heart change.
What both the husband and the wife need is a type of “heart transplant.” In most cases, the desire of their heart has shifted. The desire to focus on “us” gradually moved to “me.”
What causes this? We naturally tend to focus on ourselves.
At first, we convince ourselves that we are so “in love” that we will always want what is best for our spouse. And perhaps in the moment this is true. But in time, our focus reverts to self.
The key principle is to realize that we must decide to choose “us.” This is even more important than to focus on what is best for the other person alone.
Myth #5: Being “in love” is what we need for our marriage to “make it.” And I just don’t feel it anymore.
This is “so Hollywood.” Bombarded by movies, TV, and even our friends, we believe “love is what we need.” We get married because we are “in love.” When we no longer feel “in love,” there is no reason to stay married is there? False!
Truth #5: Commitment is the most important factor in marriages lasting a lifetime.
This sounds so boring. What about the “in love” part?
Commitment provides the security, protection, and freedom for a couple to fall into and out of love – and then back into love again.
Both religious and secular studies have shown that if couples “on the brink” of separation and divorce commit to working on their marriage in a different way, more than 60% have what they consider a “happy and fulfilling marriage” five years later.
What is there to lose by giving it a chance?
As with most areas of our life, we need to take a risk to discover if something is worth trying.
For many husbands, it is the unknown of marriage counseling and these false beliefs that prevent them from accepting the challenge of repairing and improving their marriages.
After working as a Chemical Engineer for 36 years, Steve Fox took early retirement so that he could focus his full-time attention on helping others to discover how to improve or repair their marriages as well as other family relationships. Steve also helps others begin to “dream” about what will help them become fulfilled in their career and life.
Steve earned an MA in Counseling from LSU and is now a National Certified Counselor and Provisional Professional Counselor with Crossroads. He has worked with couples on a ministry basis for over 20 years and has a counseling focus with couples, families, career coaching, and addiction counseling with families. Click here to read Steve’s Bio.