-- Question for John --
My husband and I have been married for 20 years. For years I chose to work nights so I could stay at home and raise our two girls. Somehow through it all my husband and I have grown so far apart… I want counseling to help us better communicate. He says “no counseling”… I feel we won’t make it if he doesn’t consider this….
-- Answer from John --
I would guess that you are right. You two need outside help to move your relationship back on track. Counseling can be a powerful option, provided you have a decent counselor (this is harder to find than you might think). Other forms of help include books, tapes, and workshops.
His not considering counseling may be a symptom of his general attitudes about counseling and what that means, such as, “If I need counseling, then I’m weak….” or “If I go to counseling, it means I’m screwed up….” or even “If I go to counseling, I will have to open up, and I’m afraid of doing that….” or possibly (but I hope not) “Real men don’t go to counseling.”
It would be a good first step for you to calmly and non-judgmentally simply ask him to explain what his objection to counseling is. It is important to know if one of the above things is on his mind. Those kinds of objections could be dealt with. I hope you two can at least discuss that much.
The other reason he may not want to go to counseling is that he is not seeing that this is truly the end of the line for the relationship. I see many couples where the woman asks for counseling for a couple of years and then she totally gives up the ship. At that point, the man usually wants to come in, but most of the time it is entirely too late.
If this is the case, you owe it to him, and to yourself, to give it your best shot to get him to go to counseling right now. State in no uncertain terms that this is his last chance to get things to move on a positive track. Give him a clear idea of the critical nature of his decision. And then don’t pressure him one way or the other. Just state your position clearly and tell him it is entirely up to him to decide whether he wants to join you in counseling or not.
In other words, tell him you plan to start counseling in, say, two weeks. Let him know that you invite him to join you with the shared goal to make things work better for both of you in the relationship…. to re-invigorate your love and happiness together. Tell him that if he declines, that’s okay… that you will be sad for the missed opportunity, but that you intend to go anyway because you are so miserable.
Then also tell him this important fact, and it is a fact. Tell him that when one partner in a relationship who is unhappy goes to counseling as an individual, statistics show that the most likely result is a divorce. However, when both partners go together, and pick a counselor who specializes in relationships rather than working with individuals, statistics show a much greater likelihood that communication can improve and the relationship can be salvaged.
In other words, if he joins you, and you invite him to, and want him to, there’s a chance you can make things work again. If he declines, then you are going anyway, and the highest probability is that you will end up in a divorce.
Those are the facts, and he should know it.
And you need to move forward in your life now, one way or the other. You need to be the instigator of change right now, and let change go in whatever direction it needs to. The current situation is no longer viable for you.
A final word about why he may decline counseling. It is simply that he no longer has any energy for the relationship, and is not interested in being a partner to you. Partnership includes getting outside help if needed.
In business, if the partners are in trouble, they will often hire a consultant to coach them to make improvements that they obviously don’t see how to make on their own.
The absolute same thing is true in marriage.
Best of Luck.