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How can I get my husband to agree to counseling?
April 10, 2000
3:15 pm
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Moonfish
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My husband and I have severe communication difficulties that I believe can only be resolved by counseling. He, in particular, has a major problem with telling me what's on his mind, letting me know when he has a problem with something, etc.

Some of the dysfunctional things that happen are: 1) he sends me mixed messages, by saying one thing, while his facial expressions and body language convey something else entirely; 2) he gets disproportionately angry over little things, then can't explain the severity of his outbursts; 3) he can't (or won't?) answer direct questions about what's bothering him; 4) he retreats/withdraws from arguments or even discussions he's uncomfortable with by replying to questions with "I don't know," by refusing to look at me and/or talk at all, and/or physically leaving the room or even the house.

It's gotten to the point where I feel like there's a list of "taboo" subjects that I'm not allowed to talk about, because if I bring any of them up, they elicit one or more of the behaviors described above. To further complicate things, I have my own issues with insecurity, to the extent that it's very hard for me to be assertive about my needs or wants, and it also upsets me greatly to have someone upset with me. Because of these things, in the past I have tried to avoid offending/upsetting him. But it's getting to where the lengths I have to go to to avoid this are getting downright ridiculous.

I resent having lines draw around what I'm allowed to talk about without being "punished" by his negative behavior, and I really feel that he is, consciously or unconsciously, using this behavior to control me and to avoid dealing with issues he finds to be uncomfortable. I feel that the only solution is counseling...I am not willing to live with this situation forever, and I don't see any way we're ever going to be able to sort things out without help.

About a year and a half ago, I finally got up enough nerve to give him an ultimatum. I was so miserable I couldn't stand it anymore, and I told him that if he wanted to stay married to me, counseling was a must. That was one of my conditions; the other one was that I was not willing to be married to someone I was not allowed to touch; i.e. he wouldn't tolerate any physical expressions of affection outside of a sexual context, and would even physically flinch if I touched him. I told him I didn't see any point in being married under the circumstances.

We ended up having to separate for about 2 months to defuse the situation, but he decided that he really wanted to save the marriage and during our time apart, he did begin to see a counselor on his own. I was already seeing someone myself, and both of our therapists felt that he needed to do some individual work for a while before we started any kind of couples counseling, so I agreed to this.

For a while things seemed to be better between us. But he gradually quit going to his therapist for reasons that are unclear to me (the last time I asked, I got one of his "I don't know" answers). I don't think he's been since sometime last summer, and we never did get started with any couples counseling. (I might add that he also discontinued the antidepressant medication he'd been taking, because he felt it wasn't helping him.)

Things have deteriorated over the past 6 to 8 months, till they have gotten to the point that I described at the beginning of this message. The physical touching issue is a lot better than it was prior to our separation, but the communication has deteriorated almost all the way back to where it was.

During this whole time I have continued to see a therapist on my own. We (my therapist and I) have talked many times about the problems in my marriage and how important it is for my husband to get back into therapy, both for his own sake and for the sake of the marriage; however, my therapist has done nothing either to help me deal with my own fears and reluctance about bringing up the topic (i.e. asking for something I need that I know is going to upset my husband), OR to help me develop strategies for bringing up the issue or getting my husband to come. I'm really getting frustrated with this, and beginning to wonder whether my therapist shouldn't be doing more to help me with this, rather than just telling me my husband needs counseling over and over again.

I finally did get up the nerve to bring up the subject of counseling with my husband on one occasion, and it was a disaster. Part of it was my fault, because I picked a very bad time, when we were already in the middle of a fight and he was not likely to be in a receptive frame of mind. I know why I did this...I have been so terrified of making him angry, that it felt less risky to bring it up at a time when he was already angry to begin with (so no worries about "making" him angry, you see?). He refused, flat out, and now I'm on the horns of a dilemma.

I still feel there's no way I can spend the rest of my life with this man unless we can straighten our communication problems, and I feel that counseling is the only way we can do this. But after what happened before, I'm REALLY scared to bring the subject up again. I feel like he's pushed me into a corner, and the only way I can get out is by doing something I KNOW will make him angry...and that knowledge makes ME really angry with him.

