Ok so this isn’t exactly a secret. It’s very rare that a man comes to couples therapy unless he’s being dragged along. I don’t think anyone is thrilled about having to show up and divulge the inner workings of their marriage to a stranger but for men it’s excruciating.
This page is predominantly written for men but feel free to read it even if you’re female. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful too.
The one lesson we men learn as we grow up is ‘do not show weakness!’ and here we are expected to ‘tell all’ to a stranger.
- Do you fear you’ll never get your guy to agree to counselling?
- Are you a guy that really doesn’t want to agree to getting help?
- How bad does it need to get before you insist or agree?
Couples therapy is not all that attractive a proposition for many of us and generally things have to get pretty bad before we’re willing to show up asking for help. It’s OK, I understand, I still struggle to ask for directions when I’m looking for a restaurant so I don’t expect you to be excited about the prospect of getting help with your marriage.
That said it’s in your best interests to get some assistance as the real cost of divorce is so much bigger than most people suspect. If you’ve got kids they’re probably going to get raised by another guy, whatever financial strain you’re feeling is about to double and statistically your next marriage will be worse.
Living life in a bunker is no kind of life.
You may or may not remember it but there was a popular Mars and Venus theory years ago about how men need to retreat into their ‘cave’ when feeling upset or threatened. Sometimes as men we need to disappear into the garage, shed, gym or maybe even the pub. What that theory neglected to address was that the real issue is the guy would have generally tried to get heard or understood but it didn’t go so well so he disappeared into safety behind walls.
I have no doubt that at times a man will have been open and honest but somehow his point wasn’t heard and eventually it became easier to just ‘wall off’. Men have become masters at just keeping their head down waiting for the storm to pass. Unfortunately it makes for a really unsatisfactory relationship in the longer term. Stonewalling or emotional withdrawal will always hurt a relationship over time and let’s face it, living in a bunker sucks.
When it comes to a relationship there are five losing strategies that are guaranteed to cause you both heartache and pain. I won’t wait for you to work out what they are and what mistakes you’re making. Relational empowerment therapy is the most directional therapy you’re ever going to find. I will tell you what isn’t working, why it isn’t ever going to work and then I will teach you how to put the winning strategies into place.
I’m of the opinion that if your therapist knows what you ‘should’ be doing differently it’s borderline abusive to not tell you. That said, most therapists will assume they are doing you a favour allowing you to work it out for yourself. I disagree, if you were able to do that you’d have done it years ago.
Do you think men not knowing how to communicate is the problem?
There is a myth that men don’t know how to communicate which is simply inaccurate. If you’ve ever watched a team of guys build a road it’s clear they can communicate very clearly in ways they all understand. It’s just not the same as how women communicate. There’s another myth that says men don’t have feelings and that is also a nonsense, men have a vast array of feelings they were just never taught how to deal with them in a way that works for them.
You would be amazed about the amount of times a couple will show up with the woman adamant that the real issue is her partner’s inability to communicate. I often spend an hour or more with her whilst she fills out his deficiencies and then turn to him expecting some kind of monosyllabic oaf given everything that’s been said about him. In all of my years this has never been true, however what is true is he’s often just given up trying to get heard by her.
If you’re able to look for it you’ll see that men will offer you a glimpse into what’s really going on for them, it’s as if they test the water to work out whether it’s really safe enough to be fully honest. If, as his partner you criticise his efforts to be open with you then guess what, he retreats back into his cave. I can teach both of you how to get past this particular losing strategy very quickly.
One other pet peeve of mine is just how often a woman insists that all she needs is for him to be a little more vulnerable and when he is she stomps all over him. Sometimes I’m amazed that women find men’s withdrawal in any way confusing. My job is to teach both of you how to speak in such a way that you’ll get heard. How to stop arguing and start talking. If all you learned from me was how to make a request instead of a complaint your lives would immediately improve.
Seriously, you think I’ll get something out of this process?
If I didn’t believe I can help I just wouldn’t be doing this, it would just be pointless and frustrating, I’m a guy, I like results too. Experience has taught me that there is just no way this mess you two are in is all your fault. I can however state with some confidence that it’s highly likely you’re not doing yourself any favours on the communication or participation front. The method I’m trained in does not require you to go through long hours of soul searching or self disclosure.
I’m more of a coach than a therapist. I’ll tell you exactly how you are shooting yourself in the foot and more importantly I’ll tell you what to do that will get you what you want. Most couples take 7 years to get help, I hate to say it but that’s generally because the guy involved ignores his partners complaints and demands until she starts down a very convincing path to leaving him. That’s, on average, at least 3 years of absolute misery for both of you within which your only salvation could easily be sports and beer ( Ok, that’s a generalisation, point being, it won’t be your wife’s loving arms.) You are worth so much more than that even if you can’t see it right now.
Phillipa and Roger
So having my wife angry and pissed off with me isn’t compulsory?
If I ask a guy how he feels about his wife being so unhappy he will always reply that he feels like ‘sh1t’. If she’s not happy, you’re not happy. That is a given! Men like to be good at stuff and the great news is that Relational Empowerment Therapy has rules and strategies so communication becomes better for both of you. It also has structured processes and techniques that men can relate to, there is a defined direction that men value. It is not some wide open ‘feeling fest’ that just leaves them uncomfortable and wondering when the session will be over as it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
How am I supposed to get him to come for help?
The simplest way of putting this is that you have to really mean it when you tell him it’s not good enough. If you are waiting for him to feel like getting help would be a good idea then you’re in for years of pain and misery. In 95 out of 100 cases it is the woman finally INSISTING that they get help that causes him to agree. The other 5% are when he’s been caught doing something he knows is a deal breaker and he’s desperate to get things back on track. Generally it’s the very real threat that either something changes or you are going to take the level of misery in the home to a whole new level. If there are children involved he needs to know he will rarely be having breakfast with them in the near future if he doesn’t agree to getting help.
Until it reaches that kind of level he is fully capable of filtering it out as some kind of background noise that could easily be perceived as your general dissatisfaction with him. Men often live with the sense that nothing they do will ever be good enough for you and have done their best to adjust to this over the years. This is such a terrible waste of what is actually possible between the two of you. Sadly though that’s the life most couples are living.
As men we are always looking for solutions to our problems. My approach allows men to feel at ease and they usually gain confidence about how to show up in the relationship as a result. Where appropriate I ask couples for a commitment of a few months of work rather than years. Men appreciate the sense of momentum and getting the job done as the end of their discomfort is always in sight.
When you are ready to give up the pain, distance and all that discomfort please get in touch.
Author of ‘The New Rules of Marriage’ says…
Founder of ‘The Relational Life Institute’