Don’t let his refusal spell the end for your relationship
Your husband won’t work on the relationship, but he doesn’t want to lose it either. What is going on? What can you do about it?
Seemingly, your husband would love for you to change things about yourself so that he can enjoy the relationship better, while making no changes in himself. More than likely, you have even tried to do what he wants and still have not seen any improvement in the relationship. To most women in this situation, it feels hopelessly stuck.
Creating a better relationship from this situation is not only possible, it is very possible. Every day of the week I help men and women to improve their relationships. Most of them have spouses who feel even more hopeless about the relationship than they do, but who will not work with them in either counseling or relationship coaching. What makes my client’s different is that they love their husbands but will no longer wait for improvement to just somehow happen. They will either make that improvement happen or they will end their relationship. It’s my job to make sure that we do everything we can to improve the relationship.
The right mindset for improving your relationship with your husband:
Although your husband may not want to work on the relationship, and may blame you for everything, he does not want to have a bad relationship. I have yet to meet one single person who wants a bad relationship. Don’t think that his refusal to work on the relationship means that he likes it like it is. Many men who won’t work on their relationship nevertheless end up leaving their wives or having affairs. Their refusal usually has to do with a fear of being found to be inadequate. Their refusal to work on the relationship is connected to their desire to protect themselves. So, they often won’t go to counseling unless they feel even more threatened by something else.
Threatening him into counseling is usually not a good move
In my many years of experience doing marriage counseling, before becoming a relationship coach, men who are threatened into counseling often spend their energy trying to prove to their wives that the counseling is not working. They may go with their wives to multiple counselors, each time undermining the counseling to prove their point. The sad result is that their wives have to agree with them that counseling really isn’t helpful. There is a time that men will participate willingly in counseling or coaching, but that usually is not at the beginning.
In every relationship, one person is always ready to work on the relationship first
For some reason, people often unreasonably expect that their husband is going to have the same conclusions as them at the same time. But, in actuality, one person wants to date before the other, one person wants to commit before the other, one person wants to marry before the other, one person wants to have a baby before the other, one person senses problems before the other, one person wants to do something about those problems before the other, and if problems go on too long, one person wants to break up or divorce before the other. Husbands and wives have different sensitivities and tolerance levels. It’s very natural for either the husband or wife to want to work on problems first.
Should you wait for your husband to be ready to go to counseling?
If things get bad enough, then your husband may be ready to work on the relationship. There are multiple problems with this strategy, though. By the time things are that bad for him, you may be long burned out and no longer have the energy or desire to work on the relationship. I often work with men whose wives have separated from them precisely at that point. Another problem with this strategy is that your husband may find other ways to deal with the stresses of a failing marriage. Alcoholism, workaholism, gambling, gaming, and affairs are some of the unhealthy ways that men sometimes cope with a stressful marriage. These create bigger problems and when men have them, they are even more reluctant to enter counseling.
Coach Jack’s Recommendations:
Stop trying to convince your husband to go to counseling. If you have been trying to do that for a while, you have learned that your words don’t mean that much to him and he either tunes them out or sees them as evidence that you have a problem. Using more words will just get you less respect and that won’t help either of you. The surest way to know how much respect you have is to notice how much he cares about what you say.
Get help. Learn how to combine your words with actions. Your husband can disregard your words, but not your actions. The more you combine your words with actions, the more meaningful your words will become and the more respect you will have as well. You must be careful though, because the wrong words and actions can also damage your relationship. To be effective in rebuilding your relationship, your words must be both tough and loving at the same time. This is completely learnable, but often the place where people have the most difficulty. My clients make rapid progress as we practice the words and actions that get them respect and rebuild their relationship.
Don’t be “patient.” Well meaning people may advise you to just be loving and patient. Having worked with Christian organizations for many years, I have heard this advice given repeatedly to the detriment of people’s relationships. Loving, yes. Patient, yes. But, to let your relationship gradually get worse and worse is neither loving nor patient. Loving our spouses requires us to take actions that rebuild the relationship so that love can flourish. Sometimes we need to do that in a gentle way and sometimes we need to do that in a tough way. If I am doing something that is damaging my relationship, the last thing I want is my wife just to patiently endure it. Fortunately, I know that she loves me too much to ever let things get bad for us.
The husbands of the women I work with have all different sorts of problems. Most are not good at communication. Some have anger problems, some are very selfish, and some just don’t seem to know what they want. Sometimes there are affairs or other severe problems. Because of the success I see each day, I know that none of these are reasons to end your relationship if you are willing to learn what you need to do to rebuild your relationship.
The last thing your husband wants is for you to give up on him. And, if you do, then the relationship will be over. As much as your husband may not want to work with you(right now), he wants to be loved, and he wants to be loved by you. He does not want to feel like he has failed your relationship. Showing him that you love enough to do what is required to have a good relationship may be a kind of love that your husband has always wanted, but never received. If he had other relationships before yours, he’s likely to only know that things get worse and that relationships end. He doesn’t know that his experience with you can be different.