By David Joel Miller.
Why men would rather ship out to a combat zone than go to marriage counseling.
There are a whole lot of reasons that men cringe in terror when they hear those dreaded words “we have a problem” or “we need to go for marriage counseling. They have good reasons to be terror-struck. I would want to avoid it also if I were in their shoes, except that I am a Licensed Marriage Therapist and have to do this sometimes. Here are some of the reasons men avoid marriage therapy.
Men do not talk about problems, they fix them.
Men, many of them, come from a culture that does not talk about feelings. When they feel sad or frustrated they do not talk – they do. No young boy is taught that when he misses a shot in basketball he should sit and have a good cry and talk about it for a while. He is told to shake it off and get back in there and try again.
If he stopped to engage his feelings even his own mother, a man’s blueprint for how to be around women, might call him a sissy and tell him to knock it off and be a man. Then he gets married and his wife wants him to be more like a woman and have feelings and sit and talk about them.
For most men experiencing feelings, like crying in front of others is the equivalent of being asked to cut off a couple of inches. The man’s answer is if the board is too big let’s just make the shelf longer, but I am not cutting off anything.
Marriage counseling traditionally was a tag team sport and the man got the beating.
Most marriage therapists are women. In California the typical marriage counselor is a 55-year-old woman, who works 20 hours a week in private practice and mostly focuses on children and women’s issues. When I graduated there were only three men and row upon row of women getting their marriage counseling degree.
There are some great women therapists, unfortunately there are also some who became therapists to fix themselves and they have the view that the problem is always the man.
A lot of men have come into my office and told me that the last “Marriage therapist kept telling their wife that the man was the problem and she should just leave him. You can take just so much of this tag team beating before you need to draw the line.
A good marriage counselor should never take sides. But under the circumstances it happens way too much. The man is already being asked to be more sensitive, use his intuition and talk about his feelings.
They expect to hear that who and what they are is not acceptable.
When a man gets an email that the boss needs to see him for a talk, what he hears is that he is about to get chewed out.
Women do not “invite” men to marriage counseling for fun. By the time it is said it is because the problem has reached the crisis stage. This request is likely to sound more like an invitation to a flogging than a request for a problem solving session.
Most couples, members of both, even multiple sexes, want to find a solution to a problem for which there is no solution. Gottman found after studying what couples fight about, that the majority of things over which couples are fighting about are things that can’t be changed.
She liked how “exciting” he was, only now she wishes he would be more “responsible.” He liked how “stylish” she was; now he is complaining about how much she spends on makeup and clothes.
When one party in the relationship says we have a “communication problem” what they really mean is you are not doing what I want you to do.
Men, most of them, do not have a strong tradition as good communicators. No NFL player stops the talk over the possession of the ball.
Men are more accustom to the idea that the more they talk over a problem the more they will lose.
The idea that there can be win-win solutions, activities and exercises that help both parties get their needs met rather than one winning and the other losing is not something men expect to find in marriage counseling.
Even their mother wouldn’t do this to them.
Mothers, the good ones that inhabit myths and legends, love their sons unconditionally. They watched him grow up and know his weaknesses. Mom gave up trying to get him to stop burping at the table and leaving his dirty underwear on the living room floor a long time ago.
The wife is sure she married a fix it up project and has begun from day one to try to make changes in her new acquisition.
Men can’t understand why that woman who loved him unconditionally a few weeks ago is now on the way home from the honeymoon trying to change every nook and cranny of her new possession.
Does this mean it is over?
By the time the couple gets to the marriage therapist office many times one or the other party has already decided that they want out. What the man may be hearing is that she set this up so she could have a witness to how unreasonable he is and why she should leave him.
How do you get the man or woman in your life to go for relationship counseling before the train wreck? Is there really a way to get that man to come and talk to make things better?
Yes, there are ways to find a professional who can help you work through those issues and help make your relationship happier. The key is to find the right marriage counselor for you and your partner.
In an upcoming post we will explore how to find a marriage counselor that can help you both find ways to meet your needs by staying in the marriage instead of running for the exit.
See also: Will marriage counseling help?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
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