I’m a Marriage Therapist with 30 years of experience and I frequently receive calls from women. They ask, “How can I get my partner to go to Couples Counseling?” Sometimes they think his reluctance means that he doesn’t care, doesn’t love her or is just downright stubborn! I believe that more times than not, it’s because they’re afraid.
Afraid? Why? Here’s the truth about why men are so afraid of couples counseling.
First of all, you must realize that talk therapy favors women. We communicate with words. Lots of them. We love to talk. Sometimes when we get together with our girlfriends, it’s nothing more than hours of sitting over tea and talking. We have a lot of emotions and we’re pretty good at expressing them. We like to analyze them and our brains are wired for this.
Men are different. They rarely get together to talk about their feelings with their guy friends. They do stuff. They play tennis, watch football, play video games. Their brains are wired differently than ours and they’ve been told since they were born to not be “a sissy”. What does this even mean? Most men describe that they were shamed or ridiculed for expressing their feelings, especially if it was sadness or fear.
”Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” “Oh, you’re crying, what are you a little girl?” “Big boys aren’t scaredy cats!” Now, I realize that some parents today are offering a lot less of these negative messages about feelings to their sons. Yet, I’m surprised at how many men still have these ideas. We still live in a culture that favors anger over sadness or fear for the male gender.
He probably doesn’t even realize or can’t acknowledge that he might feel afraid or uncomfortable in therapy. He just says that he doesn’t want to go or you don’t need it. Why would he want to go sit in a room with a stranger and talk about his feelings? Can’t you just get over it?
So, what do you do if you feel that your relationship really is in trouble and could use some help?
What if the two of you have lost that loving feeling or it seems like you’re arguing all the time? You know that it’s not going to get better on it’s own, but you aren’t sure how to get him to come to couples counseling.
- The first thing you must do is find a safe, quiet moment to tell your partner what you’re feeling. If you want him to come to couples therapy with you, you must acknowledge what’s going on for him. Let him know that you know it’s not comfortable for him and that it makes sense. Really empathize with what a dilemma it is. You know he cares about you and the relationship, but therapy sounds like being sentenced to hard labor.
- Do not blame him for whatever problem the two of you are having. The truth is that your relationship is dynamic. Both of you are contributing to what isn’t working and you will both need to participate in the solution. Many husbands are afraid to come to couples therapy because they have been blamed by their wives. Why would he want to have to pay to have two people gang up on him?
- Verbally own your part in what needs to change. Try saying something like, “We’ve fallen into some bad patterns and I need your help to change. Please come with me to couples counseling so that I can have a clear picture of what I need to work on.”
- If finding the therapist is up to you, do your due diligence. Look for a therapist with training and experience specifically in couples counseling. Good Relationship Therapists know how to put both women and men at ease. They proceed slowly and are able to reassure both parties that the therapy room is a safe space. They do not allow mutual blaming, but rather move you to take responsibility and change your own behaviors. They understand gender differences and work accordingly.
Couples therapy will help you to interrupt painful and dysfunctional patterns in your relationship. It will help you to improve your communication and deepen your connection. It will teach you new tools and skills and help you to heal the pain of the past. If you have a willing partner, rejoice! If you do not, try these tips. If all else fails, go to see a therapist on your own. Many a partner has been able to join in once the ball is rolling.
How healthy is your relationship? Take this two-minute health check and find out!