I'm beginning to think I should just forget the whole thing and move out (although God knows how I could afford to). I wish I knew how to tell for sure if the situation is hopeless. I don't know whether I should just walk away, or whether I should keep trying to find a way to make him understand. I also wonder whether I should tell my therapist that I need more help with this than he's giving me and look for a new one if he continues to be unhelpful....but I'm not sure what I have a right to expect or demand from him (the therapist).

One thing sure, this whole thing is driving me nuts!

April 10, 2000
3:32 pm
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KSUE
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The answer to your question is you can't get him to agree to counceling. It has to be his idea or it won't do any good. If he doesn't think he has a problem, than you can't make him believe he has one. It has to be something he recognizes in himself. And if yyou do decide to move out, don't use it as a change or else tactic. But let him know that you can't live the way you are living. Maybe he will change and maybe he won't, only he knows that. I hope that everything will work out for you. Take care!
KSUE

April 10, 2000
8:52 pm
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janes
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Have you ever heard the word "codependent"? find all you can on the subject and start reading!!! And do it NOW. Even if this marriage does not last your next will have many trademarks of the current one unless YOU: Learn to believe in your self and your worth (which is very high) Stop being afraid of other peoples anger..why should it be upsetting to you if he is angry... if you are being honest with him and not decieving him or manipulating him, if you honestly love him...why does he get angry?

The no touch thing...it would be disturbing to me too. Sounds to me like he is more disturbed than most people think...including you.

there should be no "taboo" subjects in a marriage.

You need to tell your therapist you want to work on your fears... you need to confront your therapist.
The therapist will have no "strategies" to "make " your husband go to therapy. that is a decision your husband has to make.

Most of the work you do in therapy will be you and not the therapist. You may need to change if you are not satisfied. But when you go to therapy you can only work on you and your side of your marriage and not on what your husband does.

Why are you terrified of making your husband angry? does he beat you? Does he verbally abuse you? Your fears seem to be pretty strong if he is not doing these things. what will happen if he is angry with you? Will he leave? Won't that be better than this unloving relationship?

Of course your husband quit going...it was making you happier. You are changing now and he is not.

He has not pushed you into a corner. You ran into this corner and unless you stick to what you have said you will have once again shown your husband that he can act any way he wants in this marriage and you will not leave.

Yes you are right...god does know how you could survive. Maybe you would have to go to a shelter, get two jobs and ride a bike to work. But if you could then work on satisfying relationships with other humans where you touch, caress, hold hands, listen to each others opposing viewpoints, care, and grow... what a treat for you.

READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON CODEPENDENT BEHAVIOR, DENIAL, ANGER AND THERAPY.

You sound bright and intelligent and I think you can make a go of whatever you want too.

In answer to your basic question: How can I get my husband to go to counseling?

Two word answer--you can't

Keep us posted.

April 11, 2000
9:00 am
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hazza
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I agree,
your therapist may have a valid point in saying that your husband needs therapy, but you know that, that is not what your therapist is paid for, he should be working with you, on YOU. he should be talking to you about your co-dependency, how to dealwith YOUR insecurites and so on. Otherwise you are paying money for someone to be a sympathetic ear.
As ksue said, if you have had enough then make other plans and stick to them. maybe your husband will realise he needs to change, great if he does, maybe he wont. either way you can only work on you. if your husband wants your marriage to work then he must grow to. unless he realises that it will be his loss.
peace
Hazza

April 14, 2000
4:58 pm
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dawn317
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i wish i could have wrote your letter ...I'm haveing the same problem except i'm in the beginning stage of your letter and feel as tho the out come will be the same. Co dependant is a very big subject for US you and i - i see. i have been dealing with the wrong men all my 38 yrs it seems and here i am again, needing to leave a sad situation and can't find the strength...my kids love him and he's not mean or physically abusive but his silence and lack of affection speaks volumes. plus he thinks this is all my fault. JJeeeeezzzzzz
please write back to my "thread" how can i find love and affection?

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