Why marriage counseling is not our answer…right now, anyway

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CompassionPower (n.d.) published an article that states “marriage counseling presupposes that both parties have the skill to regulate guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy without blaming them on one another. If your husband could reflect on the motivations of his behavior – what within him makes him act as he does—he might then disagree with you or feel he can’t communicate with you or feel incompatible with you for any number of reasons, but he wouldn’t yell, ignore, avoid, devalue, or dismiss you in the process. If your husband were able to regulate his own emotions, your marriage counseling might have been successful” (para. 2). 

H seems to have become comfortable with the notion that all of the issues that need to be dealt with are mine. While I have vigorously owned the issues I am aggressively working on, I have refrained from diagnosing him and/or teaching him what he should/shouldn’t be doing because that would be a boundary violation. Unfortunately, his comfort looks like a false sense of security to me that enables his denial. Meanwhile, he has imposed a timeline on my recovery which is clearly a boundary violation and has only made it more difficult for me. I not only have to deal with my recovery [a full time job], he wants me to do it alongside of his resistance and denial. 

No amount of marriage counseling with make up for the delta that is his lack of effort to face his issues and make progress. He has soundly rejected my proposal that we work on our individual issues and then work on the marriage with a better foundation. He wants it all now and he wants things to go back to the way they were (i.e., where he was comfortable and in control). [Well, that’s not going to work for me. I’ve said it over and over and he dismisses me every time, perhaps thinking that I don’t really mean it or that I’ll cave as I always have.] In fact, marriage counseling under these circumstances could be harmful as there’s no shortage of bad counseling available.

CompassionPower points out that “in walking-on-eggshells relationships it [marriage counseling] can be disastrous, because the therapist unwittingly joins with the more resentful, angry, or abusive partner in trying to figure out who is to blame in a given complaint. Of course he or she won’t use the word, “blame.” Most marriage counselors are intelligent and well-meaning and really want to make things better. So they will couch their interventions in terms of what has to be done to resolve the dispute, rather than who is to blame” (para. 3).

More frighteningly, “Many men blame their wives on the way home from the therapist’s office for bringing up threatening or embarrassing things in the session” (para. 11). Incidentally, this is an unfortunate outcome that I have imagined more than a few times when trying to consider whether I’m “wrong” about the order of operations here…conclusion: I am not wrong. I know my husband. 

Reference

CompassionPower. (n.d.). Why Your Marriage Counseling Failed. Weblog article. Retrieved from http://compassionpower.com/emotional%20abuse%20failed%20marriage%20counseling.php

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