I’ve always heard it takes two to tango, but I can’t seem to get my husband to dance with me. He won’t accompany me to church, attend counseling, or read the marriage books I buy. He hardly even talks to me. I feel abandoned. I pray for change, but nothing happens. Can you help?
The most important questions I ask when counseling a couple are: “Do you feel you can make an impact on your mate?” “Is he/she available to meet your needs?” And, “Can you approach your spouse to talk about those issues?”
Your answer to these questions gives you a barometer as to the health of your marriage. If you answered “no,” you should get help immediately. It’s terrible to feel alone and powerless in your marriage.
However, since it sounds as though you’ve already received that curt reply, “I’m not interested in counseling. It doesn’t do any good,” let’s talk about some reasons for this all-too-common kind of resistance.
Your spouse may fear having a counselor “pry” into his personal life. Perhaps he’s afraid a counselor will attempt to change him. That’s a valid concern, as counseling is about change – albeit for the better. Perhaps your husband’s convinced you are the sole problem and has decided he’s not the one who needs to change. That’s denial used in a damaging way. Or perhaps he’s gone to counseling in the past and found it didn’t help. He may have met with a poorly trained counselor or with someone who used methods that didn’t match his needs. For a myriad of possible reasons, counseling either failed him or threatens him. So what can you do to overcome his resistance and get the help you need?
Speak from your convictions. Scripture teaches us to discern all things and to hold to our convictions (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). Once you’ve prayed about this situation and feel assured that what you’re asking for is reasonable, true, and good, hold to your convictions. You must be clear and firm about the specific changes you desire in your marriage and why you want the changes you do.
Speak with consistency. Make sure that when you share why you feel counseling is important, you’re consistent in your message. If you waffle or offer differing opinions, you’ll enable your husband to not take you seriously. Be consistent in asking for what you want and expect.
Speak expecting change. You can “hook” your mate in negative ways, creating conflict, or you can “hook” him in positive ways that often lead to change. Speak respectfully to him, citing the positive value of the changes you seek. Be clear with what you want to see changed and your part in the change process. Use encouragement instead of criticism to invite your husband to move forward with you.
Speak about consequences. Since you cannot force anyone to change, you must be clear about what you’ll do should your husband choose not to change. For example, you may say, “If you don’t go to counseling with me, you can expect that I’ll go without you. I cannot allow the negative patterns and lack of communication in our marriage to remain the same. I hope you’ll go to counseling with me.”
We all change when we must – when we “hit bottom.” We can also “bring the bottom to others,” precipitating relationship change. Put together, these strategies should lead to positive changes in your marriage. And as you continue to grow emotionally and spiritually, in the process your mate will likely do so as well.
Yes, you can get your husband into counseling!