I often hear from people who are at the point where they’ve been threatened that the only way that their marriage is going to stand a chance is to agree to go to counseling. Often, the frustrated spouse who wants the counseling has asked for this multiple times in many different ways. Usually, one spouse has refused to go and, at least for a while, this worked. However, when nothing changes in the marriage and things continue to deteriorate, this is usually when one spouse can begin to make demands or to play hard ball. It’s not uncommon for a spouse to threaten the other with a separation or divorce unless counseling happens immediately.
You may hear a comment like: “my marriage isn’t what my husband wants. He doesn’t think that I am attentive enough to him and he doesn’t think that we have enough sex or intimacy in our marriage. I think that he is probably overreacting. And I think that he probably expects too much from someone who is juggling a job, child care, being a wife, and running a household. For several months, my husband has pushed me to go with him to counseling. I am not sure what he feels that a counselor can do for us other than to tell me that I need to go ahead and be more attentive to my husband. I have resisted counseling because it’s a lot of money and because I don’t think that we have problems that are insurmountable. It’s not as if we don’t love each other or one of us is cheating. It’s just that my husband wants more from me and is never satisfied. So, I feel that counseling will be an added expense and a waste of time. However, last night my husband told me that my refusing to go to counseling is no longer an option. He said that if I refuse to go, he will move out and initiate a separation that will likely lead to a divorce. He says that he is sick of me not having to do anything in regards to our marriage and he is not going to take this anymore. Where does this leave me? What can I do?”
Honestly, this husband was free to respond in any way that he wanted, as was the wife. I understand resisting counseling. Many folks hate the idea of sitting in a stranger’s office and baring their deepest feelings and fears. I get why this is not anyone’s idea of a good time. However, I have to say that in my experience and opinion, it’s very rare for the husband to be the one to initiate counseling. Many wives would jump at the chance to go to counseling with a husband who was actually willing and wanting to be there.
Why I Think You Should Consider Meeting Him Half Way: It’s not unusual for counseling to not be as awful as you anticipated, especially if you take the time to do some research and to find the right one. You can always agree to try this out on a trial basis and then make an evaluation from there. But one thing appears to be clear to me. This husband was more than willing to work on his marriage in order to save it, but he was most definitely losing his patience. That’s a combination that is easily fixed. Much of the time, I hear from people who are desperate to get their spouse to agree to save their marriage. And, in this case, you have a situation where the spouse has literally taken the initiative to seek out counseling. You really can’t ask for more than this.
The fear that the counselor is going to blame you or is going to require for you to be the one to make all of the changes is a very common one. But, it’s my opinion that a good counselor will be balanced. A good counselor makes each party feel as if they conceded a little, but also won a little. A good counselor makes sure both spouses leave the session feeling like they got something worthwhile out of it. Admittedly, sometimes it takes a while to find the counselor who is a good fit, but I think that it is worth the effort. I would suggest being willing to at least try one session just so your spouse sees that you are willing to meet him halfway.
If you don’t feel better or more enthusiastic after one session, then you can always talk to your spouse about finding another counselor that both of you might like better or you may agree to see out self help that you can both get behind. EIther option can work, as long as you are committed to making real changes in your marriage and moving forward.
Ignoring This Involves Risk: In my view just ignoring this situation or trying to make your spouse feel as if he are asking too much should not be an option. Because if you do that, there’s a real risk in him feeling as if you don’t care enough to make an effort and becoming so frustrated that he leaves or even worse files for divorce.
If you know that you want to save your marriage, then I believe that it’s worth it to do whatever is necessary to make this happen, including counseling or finding some self help that you can both agree upon. To me, the type of help isn’t as important as getting the help that is going to be effective. But when your spouse is making it very clear that he’s no longer going to accept the status quo, then it’s important to pay attention.