When things go south in a marriage, usually one of the spouses in the relationship will bring up the idea of couples counseling (typically the wife).
The other spouse (usually the husband) will balk at the idea and refuse, saying something like “How is a therapist going to help? Our situation isn’t that bad anyway.”
But how true is this? Can a therapist provide any real value when it comes to a troubled relationship?
I reserve the right to be skeptical – and so should you.
Here are five reasons why:
1 – The “Loser” Premise
I remember about five years ago when my wife brought up the idea of couples counseling. The first thought that popped into my head (and occupied it for a couple of years) was “I’m not a good husband. That’s the only reason she would be bringing counseling in the first place. Couples counseling … pffft … yeah right.”
We did endure a couple of sessions. But I was resentful, difficult, and ambivalent toward my wife and the counselor. I considered it my retribution.
With that state of mind, there is no therapist that can contribute anything of meaningful value to the marriage. You’ve been called a loser … and it hurts.
2 – The Money: “That’ll Be $100 An Hour, Please”
Unless you have your own Money Tree planted in your backyard, I don’t see how spending hundreds of dollars an hour on a single session is going to give you the clarity of mind you need in order to change your paradigm.
Instead of actually introspecting, you’re mind will be occupied with dollar signs … and not because they’re being deposited into your bank account.
3 – All They Do Is Listen
Sure, it’s their job. But my expectation of any couples counselors worth their salt is that I’m going to be given specific and actionable techniques that I can use to amend my errors in judgment.
I’ll appraise the therapist’s theories and suggestions based on the results of my actions in the relationship.
If I want somebody to sit there and just listen, I’m sure my dogs are up to the task. And all they’d ask in return are for more trips to the dog park.
4 – Some Relationship “Experts” Are Relationship Failures
How do you know if this person is truly successful in his or her own marriage? That should be the ultimate litmus test. If you don’t know the person and how happy (or unhappy) they are in their own marriage, then you can’t verify their competence.
That’s like taking financial advice from someone whose personal finances are always in ruins.
“Experts” aren’t always experts. And sometimes the degree hanging up on the wall isn’t worth the frame it’s set in.
5 – The Sitcom Dilemma
In sitcoms, challenges in life and relationships are overcome within the typical thirty minutes or so. But in real life, this isn’t the case. No therapist can provide honest solutions to your marital issues within the fifty minutes you are given each week. It’s not going to happen.
Is there any value in counseling?
Here’s the thing about couples counseling … it might work and it might not. In the same way you might win money in Vegas and you might not.
What counselors don’t want you to know is that you and your wife know better than they do about how to mend and strengthen your relationship.
That’s the bottom line.
There is one instance where I think that counseling can have a tremendous benefit to couples … before marriage.
Yes, I believe that pre marital counseling, if done with the right person (or couple) can be highly beneficial.
I think that if I weren’t as stubborn as I was in my earlier years, I would go back and consult a pre marital counselor.
But only somebody that I trusted and felt was a true ambassador of an exceptional marriage.
But even with pre marital counseling, there needs to be an element of continuity involved – an ongoing support system that you and your wife can continue to learn from AND wherein the both of you can contribute your own value.
Think of this as your own personal mastermind.
Also, when it comes to your individual role in marriage as a husband, the importance of a true role model, or somebody that you can look up to, can be extremely powerful.
The idea is to surround yourself with other husbands who have the right kind of experience and who you admire as men and husbands.
But in the grand scheme of things, couples counseling should only be used as a tool, or better yet, as a second pair of eyes on your situation.
Not a crutch or the End All, Be All to your domestic afflictions.
There is one resource that I think every couple, in any stage of their relationship, could benefit from … The Gottman Institute.
Dr. John Gottman has conducted breakthrough research on relationships for the past forty years to gain insights about how they work and why.
In new research papers, relationship books (ones actually worth reading), and in most reliable counseling resources, you’ll find his work directly or indirectly cited.
I consider it an absolute must for married couples and those considering marriage.
Attention Husbands: 3 DIY Action Steps For You To Take Right Now
Couples counseling or not, here are three do it yourself actions steps that will immediately enhance your understanding and effectiveness in role in marriage.
Develop your mastermind. A couple of other experienced husbands (and couples) that genuinely have great relationships. Note: The amount of years somebody has been married doesn’t always equate to the right kind of experience. You can’t buy a guitar and expect to be good at it. You actually have to practice it.
Find trusted sources. Start with The Gottman Institute referenced earlier. (Drs. John and Julie Gottman do great work over there, and they have an extensive network of therapists that they have trained.)
Keep reading Husbands Of Kaizen, as you’ll receive more reliable resources to learn from.
Adopt the Kaizen philosophy: Study, practice, and review what you are learning in your role as a husband, and when you’re ready, co-opt your wife into the process.
Deep down you know everything you need to know about it how to improve your relationship, your marriage, and your life in general.
Those truths may lie dormant for a while, but it’s your job to pull them out and discover (or rediscover) them.
Whether you do that with the help of couples counseling or not doesn’t matter. Just make sure you keep on learning and doing.
From one husband to another,
PS Important Message: There is NOTHING wrong with seeing a counselor. No need to be embarrassed. If you feel it would be beneficial, go see one. Most people are too prideful or too occupied with keeping up appearances that they’ve stopped looking for solutions to their marital problems.
PPS If you do decide to see a couples counselor, keep this mind … Just like a doctor cannot heal your body (only your body can), a counselor cannot heal your relationship. That’s left to you and your wife.